What Can I Take for a Cold While Breastfeeding?

Reviewed on 6/23/2021
what cold medicine can you take while breastfeeding
If you are a nursing mom, what cold medicine can you take while breastfeeding?

If you are breastfeeding, it’s important to be careful about what you put into your body, as what you ingest can enter your breast milk and thus be ingested by your baby.

While most cold medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding, make sure to first:

  • Check with your doctor.
  • Determine the active ingredient in the medicine.
  • Check the correct dosage amount.
  • Be prepared to monitor your baby for any behavioral or medical changes.

Generally, the amount of medicine that enters your milk when breastfeeding is much lower (about 5-10 times lower) than the amount your baby would be exposed to while in your uterus

However, because these drugs do enter your milk in small quantities, try to stick with the lowest possible dose you need to treat your symptoms. Also, to minimize any possible effects on your baby, you can feed your baby first and then take the medicine.

What cold medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding?

Cold medicines that are considered safe to take while breastfeeding include: 

  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine)
  • Nasal sprays that contain Afrin (oxymetazoline), Flonase, Nasacort (steroids), or plain saline
  • Dextromethorphan (you will have to keep an eye on your baby for any unusual drowsiness or a decrease in appetite while you are on this drug)
  • Lozenges containing mild antiseptics, amylmetacresol, dichlorobenzyl alcohol, or cetylpyridinium
  • Certain influenza antiviral medications, such as oseltamivir (although your doctor will prescribe the best treatment for you)
  • Most cold and allergy relief eye drops

It is also safe to get the flu vaccine when you are breastfeeding.

What antibiotics are safe to take while breastfeeding?

Antibiotics that are generally safe to take while breastfeeding include:

What medicines to avoid while breastfeeding

Medicines that should be avoided while breastfeeding include:


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What home remedies can you try to treat a cold?

One of the most amazing characteristics of human milk is how it adapts. As mother and baby are exposed to bacteria and viruses, breast milk includes antibodies specific to those antigens, as well as disease-fighting substances that help prevent many common illnesses. A mother will pass antibodies to her baby through her milk, which can destroy bacteria in the infant’s gastrointestinal tract before they have a chance to make the baby sick. 

If you are trying to beat your cold naturally, you can try the following home remedies:

  • Steam. For nasal congestion, you can try inhaling steam over a bowl of hot water.
  • Saline drops or nose sprays. These are also cheap and effective for nasal congestion.
  • Water. Since a cold can dehydrate you, aim for at least 10 glasses (8-ounce glasses) of water per day.
  • Honey and ginger. These are natural antimicrobial and decongesting agents. Raw honey can be added to ginger tea or consumed as is.
  • Garlic. Garlic contains allicin, which has been proven to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antiseptic properties.
  • Chicken broth. Studies show that chicken soup has mild anti-inflammatory effects that may provide relief from upper respiratory infections.

For some mothers, the thought of taking meds while pregnant or breastfeeding is scary. You are doing your best to stay healthy and decrease your baby’s exposure to chemicals. However, sometimes, the judicious use of medicines that can help you feel well enough to get through the day is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby. When in doubt, call your doctor.

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The Royal Women’s Hospital. Medicines in Breastfeeding. https://www.thewomens.org.au/images/uploads/fact-sheets/Medicines-in-breastfeeding-151018.pdf

Mitchell JL. Use of cough and cold preparations during breastfeeding. J Hum Lact. 1999 Dec;15(4):347-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10776186/

WebMD. Cold and Allergy Meds: Safe While Breastfeeding? https://www.webmd.com/baby/cold-and-allergy-meds-safe-while-breastfeeding#1

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