Woman with her baby after delivery.

Medications to Avoid While Breastfeeding

Although you’ve likely been following your doctor’s recommendations regarding medications throughout your entire pregnancy, breastfeeding may bring up new questions. It allows you to provide your growing baby with all of the essential vitamins and minerals they need for development, but does everything you ingest really transfer to your baby? If so, is it safe to keep taking certain medications? The answer lies in the chemical makeup of the prescription or over-the-counter drugs you ingest. This means reading the fine print in detail, or simply asking your doctor. To help you get a better understanding of what’s safe and what’s not, here’s everything you need to know regarding which medications to avoid while breastfeeding


Medicines That Are Safe During Breastfeeding

There are several medications that are considered safe to take during breastfeeding. However, you should always discuss any medications with your doctor to be sure. Although rare, there may be instances where women should avoid taking certain medications or supplements, especially if they had a high-risk pregnancy. With that being said, recent research on medications deemed safe for use while breastfeeding include:

  • Vitamins at the recommended dose
  • Antacids
  • Paracetamol
  • Acetaminophen
  • Corticosteroids
  • Asthma inhalers
  • Antihistamines
  • Most antibiotics
  • Decongestants free from pseudoephedrine
  • Ibuprofen
  • Most antidepressants
  • Laxatives
  • Histamine H2 blockers
  • Anticoagulants
  • Many medications for chronic conditions
  • Some anxiety medications


Paracetamol may be dangerous when combined with other medications and some antibiotics are not safe, so talking with your doctor is the best way to ensure that you’re taking the necessary precautions. Similarly, some medications for colds or contraception are okay, while others are not.

While breastfeeding, you can still undergo routine vaccinations and normal dental treatments. In fact, it’s recommended that you do so as this can help keep your immune system strong and may pass on certain antibodies to your baby during nursing. Regardless, you should never undergo a treatment, operation, or start taking a new medication without first discussing it with your doctor.start your order

12 Medications to Avoid While Breastfeeding

Although there are several medications that can be taken while breastfeeding, there are also several that should be avoided. Just because one brand of a drug is safe (i.e., birth control) doesn’t mean all of the brands and types are, so always check with your doctor for a confirmation of safety. You can never be too cautious when it comes to your baby. With that being said, the following medications should be avoided while breastfeeding.

  1. Certain Beta Blockers

    Beta blockers are important for treating high blood pressure or arrhythmias. Although it can be dangerous to stop taking your prescription, there are some beta blockers that aren’t safe for use while breastfeeding as they can impact your baby’s thyroid. It’s likely that you’ll have already discussed these medication choices with your doctor during pregnancy, but double check before you start nursing to make sure you’re being safe.

  2. Pseudoephedrine

    Pseudoephedrine is a type of decongestant that’s used in common medications like Zyrtec D and Sudafed. It’s been linked to a decrease in milk production, so it’s best to avoid if possible or only use if absolutely necessary. You should also discuss taking it with your doctor ahead of time to be sure that it’s safe.

  3. Oral Retinoids

    An oral retinoid is a type of medication that’s used to treat severe cases of acne. Brands like Accutane (isotretinoin) can lead to serious birth defects, premature births, and issues with breastfeeding babies. If you’re experiencing acne, it is okay to use topical creams, but oral retinoids need to be avoided at all costs.

  4. Aspirin

    Aspirin is used regularly by many adults as a preventative measure against heart attacks and strokes. It’s also commonly used as a pain reliever and is sold over the counter. However, aspirin can have serious side effects on babies. It’s been linked to a condition known as Reye’s syndrome (or Reye-Johnson syndrome) in nursing babies, as aspirin easily passes into human milk. This can cause things like brain and liver damage in newborns, so it’s simply not worth the risk. Some of the most prevalent symptoms of Reye’s syndrome include irritability, vomiting, seizures, or infant drowsiness. If you notice any of these in your baby, seek immediate medical attention. If you need to take a pain reliever while breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about an approved list of medications.

  5. Opioid Analgesics

    An opioid is a type of pain reliever that is much stronger than regular over the counter medications. These include things like oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and more. Understandably so, opioids should be avoided if you’re breastfeeding, as they pass through your breast milk to your baby. If ingested, opioids can lead to sedation, a decreased rate of breathing, and even death.

  6. Certain Antidepressants

    Although there are some antidepressants that can be taken while breastfeeding, others can cause serious harm to your newborn. Always follow your doctor’s prescriptions exactly and make sure that you tell the pharmacy that you’re breastfeeding to avoid getting an alternative medication with the same active ingredient.

    As many mothers suffer from postpartum depression, there are designated options for antidepressants and taking them will help you get better. Some options that are considered safe for breastfeeding include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and sertraline, but always discuss your unique situation with your doctor.

  7. Some Birth Control Pills

    Some women decide to go back on birth control after they’ve delivered to reduce the risk of a pregnancy too close to their last. Birth control pills with certain hormones, however, can have negative effects on nursing babies. Luckily, there are several options for contraceptives that are safe for use while breastfeeding and your doctor can help you find something that works for you.

  8. Ergots

    Ergots are a type of drug that are used to treat more serious forms of migraines. They combine caffeine with ergotamine and are extremely helpful for anyone who suffers from regular migraines. Unfortunately, they can have serious side effects on your baby as the chemical components are passed through breast milk. It’s important to avoid taking any ergots while breastfeeding, as they can cause diarrhea, a weakened pulse, vomiting, and even unstable infant blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about alternative migraine treatments while you’re nursing.

  9. Epilepsy or Anti-Seizure Drugs

    Another classification of drugs that should be avoided during breastfeeding are some epilepsy or anti-seizure drugs. Certain types of these medications can be passed to your infant and cause an adverse reaction. However, it’s important that your seizures are managed while breastfeeding, as experiencing one during nursing can be just as dangerous. To make sure your baby is safe, talk to your doctor about the best medications you can use. You’ll likely need to monitor your nursing child’s serum level of whatever medication you’re on, as it can still pass, but the alternative is also a risk.

  10. Cancer Treatments

    Unfortunately, many cancer treatments are very aggressive and utilize a high dose of drugs. You should not breastfeed your child if you’re receiving chemotherapy, but there are plenty of other options to help keep your baby healthy and well fed.

  11. Herbal Remedies

    Many herbal remedies give off the illusion of safety because they claim to be “natural.” However, herbal supplements and medications can still have adverse effects on your baby. Unless your doctor has prescribed something that cannot be avoided, it’s best to wait to re-start your herbal supplements until after you’ve finished breastfeeding. If you want to start taking something, always clear it with your doctor ahead of time.

  12. Alcohol and Illegal Drugs

Alcohol and illegal drugs should also be avoided during breastfeeding. While it is possible to have a beer, mixed drink, or glass of wine while breastfeeding, doing so in excess can be dangerous. Plus, the myth of “pump and dump” does not work. Alcohol will remain in your breast milk for as long as it’s in your blood stream, so if you know you have to nurse it’s best to abstain or have a supply of pumped milk on hand. Illegal drugs are also just not worth the risk, as they can have detrimental effects on your baby’s development.

If you need to take medications for a pre-existing condition or any other ailment while breastfeeding, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor. Trying to decipher the fine print is never fun and will likely leave you feeling a little unsure. You may need to avoid taking some medications while nursing, but your doctor can help you find alternatives as needed. To help supplement your breastfeeding journey and allow for some much-needed rest and recovery, order an insurance covered breast pump from Byram Healthcare today.