What medications are safe to take while breast-feeding?

With your health care provider's input, consider this list of medications found to be safe during breast-feeding. Keep in mind that this isn't a comprehensive list of safe medications.

Pain relievers

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others)
  • Naproxen (Naprosyn®) — short-term use only

Antimicrobial medications

  • Fluconazole (Diflucan)
  • Miconazole (Monistat 3) — apply minimal amount
  • Clotrimazole (Mycelex, ) — apply minimal amount
  • Penicillins (amoxicillin, ampicillin, others)
  • Cephalosporins (Keflex)

Antihistamines

  • Loratadine (Claritin, Alavert, others)
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra)

Decongestants

  • Medications containing pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Zyrtec D, others) — use with caution because pseudoephedrine can decrease milk supply

Birth control pills

  • Progestin-only contraceptives, such as the minipill

New research suggests that combination birth control pills, oral contraceptives that contain estrogen and a progestin, don't affect milk production. However, further research is needed. To avoid possible interference with milk production, some experts recommend avoiding combination birth control methods during breast-feeding if possible. Otherwise, wait until breast-feeding is firmly established — about six to eight weeks — before using this type of birth control pill.

Keep in mind that combination birth control pills pose an increased risk of blood clots shortly after delivery. For otherwise healthy women, it's OK to begin using combined birth control pills and other types of combined hormonal birth control six weeks after childbirth.

Gastrointestinal medications

  • Famotidine (Pepcid)
  • Cimetidine (Tagamet HB)

Antidepressants

  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)

Constipation medications

  • Docusate sodium (Colace)

Do I need my health care provider's OK ahead of time?

If you plan to take medication while breast-feeding, it's always best to check with your health care provider first. Avoid taking medications that aren't necessary, such as herbal medications, high-dose vitamins and unusual supplements.

Also ask about the timing. For example, taking medication immediately after breast-feeding might help minimize your baby's exposure. However, different drugs peak in breast milk at different times.

What if my baby has a reaction?

When you're taking medication, be sure to watch your baby for any unusual signs or symptoms — such as a change in eating or sleeping habits, fussiness, or a rash. If you notice any change in your baby's behavior, contact his or her doctor.

July 30, 2015 See more In-depth