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 (Aleve, Naprosyn, others) — short-term use only

Antimicrobial medications

  • Fluconazole (Diflucan)
  • Miconazole (Monistat 3, Micaderm, others)
  • Clotrimazole (Mycelex, Lotrimin, others)
  • Penicillins (amoxicillin, ampicillin, others)
  • Cephalosporins (Keflex, Duricef, others)

Antihistamines

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

Decongestants

  • Saline nasal drops
  • 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. Still, consider waiting until breast-feeding is firmly established — about six to eight weeks — before using this type of birth control pill.

Gastrointestinal medications

  • Famotidine (Pepcid)
  • Omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • Cimetidine (Tagamet)

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.

Jul. 26, 2012 See more In-depth