If I Am Breastfeeding With A Cold What Can I Take?

  • Learn the importance of taking the right medicines when nursing 
  • Read the list of cold medication to avoid while breastfeeding 
  • Also see our list of safe cold medicines for breastfeeding moms 
  • Find the best non-medicine options to treat a cold when nursing

Everyone gets a cold at one time or another. For most of us, we run to the store or pharmacy and grab something. In a few days we’ll start to feel better, in a week the cold is likely gone. But what happens when you’re breastfeeding? Can I take cold medicine while breastfeeding and are there medicines that need to be off limits so as not to harm our little ones?

So now you're asking yourself, if I'm breastfeeding with a cold what can I take? That’s what we’ll be looking at today. Just whether or not, all cold medicines are created equally when it comes to nursing mothers or are there better alternatives to consider. Some of the things we’ll explore are;

 can i take cold medicine while breastfeeding
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    Why do we need to choose the right cold medicines while breastfeeding?
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    Are there any medicines or ingredients that are off limits?
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    We’ll explore what medications are safe to take while breastfeeding.

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    What are some non-medical alternatives to take?

Why Do We Need To Choose The Right Medicines When Breastfeeding?

Whatever you put in your body is likely to be passed on to your little one through your breastmilk. In general most over the counter (OTC) medications are safe for breastfeeding mums. But there are some that can have effects on both mum and baby. So before we run out to pick something up to knock out that cold, let’s talk a little about choosing the right medicine.

Typically you want to choose something that not only helps you feel better quickly. You also want something that won’t make you feel drowsy and still allow you to take care of you little one effectively. There are also some medication with ingredients that you want to avoid because they can affect breast milk in different ways.

What Are The Best Cold Medicines To Take?

breastfeeding with a cold what can i take

So what cold medicine can you take while breastfeeding? The best types of cold medicines to take are ones that only treat one symptom at a time and are short acting formulas. It’s easier to minimize risk when you use a single symptom medication. So if you’re having issues with allergies you may only want to take an antihistamine. For congestion, use only a decongestant.

Pseudoephedrine the ingredient that is common in most decongestants constricts blood vessels in order to provide relief. It’s been thought to also reduce milk production in newly breastfeeding mums. It is however generally safe to take while breastfeeding if not a new mum because less than one percent of it is passed on in breast milk.

Are There Any Medications That Are Off Limits.

There are luckily only a few ingredients that should not be taken by breastfeeding mums. Most over the counter medications are safe enough to be used for small amounts of time. The medicines with off limits  ingredients either cause harmful effects in mum, the little one, or because they greatly reduce breast milk production. A few of these are;

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    Oral decongestants like sudafed contain pseudoephedrine, and may reduce the amount of breast milk produced when first beginning to breastfeed. If you’re already a few months into breastfeeding then it likely won’t be an issue.
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    Brompheniramine and Dexchlorpheniramine are antihistamines that are shown to cause sedating effects on breastfed infants and also decreases milk production. Because the half life of the medication is relatively short, a bedtime dosage is considered safe to take.
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    Any cold medication that has at least a twenty percent alcohol content. This will pass over in breast milk and have a sedating effect on baby. What that will do is affect the way the little one feeds and they may have trouble latching onto the breast.

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    Avoid lozenges and sprays that contain phenol or hexylresorcinol such as Chloraseptic, Sucrets or Cepastat. Phenol in particular is an endocrine disruptor that passes over in breast milk. In high enough doses it can cause developmental delays and disorders, as well as certain cancerous tumors.

What Medications Are Safe To Take While Breastfeeding?

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s explore some medicines that are perfectly safe for mum and baby. You may already know some of these, and other you may not, so this list will help to cut down on the confusion.

 can i take cold medicine while breastfeeding
  • Tamiflu for flu and cold symptoms. This is a prescription only product, that contains the ingredient oseltamivir. Tamiflu doesn’t cross over into breast milk, but it also doesn’t work to completely get rid of flu, but rather slows down to the progress of the flu.
  • If you’re suffering from allergies, there are a few alternatives to Benadryl which can cause both mum and baby to be very drowsy. Non sedating antihistamines such as loratadine can be found in Claritin, Zyrtec, Actifed or Allegra easily at your local pharmacy or grocery store. These have very low risk factors, less than one percent of lactating mothers reported a decrease in milk production with prolonged use.
  • Sodium chloride, oxymetazoline and phenylephrine are all ingredients found in over the counter nasal sprays such as Dristan or Afrin. These may be a better alternative to use as a nasal or sinus decongestant. There is no risk to baby with this method, but some mums may experience small nose bleeds.
  • Guaifenesin is an ingredient found in expectorants like Mucinex and Robitussin. They work my loosening up mucus and helping to expel it from the respiratory tract. It doesn’t interact with breast milk so should cause no adverse effects. Prolonged use will cause chest and throat soreness because of increased coughing however.
  • For a sore throat medications like Celestial Seasonings, Vicks or Cepacol lozenges that contain menthol or benzocaine which are topical anesthetics with short lives that don’t affect mum or baby adversely. They work by numbing the affected area for short periods and pass into the bloodstream harmlessly.
  • Over the counter cold and flu medications that contain ibuprofen or acetaminophen as their ingredients such as Theraflu are generally considered to be safe to take while breastfeeding.
  • Eye drops for allergies such as Visine, Clear Eyes or Refresh are considered safe for use while breastfeeding because they don’t interact with the blood in any meaningful way. They have a very short life so they dissipate quickly.

What Are Some Non Medical Alternatives To Take?

If you’re still concerned about passing something onto your baby no matter the amount, there are quite a few natural or holistic methods that you can use. Most of these won’t act quite as quickly as an over the counter medication. But the knowledge that they’re completely safe for baby will might make it worth it for you.

Almost all of these methods will be preventative. So you would take them before you have symptoms of a cold or flu and it helps to keep them at bay. Others will work just as well at the onset of symptoms.

what vitamins can you take while breastfeeding


A combination of vitamins such as Vitamin C and D offer a boost to the immune system. You can take them both in pill form, but are also available in liquid forms. But you might like to take something that’s easy to take and can be added to water and other drinks. The immune booster Emergen-C is available at most groceries and pharmacies, in a powder in various flavours.

Echinacea is a natural supplement

Natural Herbs And Roots.

  • Elderberry supplements help to support the body during a flu and will help to get rid of symptoms faster. You can find syrups in health food stores and some pharmacies.
  • Nettle leaf can be made into a tea and combined with other herbs like red raspberry leaf, alfalfa and peppermint supports the body and helps to prevent illness. It also helps to keep the body hydrated and will remove toxins as well.
  • Ginger is a great alternative to traditional medicines designed to control the nausea and vomiting that you can experience with flu symptoms. It can also help with headaches associated with clogged sinuses. The best way to take it is steeped as a tea with honey, but it can also be found in capsules.
  • Echinacea is a powerful herbal supplement that acts as an anti-inflammatory that helps to reduce the symptoms of the flu and colds from interacting with the bronchial system. It’s available in many forms such as powder, pills and flavourless liquid that can be added to beverages. It is easily found in groceries and pharmacies.
  • Fenugreek root steeped in a tea will help with chest and head congestion as well as a cough.
  • Yarrow in a tea or tincture for a flu or cold will usually knock out the symptoms within twenty-four hours. Yarrow is also perfectly safe to use on children as well, and can be found in most natural food or health food stores.
  • Natural peppermint in a tea or added to food will help to lower fevers. It can be used in any amount and makes a good natural antiviral.

Things Found Around The House.

There are many things that you can find in your very own home that can be used as natural remedies for colds and flus. Some will be things that you’ve never even thought of.

meds in your very own home
  • Oregano or oregano oil diffused in some hot water drunk or inhaled is a powerful antibiotic and antiviral.
  • Thyme in it’s various forms including oils is also another antiviral and antibiotic that can be used to combat the effects of the flu or a cold.
  • Coconut oil has so many uses that it can be a bit dizzying. One of the few that people don’t really know about is in fighting viral infections. Five to six tablespoons of pure coconut oil taken alone or added to a hot beverage or food each day of a viral infection will weaken the lipid coating of some viruses and make them susceptible to attack by the immune system. 
  • Apple cider vinegar as a throat gargle at the first sign of an infection will help to lessen symptoms and arrest the course, drinking a teaspoon in water at least once a day is also recommended. The alkalines will help to kill viruses in the body. 
  • Face steaming to help loosen the mucus and congestion in the head and chest. This is done by adding a few drops of thyme, oregano or peppermint oils to boiling water and inhaling deeply until the steam fades away. 
  • Lemon juice in pure water, hot or cold will help to alleviate the discomfort that results from a cough associated with a cold or flu. 
  • A nasal lavage can help to clear a head or nasal congestion. This is not something that can be found easily around the house but I’m including it because there are two ways that it can be done. You can get a saline solution from the pharmacy, or you can make your own. To do that you’d add one quarter each of salt and baking soda to eight ounces of warm, not hot, water. Using a bulb syringe, you’d then irrigate each nostril separately.

As with anything having to do with your health or the health of your baby however, you should always consult your physician before starting any treatment. Some things will work for some people and not for other, because everyone’s immune system is different and will tolerate things differently.

Generally most over the counter medications are safe for both a breastfeeding mum and baby. The key is to avoid multi-symptom medications and pseudoephedrine if you’ve only just started breastfeeding. Consulting with your physician at the first signs of a flu or cold will give you a better idea of which ones are completely off limits before you take something.

If still apprehensive, as we’ve discussed, there are quite a few natural homeopathic remedies that readily available in your kitchen’s pantry for use. Hopefully there is less confusion on the what cold medicine can you take while breastfeeding question. Hopefully this was helpful and you’ll pass along this new knowledge to some else who may need it.



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