Medications and breastfeeding

Is it okay to breastfeed if you have an illness or while taking medication?

Many moms question if it is okay to breastfeed during illness or when taking medication. The risks of not breastfeeding should be considered before making any decision to stop.

Can I breastfeed if I am sick?

Unless you have a serious illness, the best protection for your baby is breast milk, Michigan State University Extension’s Breastfeeding Program suggests you keep breastfeeding. When you are sick with a common illness such as a cold or flu, the antibodies in your breast milk will help protect your baby from getting the same illness.

Should I quit breastfeeding if I am taking medicine?

Although almost all medicines pass into your breast milk in small amounts, this does not mean that you have to stop breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor about any medicine you are taking or before you start a new medicine. This includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs, birth control pills, vitamins and dietary or herbal supplements. Be sure to tell your doctor you are breastfeeding.

Ask your doctor:

  • Is this medicine necessary?
  • Can I wait until my child has weaned before taking this medicine?
  • Is this medicine safe to use while breastfeeding?
  • Is there a different medicine that will be safer to use?

Can I take birth control pills?

Birth control is recommended because breastfeeding is not a way to prevent pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider about birth control choices that are best for you. Birth control pills that contain only the hormone progesterone are thought to be safe to take while breastfeeding. Some women notice a decrease in milk supply so it is best to wait until you have a sufficient milk supply (usually six weeks after your baby is born) before starting a progesterone-only pill.

What about herbal teas and supplements?

Many herbal teas and supplements have not shown to be safe for use by breastfeeding mothers. Labels do not always include a complete list of ingredients. Herbal and dietary supplements should be discussed with your health care provider.

MSU Extension’s Breastfeeding Mother to Mother Program can answer your questions about breastfeeding. For additional information on breastfeeding your baby, go to www.bfi.fcs.msue.msu.edu and look under fact sheets or call a representative of the Program.

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