Drugs and Breast Milk

April 6th, 2008 · No Comments

You may be told that you cannot take any medicines whilst you are breastfeeding. This isn’t true. Many illnesses can be treated whilst you breastfeed without harming your baby even if the drug passes into your milk in small amounts.

You may notice packets of tablets say “don’t take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding”. This doesn’t always mean they are unsafe, just that the manufacturers do not have to say that they are safe.

If you are concerned call the BfN “Drugs in Breastmilk Helpline and talk to people who know about breastfeeding and the safety of medicines 0844 412 4665. You might need to leave a message on an answerphone but you will be called back. You can also find more information by clicking here.


You can drink alcohol whilst you are breastfeeding even though it passes into breastmilk.

If you have a lot to drink in one evening (binge drink) you need to be careful not to fall asleep with your baby either in bed with you or on a chair or settee.

Ideally don’t feed for 2- 3 hours after drinking to make sure your baby receives less alcohol through your milk.

If you pass out or vomit from to much alcohol don’t breastfeed until the following morning.

Having one or two drinks occasionally will not harm your baby.
For your own health you shouldn’t have more than 14 units per week.

For more information, download our factsheet:
Alcohol and breastfeeding factsheet


Smoking is bad for your health.

Smoking near your baby is harmful.

Nicotine passes into your breastmilk and may give your baby colic or reduce your suppply.

But it is still worth breastfeeding even if you continue to smoke.

If you want to give up now you can use nicotine replacement products such as gum and patches as your baby will get less nicotine that way.

Why not take this chance to be healthy for both of you?

For more information, download our factsheet:
Smoking and breastfeeding factsheet

Whilst you are breastfeeding you can take:
Pain killers e.g. paracetamol and ibuprofen
Antibiotics e.g. penicillin
Hayfever medicines e.g. clarityn, zirtek
Medicines to help with depression e.g. prozac
Cough medicines which don’t make you sleepy
Asthma inhalers
Vitamins at normal doses

Medicines which you should not use whilst breastfeeding:
Cold tablets e.g. Sudafed
Sleeping tablets without more advice
Any medicines without checking with your doctor or pharmacist


Whilst you are breastfeeding you can use:

Barrier methods of contraceptives e.g. Condoms
The Mini Pill
Depo Provera injection
The “Morning After Pill”


If you use any type of street drug e.g. marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, or think your drink may have been spiked, please call the drugs in breastmilk helpline to discuss whether you can breastfeed or how long you need to stop for.

Information is confidential.

We are most concerned with keeping your baby safe

– You can have your teeth filled if you need to

– You can have local anaesthetics

– You can have injections e.g. against MMR, tetanus

– You would be able to have small operations

– You can have your hair coloured, permed or straightened

– You can have spray tans

– You can have false nails fitted

– You can take antacids

– You can take medicines to treat diarrhoea and vomiting – continuing to breastfeed will protect your baby against the infection

– You can use ointments for piles

– You can treat other children and yourself for headlice

– You can apply moisture creams

– If someone tells you, you can’t continue to breastfeed if you have to take a medicine or have mastitis ask for help. It may not be true or there may be a safer alternative

Remember: Breastfeeding is good for you and your baby
©Wendy Jones BfN Pharmacist March 2008

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