Proceed With Informed Caution

Oh no! You’re sick, but you’re not sure what you can take while you’re breastfeeding. What do you do?

Breastfeeding mom

You have a headache, allergy symptoms, cold symptoms, or your doctor wants to prescribe you an antibiotic. Normally you might not hesitate to pop some medication to help you feel better. But if you’re nursing a baby, there are a few things you should do first.

Decide if you can tough it out

No one wants to suffer -- especially moms -- but if your symptoms are mild and manageable, you may decide that you can let your pain or illness run its natural course -- especially if it’s a virus, which antibiotics can’t treat anyway. A bonus -- your body will produce antibodies towards the virus which will be present in your milk supply, so it can help your baby avoid getting sick, too.

Boost your immune system

Get plenty of sunlight -- even on a cloudy day. Your body will convert it to vitamin D, which can help boost your natural defenses. Also, stock up on natural sources of vitamin C -- orange juice is an obvious choice, but also try berries, kiwi and cantaloupe.

However, you don’t have to sacrifice yourself if you’re fighting a sinus infection, have thyroid issues or need medication for other reasons. Here are some steps you can take.

Discuss with your doctor or lactation consultant

Before you reach for any medication -- including prescription meds, over-the-counter meds and even herbal remedies, discuss the risks versus benefits for both your baby as well as your milk supply. Many drugs can be used by lactating moms, but you’ll want to find out for sure. Before your doctor beams your script to your pharmacy, tell him that you’re nursing and together you can work out a treatment plan.

Look them up

In addition to the guidance your healthcare provider gives you, you can research on your own. Here is a list of the types of drugs that are usually contraindicated, and here is a searchable database on breastfeeding and medication -- it includes information on possible effects on the infant as well as what could happen to mom’s milk supply.

Together, armed with knowledge, you can your caregivers can decide on an appropriate treatment option.

More on breastfeeding

Breastfeeding a baby with teeth
How to warm and reheat stored breast milk
Safe practices for storing expressed breast milk


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