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Breastfeeding and medicines

Most medicines can be taken while you're breastfeeding without harming your baby. It is always best to tell your GP, health visitor, dentist, pharmacist or midwife that you're breastfeeding, when discussing medicines. Small amounts of any medicine you take may pass through your breast milk to your baby. Generally, the amounts are very low and very few medicines are unsafe while you're breastfeeding. 

If you are prescribed medicines and breastfeeding, please check with your doctor, pharmacist or midwife. You should also let them know if your baby was born prematurely or had jaundice when they were born, as this may affect what medicines you can take. 

Medicines that can be taken while breastfeeding include: 

  • Most antibiotics
  • Asthma inhalers 
  • Vitamins (but only at the recommended dose) 
  • Paracetamol – you should check before taking paracetamol if it's combined with other medicines 

You should check with a pharmacist, GP or health visitor before taking any other types of painkillers, such as ibuprofen. You can use some methods of contraception and some cold remedies, but not all. It is important that you get treatment for postnatal depression - you can check which medicines you can take with your GP, health visitor or pharmacist. 

It's fine to have dental treatments, local anaesthetics, routine vaccinations (including MMR, tetanus and flu jabs) and most operations. 

Common medicines that are not recommended when you're breastfeeding include: 

  • Codeine phosphate
  • Decongestants that come as tablets, liquids or powders that you swallow 
  • Some nasal decongestants that come as nose sprays or drops – check with a GP or pharmacist before using them 
  • Aspirin for pain relief 
  • Herbal remedies – not enough is known about herbal remedies to guarantee they're safe to use when breastfeeding 

Talk to a GP or pharmacist before taking antihistamines for allergies or allergy-related conditions, such as hay fever. Do not stop taking prescribed medicines without talking to your GP. 

Further information on medicines and breastmilk can be found on the the Breastfeeding Network website. 

Further information and resources