When you're looking for an over-the-counter cold remedy, check the active ingredients to help determine the safety level for baby, and avoid meds with a high alcohol content (like NyQuil). If your doctor is prescribing a medicine, always remember to mention that you are breastfeeding.
Here are the stats on a few popular cold medications, according to Dr. Jack Newman:
Pseudoephedrine has been approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). However it can cause decreased milk supply or an irritable infant.
Guaifenesin has not been tested on breastfeeding moms, but it is sometimes given to infants directly.
Dextromethorphan has not been tested, but is sometimes given to infants directly.
Acetaminophen has been approved by the AAP, and most experts say it's safe.
Dexbrompheniramine has been approved. But large doses could cause a lowered milk supply.
Chlorpheniramine has been approved. Large doses could cause lowered milk supply.
Ibuprofen has been approved. Most experts say it's safe.
Most cold meds are considered pretty safe while breastfeeding, but since they do enter your milk in small quantities, it's better to take them just after you've nursed to limit baby’s exposure. Also, go for short-acting versions rather than time-release or once-a-day meds. (The long-lasting kinds are tougher for baby to metabolize.)
In general, throat sprays, lozenges, and cough drops are considered safe. Just steer clear of chomping on lots of drops that contain menthol — it can reduce your milk supply.
And whatever you do, keep breastfeeding. Never stop breastfeeding because of a cold — your breast milk passes antibodies to baby, serving as his best defense against catching your illness
Expert: Jack Newman, MD, is author of The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers