Can I take medication while breastfeeding? What every mama should know

Plus, what medications are safe to take while breastfeeding.


Breastfeeding mothers may have a number of reasons they are considering taking medication. They may have pain resulting from birth, postpartum depression, or of course be dealing with health conditions completely unrelated to their pregnancies or labors.

In all of these cases, women who have just given birth may find it difficult to treat these issues because their medications are considered unsafe for breastfeeding infants. It can also be really difficult to figure out which medications are safe, and which should be avoided. So, let's dive into the science behind it.

What medications are safe to take while breastfeeding?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) opened its 2013 statement on The Transfer of Drugs and Therapeutics into Human Milk with an explanation for why physicians might tell lactating women not to breastfeed while on certain medications.

First, there may just not be any evidence—positive or negative—about the effects of a particular drug on human milk. It is often difficult to run ethical studies if there is any concern about the potential harm of a drug to an infant. Interestingly, the drug studies that physicians do base their breastfeeding recommendations on often come from animal studies, which only imperfectly apply to humans.

The AAP asserts that physicians should consider a host of factors when prescribing medications to lactating women, which include: “the need for the drug by the mother, the potential effects of the drug on milk production, the amount of the drug excreted into human milk, the extent of oral absorption by the breastfeeding infant, and potential adverse effects on the breastfeeding infant."

Given all of the factors to consider when prescribing a medication, it's no wonder there can be disagreement on whether any particular medication is safe, or why a woman's provider advises her to stop or continue breastfeeding.

When looking for drug information, new mothers might question whether a drug is safe or unsafe for breastfeeding—unfortunately answers are often not cut and dry. Given the vast array of medications available and each individual provider's experience, the “safe or unsafe" question might be answered differently by different people.

When making the choice to take a medication and pause or discontinue breastfeeding, nursing mothers might do well to think less in terms of absolutes and more in terms of concentration, in collaboration with their provider, of course.

Consider the concentration of a drug

The first way to think about medication and breastfeeding is in terms of dosage. Consider a drug many people don't even think of as a drug: Caffeine. Drink 0.1 grams (the amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee), and you'll find it easier to make it through your day after three middle-of-the-night wake-ups. Ingest 30 grams, as two students recently did when they were accidentally overdosed during a research study, and if you're lucky, you'll end up in intensive care.

In the case of nursing mothers, dosing is especially complicated. The prescribing physician has to consider not just the right dose for the mother, but also a safe dose for the child who may receive some of that drug through the mother's breast milk.

To make calculations about how much of any particular drug will be present in breast milk, the physician must consider how that drug travels to different parts of the body. In pharmacology, this is called distribution. Some medications are water-soluble, meaning that they dissolve in water, while other medications are fat-soluble.

The solubility of a drug determines how that drug will be distributed throughout the body. Alcohol, for example, is water-soluble. Furthermore, it dissolves quickly in water, which is why it moves so rapidly from the intestines to the bloodstream, and from the bloodstream throughout the body. Alcohol's solubility is part of the reason it is found only in trace amounts in breast milk and generally regarded as safe to drink while breastfeeding.

Is over the counter pain medication safe while breastfeeding?

Many classes of pain medications are also water-soluble. Women who have had C-sections are often given morphine, also a water-soluble drug, because it appears only in trace amounts in breast milk.

The commonly used acetaminophen and ibuprofen are generally considered safe.

Medications are said to be “lipophilic" when they have a tendency to concentrate in fat. Because breast milk contains a high proportion of fat, it will also contain a high proportion of a drug that dissolves in fat. Therefore, fat-soluble medications are often prescribed with caution.

Is anxiety medication safe while breastfeeding?

SSRIs, which are prescribed for anxiety and depression, are lipophilic and have relatively long half-lives, meaning that they both dissolve in fat and take longer to metabolize. Although the infant exposure to SSRIs through breast milk is still relatively low, there have not been long-term studies of this exposure, so women who need these drugs may be discouraged from breastfeeding.

The solubility of a medication is just one of a host of factors physicians need to consider when making a recommendation about breastfeeding while on that medication. New drugs are introduced all the time, and drugs that were previously thought to be safe for mothers to take while breastfeeding are sometimes found to be unsafe (codeine is one such example).

LactMed, a database maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, is regularly updated with new drug information and can be used to help evaluate whether a particular medication is safe for a nursing infant.

Concentration of the parent

The concentration of a particular drug is important because of the amounts that may appear in breast milk. If that amount is deemed too high, a woman might be counseled to stop breastfeeding, or at least to change the dosage of the drug. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, remarkably few medications absolutely require breastfeeding cessation.

But the concentration of a drug in the mother's milk is only one way to think about concentration. It's also important for prescribing physicians to consider “concentration" as a mental state. Narcotics like morphine can interfere with awareness, so even if they won't pass into the bloodstream, they may temporarily incapacitate the mother.

While that mother's milk may be completely safe for the infant, that mother's diminished concentration may make it less safe for her to be holding—and therefore nursing—the baby.

A more conservative approach might be to feed a baby expressed milk or formula until the medication wears off.

In other cases, physicians might be weighing the mother's ability to safely care for her baby against her ability to nurse that baby. This is often the consideration when prescribing antidepressants which may require cessation of breastfeeding.

Concentration of the provider

In weighing potentially competing recommendations about whether or not to stop nursing while on medication, it's also worth focusing on the physician's concentration. The safety of the infant is obviously of concern to any provider prescribing a medication to a nursing mother. But it's important to note that, in cases where medication is deemed medically necessary for a lactating mother, the mother—not the baby—is the patient.

Although women should feel comfortable asking questions about alternative medications that may make it easier to continue breastfeeding, it's worth noting that at a time when everything now appears to revolve around the baby, the mother's provider will focus on the mother. Because of this, a physician may make recommendations about the mother's health that may be momentarily at odds with her plans to breastfeed.

So, can I take medication while breastfeeding?

When weighing the decision to take a medication and pause or stop breastfeeding, nursing mothers should consider all three of the above forms of concentration. They can ask their providers about the dosage and its possible effects on breast milk. They can ask how a medication deemed safe for breastfeeding might impact their own mental state. And they can ask for advice in weighing the health impacts of the medication against the drawbacks of pausing or stopping breastfeeding.

There are rare times when the best decision may be to pause breastfeeding or stop breastfeeding altogether. At those times, it's important to consider one last form of concentration. Infant formula is also a “concentration," a combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

The decision to use formula while on a potent medication can feel like a failure to many mothers, who are flooded with messages about the importance of breastfeeding. But if short-term formula use can ensure a long-term benefit for the mother, that mother can be a healthy parent to her baby for life.

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These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

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When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

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This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

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Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

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Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

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Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

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Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

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There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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