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Breastfeeding and medicines

Most medicines are safe to use while breastfeeding.

Medicines do enter your breastmilk, but usually only in tiny amounts that won't affect your baby.

woman with pill

Almost every breastfeeding mum needs to take medication at some time. Common reasons include pain relief after birth, to treat an infection or illness, or to manage a chronic health condition. We can help you to find the answers to your questions about taking medicine during breastfeeding.

Before your doctor prescribes a medicine for you, make sure they know that you are breastfeeding. If you forget, you can check with the pharmacist when you pick up your medication.

Safe options for common conditions

Most prescribed medicines are safe for breastfeeding mums and their babies. Sometimes babies will have mild side effects, like being unsettled or having diarrhoea. These effects are often short-lived and minor compared to having the illness or condition.

Sometimes the information provided with a medicine warns against using it when breastfeeding. This doesn’t always mean it is unsafe. In many cases, it’s just because the medicine hasn’t been tested in enough breastfeeding mums. You or your doctor can check this by calling a medicines information expert on the phone numbers below.

There are breastfeeding-friendly options for most common medicines, including antihistamines, decongestant nasal sprays, painkillers, antidepressants and antibiotics. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you need to take one of these.

A few medicines may affect milk supply. Those that contain psuedoephedrine (some treatments for cold and flu or sinus problems) or oestrogen (some birth control products) have been shown to reduce supply. Discuss options with your doctor or pharmacist. 

Need information about medicines and drugs?

Contact the national consumer medicines information line, 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424), or the Medicines Information Centre in your state or territory.  

Most centres operate during normal business hours.

1300 MEDICINE operates Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm Australian Eastern Time. More information about this service is available at

If a call is urgent and outside these hours, ring the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (all states & territories).

Further resources

Do I need to stop breastfeeding or throw my breastmilk out?  

There are a few special situations where a mum may need to express and throw away her breastmilk. This may be necessary for anti-cancer medicines, radioactive drugs or if she is using illegal drugs.

If you are in any of these situations, you can express to maintain your milk supply until the drug is out of your system and then start breastfeeding again. Talk to your pharmacist (or phone the Medicines Line) to find out how long it will take to leave your breastmilk.  

Managing your medicines

Take medicine only when it’s better for your health to take it than not to take it.  

Ask your doctor about possible effects of prescription medicines for you and your baby. For over-the-counter medicines or herbal products, ask your pharmacist.

Ask for medicines that:  

  • are the best choice when breastfeeding a baby of your baby’s age  

  • won’t make you and possibly your baby drowsy  

  • are the least likely to be harmful for your baby  

  • are not slow-release (so they don’t stay as long in your body)

  • act locally, if possible. This means the medicine is put on just one part of your body, not swallowed (for example, an ointment rather than tablets).  

With an older baby, you may be able to time feeds so that you breastfeed just before it’s time to take your medicine.

In the following video, Dr Lisa Amir, general practitioner and lactation consultant, goes into detail about taking medicines (and alcohol) while breastfeeding. 

The information on this website does not replace advice from your health care provider.

© Australian Breastfeeding Association January 2023