Getting sick is never fun. But what should you do if you're breastfeeding and catch a cold? Many medications available for the common cold are okay to take while breastfeeding and others can have negative effects on milk supply or may not be recommended for use by breastfeeding mothers (due to safety concerns or lack of research). Just because a medication can be purchased over-the-counter does not mean that it is safe to use while breastfeeding. Always inform your doctor and/or pharmacist that you are breastfeeding when being prescribed a new medication or when considering an over-the-counter medication.
Honey is not a medication but many people use it when they have a common cold to help with sore throat and cough. Honey is okay for breastfeeding mothers to consume; however, honey should not be given directly to infants under 1 year of age due to the risk of exposure to Clostridium botulinum bacteria spores. Infants are at risk for botulism toxicity due to the gut immaturity and may not be able to fight off the spores. The spores can multiply and cause breathing and nerve problems for young infants.
It is well known that pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) can cause dips in milk supply. This is because the medication has a "drying" effect, which is helpful when a lot of mucous is present. However, for breastfeeding mothers this "drying" effect can lead to a decrease in milk supply. Research recently published by The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine indicates that even a one-time dose of 60mg of pseudoephedrine can decrease breastmilk production by approximately 25% for a short duration (https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/bfm.2019.0194?utm_source=sfmc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=BFM%20FP%20Jan%2013%202020&d=1/13/2020&mcid=806077837).
I find LactMed to be a great resource when I am unsure of the safety of a particular medication for a breastfeeding mother. LactMed is a database that allows you to search medications by name or class to determine if it is okay for use during breastfeeding. It is free to use and can be found at this link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501922/.
If you are unsure of the safety of a medication while breastfeeding, contact your doctor or confer with the pharmacist before taking it.
Written by Lisa Grossman, BSN, RN, PHN, IBCLC, CLC, CLEC
South Bay Baby Care Nursing Services, Inc.