The stress of cold and flu season is nothing to sneeze at…especially if you’re breastfeeding! Not only is it tough to nurse while you’re under the weather, but it can also be tricky to figure out the best way to treat your symptoms without impacting your breastmilk or your baby. Need help figuring out what cold medicine to take while breastfeeding? Keep reading to find out which cold medicines are safe for breastfeeding.

Can I breastfeed with a cold or the flu?

Yes. Cold and flu viruses cannot be transferred to your baby through your breastmilk—and neither can COVID-19. And breastfeeding will pass antibodies onto your little one that’ll work to protect them from catching their own sickies. To help yourself recover quickly and to help shield your baby from germs…

  • Drink plenty of fluids

  • Rest

  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue (and then throw it away)

  • Wash your hands well and often

  • Limit close face-to-face contact with your baby

  • Ask healthy friends and family to help you care for your baby

    If you’re too sick to breastfeed, you can pump your breastmilk and have someone who’s not ill feed it to your baby. (If your little one has a cold, too, learn how to treat them naturally and which meds are safe.)

    Can I take cold medicine while breastfeeding?

    While it’s true that almost all oral medications can transfer into breastmilk, most do so at such low levels that there’s no real risk to babies. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) attests that the majority of over-the-counter cold meds are safe to take while breastfeeding. But majority does not mean all! So, if you’re asking yourself, “What cold medicine can I take while breastfeeding?,” it’s always smart to discuss your options with your OB/GYN, pediatrician, or general practitioner before you hit up the drugstore.

    Which cold medicines are safe for breastfeeding?

    The following OTC cold medications are generally thought of as safe for you and your baby. But again, reach out to your provider before taking any medication when nursing.

    Breastfeeding-Safe Medicines for Headache and Fever

    Only a miniscule amount of ibuprofen or acetaminophen transfers to breastmilk, making these meds first-choice options for fever and headache while breastfeeding.

    • Advil (Ibuprofen)

    • Motrin (Ibuprofen)

    • Tylenol (Acetaminophen)

    Breastfeeding-Safe Medicines for a Stuffy Nose

    There are several OTC nasal sprays and tablets for treating a stuffy nose that are safe to use while nursing. The below nasal sprays contain oxymetazoline, triamcinolone, and/or fluticasone. It’s believed that very little medicine in these decongestants can reach your little one through breastmilk. Experts often recommend these meds over oral decongestants, like Sudafed, when breastfeeding. But know that using nasal spray for seven to 10 days or more can result in rebound congestion.

    • Afrin

    • Flonase

    • Nasacort

    Breastfeeding-Safe Medicines for a Cough

    Medicines containing either dextromethorphan or guaifenesin (an “expectorant” that thins mucus) can help quell a cough, and they’re unlikely to impact your breastmilk supply. (Learn ways to improve your breastmilk supply.) While dextromethorphan-containing meds, like Mucinex and Robitussin may cause drowsiness or poor feeding in babies, there are no other substantial infant side effects to note. Cough medications to consider include:

    • Delsym

    • Mucinex

    • Robitussin DM

    • Robitussin 12 Hour Cough Relief

    • Vicks Formula 44 Cough Control

    Experts agree that cough drops/lozenges and sore throat sprays, such as Chloraseptic are safe to use while breastfeeding, as well.

    Cold Medicines to Avoid While Breastfeeding

    While most OTC cold meds are safe to take while breastfeeding, some may interfere with breastmilk supply or are otherwise not recommended. OTC cold medications containing the decongestants pseudoephedrine may hinder your breastmilk supply. And since phenylephrine works in a similar way, it may lower breastmilk production, too. It’s always best to check in with your doctor before considering any of the following cold meds:

    • Advil Cold and Sinus

    • Advil Multi-Symptom Cold and Flu

    • Advil Sinus Congestion & Pain

    • Allegra-D

    • Claritin-D

    • DayQuil
    • Mucinex D
    • NyQuil

    • Robitussin CF

    • Sudafed

    • Theraflu

    • Zyrtec-D

    Pain Relivers to Avoid While Breastfeeding

    On the pain-reliever front, it may be a good idea to avoid aspirin (Excedrin), aspirin-containing meds (like Alka Seltzer), and naproxen (Aleve) as well. Aspirin is linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious condition associated with swelling of the brain and liver in young children. Aspirin can also thin the blood and cause bleeding. (Aspirin can be listed as salicylate, salicylic acid, acetylsalicylic acid, or acetylsalicylate.) Naproxen has a long half-life—and breastfed babies have experienced adverse reactions.

    Can I take flu medication while breastfeeding?

    Yes. Although there’s limited data on antiviral flu meds taken while breastfeeding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends nursing parents with the flu (confirmed or suspected) take antivirals, with oral oseltamivir being the preferred pick. Research shows that very little transfers to breastmilk. (Learn about the importance of the flu shot for you and your baby.)

    Cold Relief Tips When Breastfeeding

    To help ensure that you feel better quickly without accidentally harming your baby, follow these cold-symptom relief tips while breastfeeding:

    • Avoid extra-strength, long-acting, or sustained-release meds. These cold medicines are designed to linger in your bloodstream—and your breastmilk supply—much longer than regular-strength cold meds.

    • Time medicine right. Take your cold medicine right after you breastfeed, so your baby side-steps peak drug levels. And if your doctor recommends a long-acting or sustained-release cold medication, take it after your baby’s last feed of the night or before their longest sleep period.

    • Rethink herbal remedies. Not much is known about herbal cold remedies and their effects on breastfed infants—and these “remedies” aren’t well-regulated. If you are considering an herbal treatment, talk to your care provider first.

    • Consider nasal irrigation. Saline nasal spray or a neti pot are great ways to help relieve congestion without drugs. Sterile saltwater works to break up nasal mucus.

    • Drink up! Clear liquids, especially warm ones, like lemon water can help break up mucus and prevent dehydration.

    • Try a saltwater gargle. Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water, gargle, and spit, to temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat.

    • Turn on the humidifier. Did you know that dry nostrils are more prone to viruses—and dry air can worsen a sore throat? To help, use a cool mist humidifier at night.


    More on Breastfeeding:



    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Breastfeeding and Caring for Newborns if You Have COVID-19
    • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Breastfeeding Benefits Your Baby’s Immune System
    • Nemours: KidsHealth: Is it Safe to Breastfeed if I Have the Flu?
    • Mayo Clinic: Breastfeeding and Medications: What’s Safe?
    • The Transfer of Drugs and Therapeutics Into Human Breast Milk: An Update on Selected Topics. September 2013
    • Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed): Ibuprofen
    • LactMed: Acetaminophen
    • LactMed: Oxymetazoline
    • LactMed: Triamcinolone
    • LactMed: Fluticasone
    • Cleveland Clinic: Rhinitis Medicamentosa
    • LactMed: Dextromethorphan
    • LactMed: Guaifenesin
    • Infant Risk Center, Texas Tech University Health Science Center: Cough & Cold Medications while Breastfeeding
    • Children’s Mercy: Cold and Allergy Relief for Breastfeeding Moms
    • LactMed: Pseudoephedrine
    • LactMed: Phenylephrine
    • LactMed: Asprin
    • Franciscan Health: Safe Medications While Breastfeeding
    • LactMed: Naproxen
    • CDC: Influenza (Flu)
    • Kaiser Permanente: Breastfeeding: Using Medicines Safely
    • Consumer Healthcare Products Association, Know Your OTCs: Questions Breastfeeding Moms Ask About OTC Medicines
    • Mayo Clinic: Cold remedies: What works, what doesn't, what can't hurt
    • Johns Hopkins Medicine: The Do’s and Don’ts of Easing Cold Symptoms

    About Holly Pevzner

    Holly Pevzner is Happiest Baby’s Staff Writer. She specializes in creating parenting, pregnancy, health, nutrition, and family travel content. Her work—including essays, columns, reported features, and more—has appeared in outlets such as EatingWell, Family Circle, Parents, Real Simple, and The Bump. Before becoming a full-time writer, Holly held senior staff positions at Prevention, Fitness, and Self magazines, covering medical health and psychology. She was also a contributing editor at Scholastic Parent & Child magazine and a regular kids-health columnist for Prevention and First For Women magazines. Holly lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two boys, and terrier mix.

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    Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.