Breastfeeding and Over-the-Counter Pain Medication

Are Motrin, Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, and Aspirin Safe When Breastfeeding?

Woman breastfeeding baby in bed
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You may have some pain during the first few days and weeks after you have your baby, especially if you have a c-section or an episiotomy. But, afterpains, a headache, or sore breasts can also cause discomfort. If you're breastfeeding, you may be wondering if you could or should take something to ease the pain. Here's what you need to know about the safety of over-the-counter painkillers while you're breastfeeding.

Motrin and Advil (Ibuprofen)

Motrin and Advil are brand names for the medication known as ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID. NSAIDs can bring down an elevated temperature, reduce swelling in the body, and relieve pain.

Uses

Ibuprofen is a prescription medication that has many uses. It is also available over-the-counter for the treatment of fever, muscle pain, and headache.

Motrin is one of the most prescribed medications for pain relief after childbirth. It is used to treat the pain and discomfort associated with uterine contractions (afterpains), an episiotomy, or a c-section. Additionally, it can help to relieve the pain of engorged breasts, plugged milk ducts, mastitis, and sore nipples.

Ibuprofen is also safe enough to use to treat infants and children. Your child's pediatrician may prescribe ibuprofen if your baby gets sick or develops a fever.

Safety When Breastfeeding

Motrin and Advil are considered safe for breastfeeding moms to use. Actually, ibuprofen is probably the best medication to choose for pain relief while you're breastfeeding. Even though this medication does enter into the breast milk, the amount that passes through to the baby is so small that it is nearly undetectable. This small amount would only be a fraction of the average dose that your child's health care provider would prescribe to your baby for the treatment of a fever.

Motrin is also a preferred pain medication for nursing women because, unlike narcotic medications, ibuprofen will not make you or your baby sleepy.

Dosage

The recommended adult dose of ibuprofen is 400 mg every four to six hours. However, talk to your doctor before taking any medications, and always follow your doctor's recommendations.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Ibuprofen is a safe medication with almost no side effects reported. However, even with the safest medications, there are always side effects that you should watch out for.
  • If you experience nausea, dizziness, or stomach pain, contact your doctor.
  • If your baby develops diarrhea or vomiting, stop taking ibuprofen and contact your baby's doctor right away.

Tylenol (Acetaminophen)

Tylenol is the brand name for the medication known as acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is an analgesic and an antipyretic. Analgesics relieve pain, and antipyretics are used to bring down an elevated body temperature.

Uses

Tylenol is a prescription medication, but it is also available over-the-counter. It is commonly used to treat pain, headache, and fever.

After childbirth, acetaminophen is often prescribed to help relieve postpartum pain. Additionally, it can treat the discomfort associated with some of the common problems of breastfeeding including sore nipples, breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, and mastitis.

Tylenol is also used to treat mild pain and fever in infants and children.

Safety When Breastfeeding

It is considered safe to take Tylenol when you are breastfeeding. A small amount of this medication does transfer into breast milk, but healthy, full-term newborns can handle it very well.

Dosage

The recommended adult dose of Tylenol is 325 mg - 650 mg every four to six hours. However, you should always consult your doctor for proper dosing instructions before taking any medications.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Always discuss the use of any medication with your physician before starting it, especially if you or your child have health issues, or if your child is born prematurely.
  • The excessive use of Tylenol can be dangerous. Tylenol should not be taken in large doses or for more than a few days unless your doctor instructs you otherwise.
  • When the recommended doses of acetaminophen are used, side effects are uncommon. However, as with all medications, side effects are possible. In nursing mothers, diarrhea, abdominal issues, and liver toxicity have been noted when Tylenol is taken in high doses, or when it is taken regularly over a long period of time. And, although rare, if a mother overdoses on Tylenol, her child may develop stomach problems, diarrhea, rash, or liver problems.
  • If any side effects are suspected, stop taking Tylenol and contact your doctor and your baby's doctor right away.

Aleve and Naprosyn (Naproxen)

Aleve, Naprosyn, and Anaprox are the brand names for the medication known as naproxen. Naproxen is an NSAID which can relieve pain and reduce a temperature.

Uses

Naproxen is used to bring down a fever, and to treat pain, muscle aches, and inflammation in the body.

Safety When Breastfeeding

Naproxen is generally considered safe for occasional or short-term use during breastfeeding. The transfer of the medication into the breast milk is low. However, since it could potentially cause side effects in the baby, it should not be used more than occasionally and not longer than one week. If possible, Motrin is a better choice for pain relief while you're breastfeeding.

Dosage

The recommended adult dose of naproxen is 250 mg - 500 mg two times a day or every 12 hours. However, you should consult your doctor before taking any medication when you're breastfeeding.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Discuss the use of naproxen with your doctor.
  • Adult side effects of naproxen include stomach upset, heartburn, headache, nausea, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and rash.
  • Stop using naproxen if it causes drowsiness in your baby.
  • Watch the baby for stomach issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.
  • One study found that naproxen was linked to bleeding and anemia in a seven-day-old infant.

Aspirin (Acetylsalicylic Acid)

Aspirin is the common name for the medication known as Acetylsalicylic Acid (ASA). It is an analgesic that can help to relieve pain.

Uses

Aspirin is one of the most commonly used pain relievers. It is taken to relieve headaches, muscle aches, and joint pain. It can also help prevent the blood from clotting and lower the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Safety When Breastfeeding

Aspirin is associated with Reye's syndrome in infants and children when it's given directly to a child. However, daily low dose (81 mg) use or the occasional 325 mg dose taken by a breastfeeding mother has not been linked to Reye's syndrome.

Aspirin has a short half-life which means it does not stay in the body long. So, when it is taken in small doses, the level of aspirin that goes into the breast milk is very low or even undetectable. After taking a typical dose of aspirin, it will be almost entirely gone from your body in about two to three hours.

While small, occasional doses of aspirin are probably safe, Motrin or Tylenol are the preferred choices for pain relief for breastfeeding moms.

Dosage

The recommended adult dose of aspirin for pain relief is 325 mg - 650 mg every four to six hours. Adults on low dose aspirin therapy may take 81 mg a day. Newborns, infants, and children should not take aspirin. Aspirin is also not recommended for people with certain health conditions, so be sure to consult your doctor before using it.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Aspirin can thin out your blood and increase your risk of bleeding.
  • Large doses or the overuse of aspirin in adults can cause gastric upset, ulcers, anemia, and other health problems. It can also cause problems for your baby.
  • Aspirin is associated with Reye's syndrome in children who have a viral illness, so it should not be used if the baby is sick with a virus such as the flu.
  • Although rare, aspirin can cause bruising on the baby's skin or blood in the urine or poop.

A Word From Verywell

Everybody handles pain differently. And, whether you're in pain right after childbirth or you develop a headache or breast issue weeks later, you don't have to suffer just because you're breastfeeding. There are safe pain-relieving options available to you. You just have to talk to your doctor about the best treatment options.

You might only need one dose of Motrin to get you through, or you may need a prescription for a long-term issue. The important thing is to relieve your pain. When you're in pain, it's more difficult to breastfeed successfully and take care of your newborn. But, with the right relief, you can feel well again, and up to handling the responsibilities of breastfeeding and caring for your family.

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