Breastfeeding and Over-the-Counter Pain Medication

Are Motrin, Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, and aspirin safe when breastfeeding?

Woman breastfeeding baby while sitting on a bed

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Pain after childbirth and during the postpartum period is very common as your body recovers from pregnancy and delivery. It's especially common to have some pain during the first few days and weeks after you have your baby if you have a c-section or an episiotomy. Afterpains, 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 taking over-the-counter painkillers while you're breastfeeding.

Motrin and Advil

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


Ibuprofen is best known as an over-the-counter medication for the treatment of fever, muscle pain, and headaches. Doctors also prescribe it for many uses.

Motrin is one of the most prescribed medications for pain relief after childbirth.

Ibuprofen 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 used to treat infants and children. Your child's pediatrician may prescribe ibuprofen if your baby gets sick or develops a fever. (If your baby is less than 6 months old, ask your doctor before giving OTC ibuprofen.)

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.


The recommended adult dose of ibuprofen is 200 to 400 milligrams 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 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.


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.


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

Side Effects and Warnings

Always discuss the use of any medication with your physician before starting it, especially if you or your child have any 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 takes more Tylenol than is recommended, their child may develop stomach problems, diarrhea, rash, or liver problems. If any side effects are suspected, stop taking Tylenol immediately 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 that can relieve pain and reduce a temperature. However, naproxen stays active in the body longer than other NSAIDs and is not generally recommended for postpartum use. In a pinch, a single dose is safe, but it is not routinely used.


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

Safety When Breastfeeding

Naproxen is considered safe for occasional or short-term use during breastfeeding. The transfer of the medication into breast milk is low.

Since naproxen could potentially cause side effects in the baby, it should not be used more than occasionally and not longer than one week. If possible, ibuprofen is a better choice for pain relief while you're breastfeeding.


The recommended adult dose of naproxen is 220 milligrams to 440 milligrams 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 any drowsiness in your baby.
  • Watch the baby for stomach issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.
  • In one case report, naproxen was linked to bleeding and anemia in a 7-day-old infant.

Aspirin (Acetylsalicylic Acid)

Aspirin is the common name for the medication known as acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). Aspirin is an analgesic that can help to relieve pain. However, it is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers.


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. Pediatricians advise against its use in breastfeeding moms. The potential for Reyes and the availability of safer alternatives make its use undesirable when breastfeeding. Motrin or Tylenol are the preferred choices for pain relief for breastfeeding moms.


The recommended adult dose of aspirin for pain relief is 325 milligrams to 650 milligrams every four to six hours. Adults on low-dose aspirin therapy may take 81 milligrams 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

The availability of safer alternatives makes the use of aspirin undesirable for breastfeeding mothers. Aspirin also 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. 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. Talk to your doctor about choosing the best medication for the pain you are experiencing.

You might only need one dose of Motrin to get you through mild discomfort, or you may need a prescription to cope with 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 get back to focusing on caring for your family.

8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. LactMed: Ibuprofen.

  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine Daily Med. Motrin IB- Ibuprofen tablet.

  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. LactMed: Acetaminophen.

  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine Daily Med. Tylenol Regular Strength - Acetaminophen tablet.

  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. LactMed. Naproxen.

  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine Daily Med. Aleve - Naproxen sodium capsule, Liquid filled.

  7. U.S. National Library of Medicine LactMed. Aspirin.

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Additional Reading

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.