What can you do if you have a cold while breastfeeding?

Try Natural Remedies First:

  • Rest (yeah right, if you’re breastfeeding that means you also have a baby to take care of!).
  • Increase fluid intake and stay hydrated. Turn a humidifier on.
  • Take extra Vitamin C (either a supplement or from food sources).
  • Nasal saline spray
  • Steam treatments
  • Essential oils
  • Drinking hot lemonade with honey
  • Saltwater gargle

If you do take medication:

  • Try and avoid combination drugs and treat only the symptoms you have.
  • If you do take medications, take them right after you’ve breastfed so you can limit your baby’s exposure.
  • If it’s an option, get short-acting medications rather than time-release or once-a-day meds (the latter are harder for baby to metabolize).

Pain/Fever Reducers:

  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and Acetaminophen (Tylenol) are considered compatible with breastfeeding.

Cough/Sore Throat:

  • Throat sprays, lozenges, and cough drops are generally considered safe. Avoid large amounts of menthol because this can decrease milk supply.
  • Dextromethorphan (Robitussin and Delsym) is a cough suppressant that is compatible with breastfeeding and can be helpful for a dry cough.
  • Guafenesin ER (Mucinex) can help if your cough has mucous and is considered generally safe while breastfeeding.

Nasal Congestion:

  • Decongestants: pseudophedrine and phenylephrine are considered safe when breastfeeding HOWEVER pseudophedrine (Sudafed) can decrease milk supply.
  • Instead of decongestant pills, there are also OTC and RX nasal sprays for congestion that have very little effect on other parts of the body. This usually makes them a safer option for nursing moms.
  • Non Rx nasal sprays: Afrin, Nasacort, and Flonase
  • Rx nasal sprays: Astelin, Nasonex, Rhinocort Aqua
  • Be really careful if you use Vicks VapoRub on your skin. Make sure not to get this on your baby because it contains camphor and menthol and this can lead to difficulty breathing and liver problems for your baby.

Runny Nose or Itchy/Watery Eyes:

  • Newer antihistamines (ex: Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec) are preferred over older antihistamines (ex: Benadryl). These are all considered to be compatible with breastfeeding however, a sedating medication like Benadryl can possibly cause drowsiness in the infant, so the non-sedating medications are preferred.
  • Claritin-D and Allegra-D have the decongestant pseudophedrine, which, again can cause a decrease in milk supply.

Be Careful with Labels:

  • Always check the label for the active ingredients and be careful with cold medicines that combine multiple ingredients.
    • Ex: Dayquil Cold & Flu has 2 active ingredients: acetaminophen and dextromethorphan.
    • Dayquil Severe contains those two ingredients, PLUS phenylephrine and guaifenesin. This goes for many other medications like Theraflu, Tylenol, and Nyquil.

Keep Breastfeeding

  • Also very importantly, keep breastfeeding. Your breastmilk passes on antibodies to your baby, which helps protect them.
  • When you are sick (ex: cold, flu), your baby was already exposed to the illness before you even knew you were sick.
  • Breastmilk will NOT transmit your illness to baby, but it DOES have antibodies in it that are specific to your illness. This means they’ll help prevent baby from getting sick, or if s/he does get sick, it will be more mild than your illness because s/he is already protected with antibodies!