Pregnancy Guide

Breastfeeding & medicines

Most medicines, including those used to treat postnatal depression, can be taken while you're breastfeeding without harming your baby.

"Small amounts of any drug you take may pass through your breast milk to your baby.

"Generally the amounts are very low and very few drugs are unsafe while you're breastfeeding," says Bridget Halnan, infant feeding lead in Cambridgeshire and Fellow of the Institute of Health Visiting.

"But it's always best to tell your doctor, dentist or pharmacist that you're breastfeeding."

What medicines can I take while I'm breastfeeding?

Medicines that can be taken while breastfeeding include:

  • the painkiller paracetamol – you should check with a GP or your midwife before taking other types of painkillers, such as ibuprofen

  • most antibiotics

  • asthma inhalers

  • vitamins (but only at the recommended dose)

You can use some methods of contraception and some cold remedies, but not all.

Always check with your GP, midwife, health visitor or pharmacist, who can advise you.

It's fine to have dental treatments, local anaesthetics, vaccinations – including MMR, tetanus and flu injections – and most operations.

Is there anything I can't take while I'm breastfeeding?

Common drugs that aren't recommended when you're breastfeeding include:

  • codeine phosphate

  • decongestants that come as tablets, liquids or powders that you swallow

  • some nasal decongestants that come as nose sprays or drops – check with a GP or pharmacist before using them

  • aspirin for pain relief

  • herbal remedies – not enough is known about herbal remedies to guarantee they're safe to use when breastfeeding

Talk to you GP or pharmacist before taking antihistamines for allergies or allergy-related conditions, such as hay fever.

For more information: 

Your GP or pharmacist may like to look at the British National Formulary for Children (BNFC) to see what medicines can be given to babies and children, as these are likely to be safe for mothers to take when breastfeeding.

Illegal drugs and breastfeeding

It's dangerous to take illegal drugs while you're breastfeeding. They can affect your ability to look after your baby safely, and reach your baby via your breast milk.

The long-term effects on babies if you use illegal drugs while breastfeeding aren't known. Talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you're using them.


Click here to view Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board breastfeeding booklet for more information on breastfeeding.

Last Updated: 19/04/2021 10:22:04
The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website