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Can I take cough and cold remedies while I'm breastfeeding?

Cough and cold remedies are generally not recommended while you’re breastfeeding.

Cough and cold remedies are generally not recommended while you’re breastfeeding.

Most colds will get better on their own. You can often relieve symptoms with simple measures, such as:

  • rest
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • inhaling steam
  • taking over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, on the advice of your GP or prescriber
  • some cold remedies, but speak to your GP first

Medicines while you’re breastfeeding

Many illnesses can be treated with medicines while you’re breastfeeding without harming your baby. However, small amounts of the medicine will pass through your breast milk to your baby, so always tell your GP or pharmacist that you’re breastfeeding.

Speak to your GP before taking medicines if your baby was born prematurely, had a low birth weight or has a medical condition.

Ingredients in cough and cold remedies

If you’re thinking about taking a combined cough or cold remedy, read the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine to see what ingredients it contains. Products sold to treat coughs and colds usually contain several ingredients, and some may not be safe to take while you’re breastfeeding. You need to consider each ingredient separately to decide whether the remedy is safe.

Always follow the recommended dosage instructions. Some remedies may also contain paracetamol. If you take this as well as regular paracetamol, you may go over the recommended dose. 

The following medicines should not be taken while you’re breastfeeding, either on their own or in any medicines that contain them:

  • aspirin (a painkiller)
  • codeine (a painkiller)  
  • phenylephrine (a decongestant (for blocked noses) found in some cold medicines)
  • phenylpropanolamine (a decongestant found in some cold medicines)
  • guaifenesin (an expectorant (to bring up phlegm) found in some cough medicines)
  • any ingredient that produces drowsiness (such as some antihistamines that may be found in decongestants – such as diphenhydramine)

Cough medicines

The simplest, cheapest way to treat a short-term cough may be with a cough remedy made at home from hot water, honey and lemon juice. The honey is a demulcent, which means it coats the throat and relieves the irritation that causes coughing.

Cold remedies

Cold medicines are widely used, but there is little evidence they are effective in curing a cold, although some may relieve symptoms.

Read more about treating colds.

Getting advice

Check the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine, or read the information on the packet.

If you have any concerns, or need help understanding the information and relating it to your own situation, you can:

  • talk to your midwife, health visitor, GP or pharmacist
  • read the drugs in breast milk factsheets from the Breastfeeding Network
  • call the drugs in breast milk helpline on 0844 412 4665
  • call 111 if available in your area

Read the answers to more questions about medicines.

Further information:


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