Is It Safe to Take Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) While Breastfeeding?

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on January 26, 2018Written by Kimberly Holland on January 26, 2018

Overview

Ideally, you shouldn’t take any medications in pregnancy and while breastfeeding. When pain, inflammation, or fever management is necessary, ibuprofen is considered safe for nursing mothers and babies.

As with many medicines, traces of the over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever may be transferred to your infant through your breast milk. However, studies show the amount that’s passed is very low, and the medicine poses very little risk to infants.

Read on to learn more about ibuprofen and breastfeeding and how to keep your breastmilk safe for your baby.

Dosage

Nursing women can take ibuprofen up to the daily maximum dose without any negative impact on them or their children. One older study from 1984 found that mothers who took 400 milligrams (mg) of ibuprofen every six hours passed less than 1 mg of the medicine through their breast milk. For comparison, a dose of infant-strength ibuprofen is 50 mg.

If your baby is taking ibuprofen as well, you shouldn’t have to adjust their dose. To be safe, talk with the baby’s doctor or a pharmacist about the dose before you give it.

Even though ibuprofen is safe to take while breastfeeding, you should take no more than the maximum dose. Limit the medicines, supplements, and herbs you put into your body to reduce the chance of side effects for you and your child. Use cold or hot packs on injuries or aches instead.

Don’t take ibuprofen if you have a peptic ulcer. This pain medicine can cause gastric bleeding.

If you have asthma, avoid ibuprofen as it can cause bronchospasms.

Pain relievers and breastfeeding

Many pain relievers, especially OTC varieties, pass into breast milk in extremely low levels. Nursing mothers can use:

  • acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Proprinal)
  • naproxen (Aleve, Midol, Flanax), for short-term use only

If you’re breastfeeding, you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen up to the daily maximum dose. However, if you can take less, that is recommended.

You can also take naproxen to the daily maximum dose, but this medicine should only be taken for a short period of time.

For the health and safety of your baby, nursing mothers should never take aspirin. Exposure to aspirin increases an infant’s risk for Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious condition that causes swelling and inflammation in the brain and liver.

Likewise, nursing mothers shouldn’t take codeine, an opioid pain medicine, unless it’s prescribed by your doctor. If you take codeine while nursing, seek medical attention if your baby begins showing signs of side effects. These signs include:

  • increased sleepiness
  • breathing problems
  • changes in feeding or difficulty feeding
  • body limpness

Medications and breast milk

When you take a medication, the drug begins breaking down, or metabolizing, as soon as you swallow it. As it’s breaking down, the drug transfers into your blood. Once in your blood, a small percentage of the medicine can pass to your breast milk.

How soon you take a medication before nursing or pumping can impact how much of the medication may be present in the breast milk your baby consumes. Ibuprofen generally reaches its peak level at about one to two hours after being taken orally. Ibuprofen shouldn’t be taken more than every 6 hours.

If you’re worried about passing medicine to your baby, try to time your dose after breastfeeding so more time passes before your child’s next feeding. You can also feed your baby breastmilk that you’ve expressed before taking your medication, if available, or formula.

Tips for preventing and treating headaches while breastfeeding

Ibuprofen is effective for mild to moderate pain or inflammation. It’s a popular OTC treatment for headaches. One way to reduce how often you need to take ibuprofen is to prevent headaches.

Here are four tips to help reduce or prevent headaches.

1. Hydrate well and eat regularly

It’s easy to forget to eat and stay hydrated when caring for a young baby. Your headache may be the result of dehydration and hunger, however.

Keep a bottle of water and a bag of snacks handy in the nursery, car, or wherever you nurse. Sip and eat when your baby is nursing. Staying hydrated and fed also helps support breast milk production.

2. Get some sleep

That’s easier said than done for a new parent, but it’s imperative. If you have a headache or feel tired, sleep when the baby sleeps. The laundry can wait. Better yet, ask a friend to come take the baby for a walk while you rest. Self-care can help you better care for your child, so don’t consider it a luxury.

3. Exercise

Make time to move. Strap your baby into a carrier or stroller and go for a walk. A little sweat equity can boost your production of endorphins and serotonin, two chemicals that can help distract you from your tired body and growing to-do list.

4. Ice it down

Tension in your neck can lead to a headache, so apply an ice pack to the back of your neck while you’re resting or nursing. This can help reduce inflammation and ease a headache.

Takeaway

Ibuprofen and some other OTC pain medicines are safe to take while you’re breastfeeding. However, if you’re concerned, talk with your health care provider about any questions you have.

Avoid taking any medicines that aren’t necessary while you’re nursing, too. This reduces the risk of side effects or complications.

If you start a new medicine, make sure your doctor and your baby’s doctor are aware of it.

Lastly, don’t sit in pain for fear of transferring medicine to your baby. Many medicines transfer to breast milk in very low doses that are safe for your baby. Your doctor can help you find the right medicine for your symptoms and can reassure you about your baby’s health and safety.

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