Pink eye can be a nuisance, but it rarely disrupts breastfeeding or chestfeeding. If you get pink eye, you can continue nursing your baby. Pink eye rarely requires medication. If it does, there are options for people who are nursing.

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If you are breastfeeding or chestfeeding and get pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, you likely have several questions. You may want to know if it’s safe to continue nursing and which pink eye treatments are compatible with nursing.

If your baby gets pink eye, you may be curious about what treatments are best — and you probably want to know whether it’s true that applying a little breast milk to your baby’s eye will help.

Here, we’ll tackle these common pink eye and breastfeeding questions and more.

The main symptoms of pink eye, or conjunctivitis, include:

Pink eye has several different causes, even if the symptoms end up being similar. Common causes include:

Because pink eye has many different causes, treatments vary depending on the cause. For example, treatment for allergic pink eye is usually allergy medication, while treatment for bacterial pink eye is antibiotic drops. However, most cases of pink eye do not require medication, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises.

Most health conditions do not require you to stop breastfeeding or chestfeeding. In fact, continuing to nurse is usually encouraged. This is because your breast milk contains antibodies to help your baby fight off whatever viruses they are exposed to.

The Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) encourages people to continue nursing even when they have viruses that cause colds, coughs, and diarrhea. If you are unsure if you should nurse while you have pink eye, you can discuss the matter with your pediatrician.

Just because it’s usually safe to nurse when you’re sick, you should still take precautions to stop the spread of illnesses, such as handwashing, especially before nursing. You should wash your hands every time you touch an infected area. With pink eye, that would mean washing your hands whenever you touch your eye.

Viral or bacterial pink eye is spread in these ways:

Besides handwashing, you might consider wearing a face mask while nursing your baby and washing any objects that your baby comes into contact with, such as pacifiers or bottle nipples.

Most of the time, pink eye is treated through at-home measures that shouldn’t interfere with nursing, such as:

Most cases of pink eye clear up on their own, within about 2 weeks. When pink eye is treated with medication, the treatment will depend on the cause.

Medications for pink eye include:

Allergy medications

Allergic conjunctivitis will usually be treated with allergy medications and some types of antihistamine eye drops.

Most allergy medications are safe during nursing, though you should stay away from any medication that causes drowsiness. Some decongestants like phenylephrine may decrease milk supply, so it’s important to consult with your child’s pediatrician before taking an allergy medication that also contains a decongestant.


Bacterial conjunctivitis in adults and older children usually isn’t treated unless the infection is severe or you are immunocompromised. However, some types of bacterial conjunctivitis in infants will need treatment.

Bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with prescription antibiotic drops, such as:

Most antibiotic drops taken by nursing parents pose low risks to babies who are breastfed or chestfed.

If you’ve heard the buzz about using breast milk as a way to cure pink eye in babies, you aren’t alone.

According to a 2019 study, using breast milk as a remedy for common ailments, including pink eye, has been in practice for hundreds of years. The reason that breast milk is a purported remedy is because of its antibacterial and antiviral components.

Still, there’s very little research to support this practice.

A 2021 study shed some light on the idea of using breast milk as a remedy for pink eye or similar eye conditions. In the study, participants whose babies had eye discharge were told to apply either breast milk or antibiotic drops to their baby’s eyes. The researchers found that both remedies worked equally well to clear up eye discharge in babies, and they suggested that breast milk might be a good solution for eye irritation.

However, since the study didn’t include a group in which no treatment was given, it’s possible the babies who had breastmilk drops might have recovered with no treatment as well.

If you are interested in using breast milk for your child’s pink eye symptoms, check with your pediatrician first.

Does my child need antibiotics for pink eye?

According to the AAP, most of the time, pink eye in children is treated like the common cold — you just have to let it resolve on its own. Pink eye is rarely serious in children and rarely requires antibiotics or other medication. If a newborn has conjunctivitis, however, they need to be evaluated and may need treatment.

How do I know if a pink eye medication is safe during breastfeeding?

If you are unsure if a medication is safe to take, you can search for the medication on LactMed, a database from the National Library of Medicine. You can also discuss the medication with your baby’s pediatrician.

Is pink eye serious in babies?

Conjunctivitis is rarely serious in babies. However, during the newborn stage, all eye irritation should be reported to your pediatrician. This is because sometimes infants can be exposed to a serious bacterial infection during childbirth, which requires immediate treatment. Most babies are given antibiotic eye treatments at birth to prevent these infections.

If you or your baby get pink eye during breastfeeding, there is no reason to worry. In most cases, there is nothing you need to do but wait for the infection to clear. Pink eye is not one of the illnesses that health organizations recommend you stop nursing for.

Sometimes, either you or your baby will need medication. Most pink eye medications are safe to take while nursing. If you have further questions about breastfeeding or chestfeeding and pink eye, please reach out to your child’s pediatrician.