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You are a breastfeeding mom who wants to take some OTC medication for pain relief. Looking inside your medicine cabinet you ask yourself: “Can I take Ibuprofen guilt free while breastfeeding?”
That splitting head ache from those sleepless nights is relentless, and your arms are killing you from rocking that baby to sleep. You want to take the ibuprofen, but you are scared that some relief for you will have side effects for your baby.
Continue reading to learn about ibuprofen and breastfeeding (as well as some of the other commonly used OTC pain medications).
Are you Struggling? Get some positive vibes from Breastfeeding Quotes for Tough Days.
What is Ibuprofen
Tylenol, another popular pain killer is the brand name for the drug Acetaminophen.
Comparing the terminology can be a bit confusing, but let me break it down for you. Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are active ingredients within the drug that stimulate pain relief. Tylenol and Ibuprofen are brand names.
Yes that’s correct, Ibuprofen is listed TWICE. That is because the medication’s name is the active ingredient and the brand name.
Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) which can reduce the sensation of pain and reduce fever. Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer as well, but does not work as an anti-inflammatory substance.
There is an ongoing debate in regard to which works best for relieving pain. It is more a question of personal preference. However, many would choose ibuprofen because it targets the inflammation as well.
Is Ibuprofen safe while breastfeeding
The short answer is, YES.
There are multiple studies that show there is no harm to the breastfeeding child. Reason being, very little of the medication passes through the breast milk.
1984 study found that for every 400mg of medication taken, only 1mg passes through to the breast milk. As a comparison, infant strength ibuprofen is 50mg.
If you are concerned about your baby ingesting some medication, you can keep in mind the time frame in which you breastfeed. The drug will peak in mother’s breast milk around 1-2 hours later (just like caffeine), and then taper down.
Considering breastfeeding just before or after taking the medication and then possibly 3 hours later. (Keep in mind that spacing out feeding due to taking ibuprofen is not necessary). You could also choose to pump ahead a head of time and feed baby with bottle to avoid transferring some of the medication to baby.
Do not take Ibuprofen if…
People experiencing stomach ulcers or asthma though, should not take ibuprofen as it can cause life threatening conditions. Ibuprofen can irritate an existing stomach ulcer and can tighten the airways of someone with asthma. The condition called bronchospasm.
What dosage can I take while breastfeeding?
Studies show that the prescribed max dosage is safe to take for a breastfeeding mother. That is 400mg every 4 hours and no more than 1,200mg in one day. Reach out to your health care provider if you take the medication for longer than 10 days.
Mother’s are recommended to avoid medication in general while breastfeeding. So although there are no signs of harm on baby, if your symptoms can be managed with a smaller dosage, you should reduce the amount of ibuprofen (or other pain relievers) you are taking.
I always think its confusing to be told a medication is not dangerous for our children, BUT avoid it anyways. I mean- make your mind up! Ultimately, because all children are different, I think the message is that we need to keep mind that some babies have a more sensitive system. Therefore, some babies could experience mild symptoms from medication in your breast milk.
A 1993 study of 838 breastfeeding women, 11% of women reported their babies experiencing one of the following mild symptoms from common medication: Antibiotics caused diarrhea; analgesics (pain relievers like ibuprofen) or narcotics caused drowsiness; antihistamines caused irritability; and sedatives, antidepressants, or anti epileptics caused drowsiness.
Other pain relievers and breastfeeding
Its easy to think that all OTC pain relievers are the same, but each brand is a different cocktail of ingredients, so always check the specifications of the product before using it.
The three main OTC pain medications in the USA are:
- acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Proprinal)
- naproxen (Aleve, Midol, Flanax), for short-term use only
So we have talked about Tylenol and Ibuprofen, both of which are safe for breastfeeding mothers, so what about Naproxen? This drug is a NSAID just like Ibuprofen BUT manages pain for longer stretches of time. Also, while ibuprofen can be given to babies as young as 6 months, Naproxen is only safe for children 12 years and up, making it a less desirable alternative for mothers that are breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, there is inadequate research on naproxen relating to breastfeeding. However, what we know about ibuprofen and some of its similarities to naproxen, mother can take it at no harm to baby. (source)
Naproxen will manage pain better for longer periods of time, and is common for people with chronic pain. If you are using this drug long term, consult your doctor on how to proceed.
Due to the benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby, its best to choose an alternative method / drug for managing pain before choosing not to breastfeed. Also, if you have a healthy, born to term baby, its possible that you can continue with Naproxen long term as long as you look out for any possible side effects for your baby. (consult with doctor first).
Don’t be in pain
Taking ibuprofen while breastfeeding is safe despite a small amount of the drug entering mother’s breast milk. Because the amount is already 50x less than what infant ibuprofen suggests, ingesting it through breast milk is not harmful.
If you have a preterm baby or one that is extra sensitive, you can always watch out for subtle side effects from the medication. These are usually slight drowsiness, but can be difficult to detect with a new born that sleeps most of the day already.
If the pain you are experiencing is breastfeeding related. Make sure that your baby is latching correctly. I also highly recommend reaching out to a lactation consultant for additional support. Check out Lactation Link (by clicking the image below).
After reading this article you might be reconsidering your medicine cabinet, or maybe you’ll feel less guilty about taking that pain relief pill for your splitting head ache. DO IT! Your baby will be fine, and they will enjoy a happier mama when you are not drowning is discomfort.
Are you taking Ibuprofen while breastfeeding?
Let me know if the comment!