NyQuil products are over-the-counter medications designed to relieve the nighttime symptoms of cold and flu. Women who are breastfeeding may wish to use NyQuil to alleviate their symptoms but may worry about the effects of NyQuil on the baby.
Some NyQuil products are likely safe to use while breastfeeding, while others may not be, depending on their ingredients.
Breastfeeding is the ideal way to feed a baby, but what the mother takes in can affect her baby through the breastmilk.
Not all medications can get into the breastmilk. The breast is a far better filter than the placenta was during pregnancy. Nevertheless, it is best to avoid most over-the-counter medications during breastfeeding, because there is not enough research on the amount of risk.
In this article, we look at the ingredients in NyQuil and their potential effects on breastfeeding infants.
However, anyone who is breastfeeding should talk to their doctor and pharmacist about levels of risk and safety for any medication they are thinking of taking.
Different NyQuil products contain different ingredients. Some of the ingredients are safe to use while breastfeeding, while others may cause adverse effects. So, it is best to speak to a doctor or pharmacist before using NyQuil while breastfeeding.
However, women who are breastfeeding should be wary of using liquid NyQuil products, as they contain alcohol as a nonactive ingredient.
The active ingredients include:
This is a pain relief medication that treats:
The American Academy of Pediatrics state that acetaminophen is safe to take when breastfeeding. Tylenol also contains acetaminophen.
The tiny amount of acetaminophen that passes into a woman’s breast milk is unlikely to affect the baby, and side effects are rare. There is, however, a possibility that the infant may develop a rash. The rash clears up when the woman stops taking the medication.
Dextromethorphan helps treat a cough. There are no studies on the effects of this drug on breastfeeding infants.
While some dextromethorphan might pass into breast milk, it is likely safe for infants over 2 months.
All NyQuil products contain doxylamine, an antihistamine that helps alleviate a runny nose and sneezing and may help with a cough. According to some research, doxylamine is safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
However, a phone study found that 10 percent of breastfeeding women reported that their infants became irritable and experienced colicky symptoms after using antihistamines. Just 1.6 percent of the infants experienced drowsiness. None of the infants needed medical attention.
Other possible side effects of antihistamines on babies include:
- changes in infant sleeping patterns
- excessive sleepiness
- excessive crying
Taking high doses of doxylamine or using it long-term might increase the risk of side effects in breastfed babies. Taking too much doxylamine can decrease a woman’s supply of breast milk.
People should talk to their doctor before using doxylamine, as the risks may be higher than we know.
This medication relieves nasal and sinus congestion. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advise that the body absorbs only about 40 percent of phenylephrine, meaning it is unlikely to reach a breastfed child in large amounts.
The research on phenylephrine is limited, however, so the NIH suggest choosing an alternative, especially when breastfeeding a preterm infant or newborn.
Phenylephrine may also reduce the amount of breast milk that the body makes.
Other forms of NyQuil
The following NyQuil products contain the following active ingredients:
- Vicks NyQuil Cough Suppressant (dextromethorphan, doxylamine)
- Vicks NyQuil Cold & Flu (acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, doxylamine)
- Vicks NyQuil Severe Cold & Flu (acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, doxylamine, phenylephrine)
Other types of NyQuil may contain alternative active ingredients. Women who are breastfeeding should check labels carefully and speak to a doctor or pharmacist if they are unsure about the safety of a particular product.
Some forms of NyQuil may be safe for breastfeeding mothers, but it is vital to consult a doctor before taking any new medication. Generally, the active ingredients in common NyQuil products are relatively safe to take.
However, liquid forms of NyQuil contain alcohol as an inactive ingredient. Women should avoid consuming alcohol while breastfeeding, as alcohol can impact the health of their baby.
Alcohol passes to the child through the breast milk. Excessive alcohol intakes can affect an infant’s sleep patterns, growth, and development.
Although the amount of alcohol a person ingests from liquid NyQuil may be small, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that breastfeeding mothers avoid alcohol.
People who do consume alcohol or take liquid NyQuil should wait at least 2 hours after a single serving before breastfeeding. If they drink more alcohol, they should wait for longer before feeding their baby.
There are alternatives to NyQuil for treating a cough and cold, including home remedies and medications.
Home remedies may be the safest option for a woman who is breastfeeding and the baby. These include:
- resting and sleeping when possible
- staying warm
- drinking lots of clear fluids
- gargling with salt water
- inhaling steam vapors
If natural treatments do not offer significant relief, it may be necessary to use cough and cold medicines. Safe options for women who are breastfeeding include:
- throat lozenges
- nasal decongestant sprays
- acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
If taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen, be sure to stick to the recommended dose.
It is essential to avoid using aspirin while pregnant or breastfeeding. Aspirin may increase the risk of Reye’s syndrome in children, a rare but potentially fatal condition that causes swelling of the brain and liver.
In general, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that women who are breastfeeding:
- take medications immediately after breastfeeding, not before
- avoid long-acting forms of medications
- monitor the infant closely for unusual symptoms, such as sleepiness or irritability
- expose the infant to the smallest amount of medication possible by breastfeeding before taking a dose
Breastfeeding women should see their doctor if they have cold or flu symptoms that are severe or do not go away within a few days.
A doctor can suggest safe medications to take, or they can recommend drug-free remedies.
Some forms of NyQuil are likely safe for breastfeeding women to use. It is best to avoid taking liquid NyQuil as it contains alcohol, which can pass to the baby through the breast milk, and there are concerns about other active ingredients as well.
If a person is unsure of how to treat a cold or flu while breastfeeding, they can speak to a doctor who can provide information on the best types of NyQuil and alternative treatment options.