Over-the-counter (OTC) cold remedies are generally safe while breastfeeding. However, people need to avoid certain medications, such as oral decongestants, since they can dramatically reduce milk supply.

A breastfeeding parent fighting a cold can relieve their symptoms by using OTC medications.

OTC cold remedies are generally safe to use while breastfeeding. However, it is essential to check the active ingredients of these medications. An older study from 2013 reports that small amounts of certain medications can pass through breast milk and expose infants to potentially harmful ingredients.

This article explains whether it is safe to breastfeed with a cold, the types of cold medications that are safe to use, and which ones to avoid.

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Breastfeeding while sick is generally safe for both parents and infants.

A person can consider the following factors when breastfeeding with a flu or cold:

  • the age of the baby, as premature infants and infants under 2 months have the highest risk of adverse effects from medications in breast milk
  • the likely effects of the drug on breast milk production
  • the amount of the drug that will enter the milk supply
  • the proportion of the baby’s breast milk intake

According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, hydrating can help relieve cold symptoms and encourage milk production.

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Cold medicines are generally safe for breastfeeding parents to take. However, it is important to note that some cold and flu drugs can affect milk supply.

People can speak to a healthcare professional or pediatrician before taking these medications while breastfeeding:


Nasal decongestant sprays are a safer alternative to oral decongestants because they are less likely to enter the milk supply or hinder milk production.

Oral decongestants can interfere with milk supply and may be unsafe to take while breastfeeding.


The severity of cold symptoms can vary from person to person. However, people often experience body aches and sore throats with a cold.

The following pain relievers can help people manage the discomfort and are safe to take while breastfeeding:

Safe antihistamines

Antihistamines are allergy medicines that help reduce symptoms such as sneezing and runny nose. Experts consider the following antihistamines safe to take while breastfeeding:

  • Claritin (loratadine): According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Claritin is safe to use while breastfeeding. However, it may have a negative effect on milk supply if a person combines it with a decongestant such as Sudafed.
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine): Zyrtec is safe when a person consumes it in small doses, but larger amounts can reduce milk supply.
  • Fexofenadine: This drug is a nonsedating antihistamine with low levels of milk transfer. While experts consider it safe to take while breastfeeding, it may affect milk supply.

Antihistamines that contain ingredients, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine), can cause effects in infants, such as sleepiness.

Cold medicines to avoid while breastfeeding include:

Most of these drugs can cause drowsiness and hinder milk production.

Natural or home remedies, along with plenty of rest, can be effective and safe options for treating cold and flu symptoms while breastfeeding. These include:

  • drinking warm broth
  • drinking plenty of water and other clear fluids
  • sipping on water with honey lemon or ginger

Some people claim that supplements, such as vitamin C, echinacea, and zinc, help them recover from flu quicker. However, there is limited evidence to support this.

Some cold medications are safe to take in small doses while breastfeeding. However, others may affect breast milk supply and adversely affect an infant’s health.

Pain relievers, nonsedating antihistamines, nasal sprays, and over-the-counter cough medicines are generally safe to take while breastfeeding. However, people should avoid ingredients that cause drowsiness, irritability, and reduced milk production.

If a person is unsure whether a cold medication is safe, they can speak with a healthcare professional such as a breastfeeding specialist or pharmacist.