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Should I Take Ibuprofen When Breastfeeding?

By Sarah A. Kleven
Updated Feb 21, 2024
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Generally speaking, whatever a breastfeeding mother ingests will eventually be passed to her baby through her breast milk. For this reason, some caution should be exercised regarding any medication a breastfeeding mother might take. Many drugs are considered safe to take while breastfeeding, although just as many are considered hazardous to a child's health. Taking ibuprofen when breastfeeding is generally considered to be safe in small doses, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Careful consideration must be given before a breastfeeding mother takes any medication, no matter if it is a prescription or an over-the-counter drug. The mother should consider how much she needs the medicine, how it might affect her baby's health, and how it might affect her ability to lactate. If a mother has any questions, she should talk to her doctor before taking any medication.

When it comes to taking ibuprofen when breastfeeding, only trace amounts of the drug actually show up in the mother's breast milk. Considering that sometimes toughing an illness out or ignoring a symptom actually results in decreased milk production, it is often considered more beneficial for a mother to take ibuprofen while breastfeeding than to not. Conversely, if a mother is suffering from a cold or another virus and medication will have little effect on the mother's health, skipping the medicine might be in the mother's and baby's best interest. Exposing the baby to even trace amounts of ineffective medications is not beneficial.

Dosage and frequency of ingesting ibuprofen when breastfeeding also should be considered. Smaller doses taken more frequently is preferable to large doses when it comes to breastfeeding while on medication. The age and size of the baby also factors into the equation; the smaller the baby, the more potential the medication has to effect the child. Older babies are more developed and are better able to metabolize the drug.

Some medications disrupt milk-producing hormones, which results in decreased milk production. A breastfeeding mother should take this into consideration before taking medication. If a milk suppressing medication is necessary, alternatives ways to feed the baby will need to be exercised. Ibuprofen is not believed to have any effect on milk production.

One tip to eliminate potential side effects on a baby that might occur when a mother must take ibuprofen when breastfeeding is to take the medication right after feeding the baby. Breast milk is made during the feeding process. Milk production post-feeding, when a mother has introduced a medication to her system, is at its lowest, thereby decreasing the chances the baby will be exposed to the drug.

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Discussion Comments
By croydon — On Sep 21, 2014

@Iluviaporos - I respect people's right to do what they want to do when they are breastfeeding, but I think that should apply universally as well. So, if it's considered safe by the medical community to occasionally take ibuprofen while breastfeeding, I'm not going to judge anyone who does that.

There are chemicals all around us, because the world is basically made up of chemicals. And some are more harmful than others, but any medication that lots of people take all the time is going to be very safe because it would have been thoroughly tested.

By lluviaporos — On Sep 21, 2014

@clintflint - It's only when breastfeeding or pregnant that people really start to think about all the chemicals that get introduced into their bodies without any concerns otherwise. I would usually think nothing about taking some pain medication if I felt the least bit unwell, but I don't think I'd take ibuprofen when breastfeeding unless it felt like close to an emergency.

By clintflint — On Sep 20, 2014

Ibuprofen can be quite hard on the liver, so I wouldn't take huge amounts of it lightly anyway. If you are in pain from a headache or something like that, it would be better to get checked out by a doctor and see what they recommend rather than just trying to solve the problem yourself with over the counter drugs.

That might work when you're just looking out for yourself, but when you've got a baby to take care of you can't take that kind of risk.

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