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You’ve got the dreaded lurgy. Runny nose, stuffy head, a general all round feeling of blah. As you reach for the cold and flu tablets, you abruptly stop. Is it safe to pop a pill while you’re breastfeeding? The answer stumps you. If you aren’t sure about this then what other things are safe to do while breastfeeding? In this post, we cover some of the most common safety questions from breastfeeding mothers.

 Safe while breastfeeding

 

Is it safe to:

Drink alcohol while breastfeeding?

Alcohol and breastfeeding don’t mix … or so we’ve been told. But you can enjoy a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage as long as you plan ahead. 

 Generally speaking, alcohol hits your breastmilk between 30 to 60 minutes after you’ve consumed it. How much gets in depends on what you’ve eaten, how much you weigh, how quickly you’ve downed it and the strength of the alcohol (or size of your wine glass!). As only time will reduce the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk, it is essential you plan ahead – and around your feeds - to ensure baby is safe. For more information on drinking alcohol while breastfeeding, have a read of this Australian Breastfeeding Association brochure. It offers lots of tips to make sure you get it right. 

 

Take cold medicine while breastfeeding?

The simple answer is no. But again there are a variety of factors that can influence whether it is safe to pop a cold and flu tablet or not. This includes how many ‘active’ ingredients are present in the medication and what they actually are. A combo of different active ingredients can have potential side effects on your baby. 

The best course of action is not to take them and use natural remedies instead. Things like: honey and lemon drinks; increasing your water intake; gargling with warm, salty water for a sore throat; and of course, rest. 

If you need some pain or fever relief, you can take paracetamol or ibuprofen. Both are considered safe for breastfeeding mothers at recommended dosage levels. However, if you really feel you need something stronger, please seek advice from your pharmacist and doctor first. 

In making your decision to take medication, weigh these two things against one another: 

  1. the risks of the medication affecting your baby, and  
  2. the benefits of the medication to your health

 

Use antibiotics while breastfeeding?

If you get really sick, a course of antibiotics may not be avoidable. The good news is breastfeeding mothers can take most prescribed antibiotics safely at recommended doses. The amount of medication that transfers through your breastmilk is very minimal – if any at all. Your doctor is the best person to advise you about this but at the end of the day, you don’t needn’t worry if you need to resort to using them to get well.

 

Drink coffee while breastfeeding?

This one is a bit iffy. Whether it’s safe or not depends on how much you consume. The experts say ‘in moderation’ is fine but what is moderate to one person, may not be to another! 

Another thing to consider is newborns are particularly susceptible to the effects of caffeine as it takes them longer to process it. Older children, say from 6 months onwards, are much quicker at processing it thus the effects are less. 

If you really must have a coffee while breastfeeding, you will have to work out how it effects your child first. The only way to do this is watch them carefully after you’ve consumed your coffee or tea. Are they jittery, cranky and/or find it hard to sleep? 

If you must have caffeine, remember this: the concentration of the substance in your breastmilk reaches its highest about 60 minutes after you’ve consumed it. Once again, timing your breastfeeds is really important.

Note: coffee and tea are caffeine culprits but coca cola and chocolate are too!

 

Get a tattoo while breastfeeding?

You can. But ensure you take precautions to get it done at a reputable parlour. You could also check they are registered with their local council as those that do generally pay closer attention to the laws about infection control within this industry. 

The risk of picking up an infection such as hepatitis B, C or even HIV is always there so you need to weigh this up before you decide to get inked.

 

There are plenty of things you can still do while breastfeeding and very little that you can’t. For the ones you need to avoid, consider how much do they really matter to you. Weigh them up against the beautiful breastfeeding relationship you are developing with your child. Got your answer? We thought so ☺.

 

As always, we provide this information for your reference but keep in mind it is not professional health or medical advice. We encourage you to speak to your GP or specialist if you have concerns about breastfeeding and/or your child’s health and development.