When you're breastfeeding, everything you consume has a potential effect on your baby. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find out whether the medications you take are more harmful than helpful and you’re left wondering, is it safe? "We actually have lots of data and know which drugs are reasonably safe to take," says Thomas W. Hale, Ph.D., the Amarillo, Texas-based author of Medications and Mothers' Milk. "The problem is that many doctors and pharmacists don't have this data." Below are safe options for several common health concerns - if possible, take the drugs at the end of a feeding so that less medication enters your milk. Talk to your doctor if you need to treat a chronic condition.
Headache or pain: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) are safe choices when a headache strikes, says Donald L. Sullivan, Ph.D., the Marysville, Ohio-based author of The Expectant Mother's Guide to Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs, Vitamins, Home Remedies, and Herbal Products. Avoid aspirin, the culprit behind Reye's syndrome.
Urinary-tract infection: Antibiotics in the nitrofurantoin family (Macrobid), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), and penicillin have been okayed by the American Academy of Pediatrics for breastfeeding mothers, Hale says. Sulfa-based drugs (Septra or Bactrim) can be used a few weeks postpartum; taking them immediately after birth can make newborn jaundice more toxic to babies.