Experts Explain How Antihistamines & Cold Medicine Affects Your Milk Supply

by Tessa Shull

When seasons start changing from one to another, pollen is in the air, or the cold weather takes over, allergies and colds tend to go on the rise. This means a lot of moms and families turn to allergy or cold medicine to relieve their symptoms and breath a little easier throughout the day. But what if you're breastfeeding? Knowing how antihistamines and cold medicine affects milk supply could be helpful the next time you reach for the Benadryl.

In an interview with Romper, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Tiffany Gallagher of The Boob Geek says, "Decongestants can [affect milk supply], but the longer your milk supply has been established and the shorter the use, the less likely of it being an issue." If your body has adjusted to breastfeeding and you're taking an allergy or cold medicine to get past a short period, you can take comfort knowing that it probably won't have a major effect on your supply.

On the other hand, especially if you'll be taking an antihistamine or cold medicine for long-term use, registered nurse and IBCLC Angie Mann Natero shares "many of them do have the potential to have a negative impact on supply." Although this isn't the case for every breastfeeding mom, it's possible that some moms may notice a change.

As someone who didn't suffer from allergies before having kids and rarely got a cold, I didn't consider whether these types of medications would have an effect on my baby, let alone my milk supply. Now, as someone who suffers a severe allergy to heat, I have to take an antihistamine every day. So thinking about breastfeeding in correlation with an allergy or cold medicine is something I have been concerned about, especially since it always feels like every season is cold and flu season once you have kids.

More specifically, there is a particular ingredient that moms should look out for if they find themselves in need of a cold or allergy medicine while they are nursing. Kelly Mom shared that pseudoephedrine, a type of decongestant, may reduce milk supply. Some tips that Kelly Mom offered up to help minimize any hit to your breast milk supply include avoiding more than one decongestant at a time when possible, using short-acting forms (6 hours or less) instead of long-acting varieties, and taking medication after a nursing session as opposed to before.

According to a study on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), if you're already struggling with supply, decongestants may have a larger impact on your milk supply. In the aforementioned Kelly Mom article, Pharmacologist Dr. Thomas Hale said that “breastfeeding mothers with poor or marginal milk production should be exceedingly cautious in using pseudoephedrine” because “it is apparent that mothers in late-stage lactation may be more sensitive to pseudoephedrine and have greater loss in milk production.”

Additionally, Healthline shared that antihistamines with ingredients diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine can create drowsiness or sluggishness, and breastfeeding while taking these meds might make your baby sleepy. The article suggested avoiding these effects by choosing a non-drowsy antihistamine. Although this shouldn't impact your supply directly, it may have an effect on how often you're breastfeeding if you or the baby are more tired than normal, and in turn, mess with your supply in the long run.

Overall, you should consult with your doctor on which antihistamines and cold medicines are best for you while you're breastfeeding. They don't have a major, negative impact on everybody, but each case is different. If you're going to use them more long term or are already struggling with low milk supply, it may be a good idea to reach out to your lactation consultant or healthcare provider to get advice on managing allergies or colds while trying to keep up supply. In addition, there are precautions you can take to keep your baby a little more protected from germs.

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