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Is It Safe for a Breastfeeding Mom to Take Painkillers?

A young mother breastfeeds her infant.
Breastfeeding offers the best possible start in life.

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This question torments many new mothers.

On one hand, we worry that painkillers could hurt our new baby. On the other hand, research has shown that breastfeeding gives a baby the best start—and we don’t want our child to miss out on those benefits.

The Truth About Painkillers and Breastfeeding

First, let’s address over-the-counter painkillers. The American Academy of Pediatrics has deemed ibuprofen and acetaminophen to be safe to take while breastfeeding.

Aspirin, on the other hand, should be avoided, as it has been associated with Reye’s Syndrome, a rare but serious disease that causes swelling in the liver and the brain.

In an ideal world, prescription painkillers would not need to be taken while breastfeeding, but that isn’t always the case, especially immediately after giving birth. If over-the-counter painkillers aren’t managing your pain, you should have a conversation with your doctor about your other options.

A University of California, San Diego, study estimated that babies whose mothers took opioid painkillers would end up with a total opioid dose of less than one percent of what is given to older infants with severe pain.

Based on that information, the study’s researchers believe that it’s okay for new mothers to take prescription painkillers at prescribed doses for a maximum of two to three days. They should, however, be alert for any signs of distress in their babies, such as unusual sleepiness or not sucking properly—and seek medical attention if they occur.

The bottom line? Breastfeeding mothers should first try medications like Tylenol or Advil to manage their pain. Prescription painkillers should only be taken after a consultation with your doctor—and should be taken for only a short period of time and with extreme caution.

Breastfeeding and Other Medications

The National Institute of Health has an online searchable database where you can get the most recent information on any medication.

The final decision on what medication to take should ultimately be made in conjunction with your doctor. Experts also advise taking the smallest possible dose of a medication for the least amount of time necessary—even if that medication is deemed safe to take for breastfeeding mothers.

Hope and Healing at The Raleigh House

We all know by now just how much damage prescription painkillers have done to our society. But what you might not know is that, at a certain point, addiction becomes almost impossible to tackle on your own.

At The Raleigh House, our first goal is to make our residents feel safe and comfortable. You’re then assigned your own master’s level therapist who will work with you to come up with a plan for rehab—and to rebuild your life. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the painkiller addiction treatment program at The Raleigh House.

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