Taking Ibuprofen while breastfeeding

By Me & Qi
Jul 20, 2021

Can I take Ibuprofen while breastfeeding?

Any medicine ingested ends up in the mother's blood stream and gets transferred to the baby's breast milk.

However no evidence suggests that Ibuprofen (often sold under the brand names Advil or Motrin) can harm infants, especially at small doses. There are no known contraindications for taking Ibuprofen while breastfeeding.

This means Ibuprofen is comparatively safe with regards to breastfeeding, both for the mother and the baby. Along with Tylenol, it is often recommended as the pain-reliever of choice for nursing mums.

That being said, it might not be right for your specific situation. Check this overview of the most common causes of pain while breastfeeding and the recommended remedies.

As a safety precaution, it is always recommended to take painkillers right after nursing or pumping. Like this the minimum possible amount of medication makes it into your breastmilk.

It is also advised to take small doses to remain on the safe side. The more you take, the more will end up in your breast milk.

Side effects are rare but they happen. If you or your baby experience symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, bellyache or other side-effects, stop taking the medicine and contact your doctor immediately.

It is especially important to be cautious if your baby is premature, underweight or suffers from a medical condition. In those cases, it is better to consult with your doctor before taking any medication.

Ibuprofen dosage while breastfeeding

Ibuprofen NSAID dosage while breastfeeding

Do not exceed the maximum daily dose which stands at about 1,200mg per 24 hour period. Ideally only take Ibuprofen when you absolutely need it. 

Studies suggest very little Ibuprofen makes it to your breast milk but still, the more medicine you ingest, the more your baby will too!

Can Ibuprofen help with breast or nipple pain caused by breastfeeding?

If your pain is related to breastfeeding itself, it can be due to a range of conditions: engorgement, clogged milk ducts, milk blebs or blisters, nipple fissures, nipple thrushes, mastitis, breast abscesses, nipple vasospasms, etc.

Any of the above conditions, and more, can cause burning, shooting or sharp pain on the breasts and nipples. This detailed article lists the causes behind these issues with effective home remedies for each.

Ibuprofen will be able to relieve pain to a certain extent but will not help with what's causing the pain. As such it is always a good idea to address the underlying issue rather than focus on the symptom of pain.

Alternative home remedies for breastfeeding pain

Here is a list of the most common breast and/or nipple issues that may cause pain:

Nipples, Areola and Milk Ducts

The anatomy of breasts

  • Engorgement: When an excess of milk is blocked in your breast's lobules
  • Clogged milk ducts: This is when milk ducts, the "pipes" inside your breasts, get blocked
  • Milk blebs or blisters: Those are pimples that can appear on the nipple or areolas​, often due to hardened milk blocking your nipple pores
  • Vasospasms, Raynaud's and nipple blanching: When blood flow gets blocked in blood vessels it results in pain and a phenomenon called "blanching"
  • Nipple fissure: Also called "cracked nipple", it's when you have an open wound in your nipple or areola
  • Nipple thrush: It is a kind of bacterial infection that develops from untreated nipple fissure
  • Mastitis: It is a severe infection of the breast that can develop from untreated clogged ducts, engorgement or other issues
  • Breast abscessThis typically occurs when mastitis is not treated properly, the hard lump under the breast become pus due to inflammation

If you'd like to learn to differentiate some of those issues visually, we have this article with pictures of many of the above issues.

Among the issues above, engorgement, clogged milk ducts and milk blebs/blisters are comparatively mild.

To solve them we recommend home remedies such as Unblock Nursing Tea. It's an herbal tea made of 12 natural herbs that's designed to remove blockages like those behind those issues.

Unblock Nursing Tea against clogged ducts

Unblock Nursing Tea is an anti-inflammation tea that removes blockages in the breasts 

It contains a lot of "cooling herbs" famous for their anti-inflammatory properties such a Honeysuckle flowers or Dandelions as well as plants that ease circulation of fluids in the breasts.

For other home remedies, please refer to this article on treating engorgement and clogged ducts and this one for milk blebs and blisters.

Nipple fissures are slightly trickier since we're speaking about an open wound. It is not easy to heal as expressing milk tends to constantly reopen the wound.

The best thing to do is to use a nipple shield and apply nipple cream, which can act as a shield against bacteria. It's also recommended to drink Unblock Nursing Tea for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Nipple thrush, mastitis and breast abscess are much more severe conditions. For those, antibiotics are often the way to go since we're speaking about full-blown infections. If you develop any of those conditions, do not delay in talking with your doctor or lactation consultant.

Lastly Vasospasms and Raynaud's is a special case as it can be caused by a multitude of reasons. See our article on vasospasms for more details.

Of course if you suffer from any of these conditions and the pain you experience is too unbearable, you can consider taking Ibuprofen (or Tylenol). Just remember that it merely relieves some of the symptoms you experience without addressing the actual issue you're suffering from.

Can Ibuprofen decrease milk supply?

Many mums report that taking pain-relief medicine like Ibuprofen impacts their milk supply.

If you plan on taking Ibuprofen, read what you can do to maintain or increase your milk supply.

How long does ibuprofen stay in breastmilk?

Studies suggest that very little Ibuprofen make it into your breastmilk, only in the order of less than 1%.

As for the Ibuprofen that does make it into your milk, it has a half life of approximately 1.5 hours. This means that 1.5 hours after you ingested Ibuprofen, only half of the amount that made it into your breastmilk remains there. If you wait 3 hours you're at 25%, 12.5% after 4.5 hours, etc.

All this means you shouldn't be too worried about your little one getting a lot of Ibuprofen into their system.

To be on the safe side, it's always a good idea to favor taking Ibuprofen as a bedtime dose after the last feeding of the day. Or at least to take it right after nursing or pumping. Like that as little of it as possible ends up in your breast milk.

It's also recommended to drink a lot of water or tea so as to speed up your metabolism and therefore the rate at which Ibuprofen disappears from your system.

Is it safe to take Ibuprofen if my baby is premature or less than 6 months old?

Ibuprofen might carry some risks for premature babies, newborns (especially underweight) and babies who suffer from a medical condition.

If that's the case of your baby, please talk to your doctor or lactation consultant before taking Ibuprofen.

Should I stop breastfeeding while taking Ibuprofen?

No, you shouldn't stop breastfeeding. Stopping breastfeeding can dramatically reduce your milk supply, making it very difficult for you to regain it afterwards.

Ibuprofen is comparatively safe with regards to breastfeeding.

That being said if you're really concerned about safety, what you can do is pump out your milk while you take the medicine and not feed it to the baby. Like this you maintain your supply while satisfying your safety concerns. The baby can use milk you had stored from before or formula in the meantime.

Can I take Ibuprofen to treat a cold, the flu or fever while breastfeeding?

Before directly resorting to taking medicine, it's always a good idea to check first if natural remedies help.

In this case try taking a hot shower or bath, a big cup of warm milk before sleeping and applying a cold pad on the forehead. In order to help your body fight, you can also consider drinking honey-lemon water or even Milk Boost Tea since it does a great job boosting nursing mum's energy levels.

Ibuprofen can also help reduce some symptoms such as aches so you can take it in limited doses. It won't help treat the underlying problem though, it just temporarily relieves some symptoms.

By the way if you experience flu-like symptoms as well as breastfeeding pain and discomfort, you might have a breast infection like mastitis. Check this article to learn more about mastitis.

Can I take Ibuprofen to relieve headache while breastfeeding?

Headaches can be a symptom of many conditions. First, it is worth checking if your headache might be cause by a breastfeeding issue, such as mastitis. See here a summary of the main breastfeeding conditions a nursing mum is likely to encounter.

Breastfeeding mothers often experience headaches due to emotional stress such as anger, frustration, sadness, fatigue, etc.

If you think that might be your case, the best way to solve your headache issues is to work on what's causing it. For instance like many nursing mums you might not be sleeping enough. Or not getting enough assistance taking care of the baby. So consider reaching out to your close ones for assistance.

If emotional stress is what's causing your headache, you might also consider Milk Boost Tea. It's designed to help nursing mums recover from birth-giving by restoring their energy reserves. The more energy you have, the best you can cope with emotional stress.

Milk Boost Tea to boost milk supply

Milk Boost Tea helps restore your energy levels postpartum

Lastly of course Ibuprofen can also help reduce the severity of a headache. It won't help treat the underlying problem though, it's just temporary relief.

Can I take Ibuprofen to ease vaginal pain after delivery?

Yes. Ibuprofen is often suggested to mothers who suffered during the act of birth giving. The pain is often quite strong during the first 3 days postpartum and goes away progressively as the wounds heal.

Ibuprofen is comparatively safe. However, if you breastfeed and your baby is premature, underweight or suffers from a medical condition, please do talk to your doctors before taking the medicine.

What pain relief medicine is considered safe while breastfeeding?

As we've shown, Ibuprofen (often sold under the brand names Advil or Motrin) is comparatively safe.

Tylenol, an acetaminophen-based medicine, is also considered safe.

What's not recommended while breastfeeding are pain-relief medicine based on aspirin or codeine.

Article tags: Breastfeeding and maternity