Is it Safe to Take Ibuprofen While Breastfeeding?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 16, 2023
3 min read

Experiencing pain and discomfort is common after childbirth. Many women want to take medicine to help relieve their symptoms but may feel uncertain about which medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding. Luckily, ibuprofen has been proven safe for both mother and baby during breastfeeding.

Ibuprofen is unique because it breaks down quickly and easily in the body. It doesn’t build up in the system the way other drugs do. This is good because it reduces the amount of medicine transferred to the baby to an almost untraceable amount.

Breast milk is the best food you can give your baby during their first year of life. It helps provide them with important vitamins and nutrients, and feeding time is a great way to bond with your child.

However, almost any drug that's in your bloodstream will transfer to your breast milk. This makes it very important for mothers to evaluate what they are putting into their bodies to ensure it won't harm their child. Knowing how you eat and drink affects your body and your baby. It can help you have a successful pregnancy and ensure your baby has everything it needs to grow happy and healthy.

A few helpful rules of thumb for taking medication while breastfeeding are:

  • If the medication is one that infants are also prescribed, the amount your baby will receive through your breast milk shouldn't be a concern
  • You can reduce the amount of medicine in your breast milk by breastfeeding right before you take it
  • Drink lots of water and keep your body consistently hydrated
  • Limit caffeine (just like you avoid it in what you eat and drink, you'll want to avoid it in medications too)
  • Supplemental vitamins can go a long way in supporting the health of you and your baby while breastfeeding

Here are a few things you can do to make sure that ibuprofen is safe for your baby:

  • Take only what you need: Only take ibuprofen when you need it, and don't go over the daily maximum dosage. It also helps to consider other options to relieve pain, like putting a damp washcloth on your forehead.
  • Only take medicine for your exact symptoms: Avoid medications with ingredients you don't need or medicine that treats multiple symptoms.
  • Avoid extra strength or time-released versions of the medicine: This can help reduce the chance that the medication will show up in your breast milk.

While ibuprofen has been proven safe for moms and babies while breastfeeding, other medications are not the same. For instance, breastfeeding women should avoid aspirin and Pepto Bismol, as well as Aleve. Aspirin has a blood-thinning effect and can increase the risk of bleeding for your baby. Aspirin has also been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but serious condition that causes brain and liver swelling.

When in doubt, your doctor can help you determine the safest options for you and your baby.

It is safe to take up to the daily recommended dose of ibuprofen while breastfeeding. In a recent study, one group of women were given 400mg of ibuprofen twice a day, and another group was given the same amount every 6 hours. When samples of the breast milk were taken afterward, no traces of ibuprofen were found. While studies have shown no ill effects, each woman should consult their doctor if they have questions and concerns about which medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding.

Women who have asthma or stomach ulcers should not take ibuprofen because the medicine can make these conditions worse. Also, women who have a premature baby or a baby with a low birth weight should check with their doctor before taking ibuprofen.

It should also be noted that just because ibuprofen is safe to take while breastfeeding doesn't mean it is safe to take while pregnant. Medications like ibuprofen present more potential complications during pregnancy and should be evaluated differently. For instance, a few studies have connected over-the-counter medicines like Ibuprofen with congenital disabilities like gastroschisis (hernias) or patent ductus arteriosus (a failure of a gap in the heart to close). While congenital disabilities like these are extremely rare, it's always better to consult your doctor before consuming medications while pregnant or breastfeeding.