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Newborn, Parenting

Is It Safe To Take Ibuprofen While Breastfeeding?

Written by Brian Wu, MD
Health Writer, Author
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Studies show that taking ibuprofen while breastfeeding is safe for both mother and baby. This will come as a relief to women who choose to breastfeed their children yet sometimes need an over-the-counter medication to relieve mild to moderate pain.

Why Ibuprofen is Safe

Ibuprofen has many characteristics that make it a safe choice for breastfeeding women. For one thing, ibuprofen is broken down quickly and easily in the body. It does not have the tendency to build up in the system like some other drugs do. Because of the body’s ability to metabolize it quickly, very little of the medicine winds up passing to the baby through the breast milk.

What the Studies Show

There is ample clinical evidence that proves the safety of ibuprofen while breastfeeding. According to Drugs.com, ibuprofen has been the subject of several studies in regards to its safety for breastfeeding moms.

Two separate studies were conducted, one in which women were dosed with 400mg of ibuprofen twice a day, and another in which they were dosed with the same amount every six hours. Samples were taken of the breast milk afterwards and found no traces of the medicine in it.

In a more sensitive study, breastfeeding mothers were given 6 doses (each containing 400mg) of ibuprofen over a period of 42.6 hours. Samples were taken of their breast milk at various points in the study. It was shown that, at its peak, there was only about 68mcg of ibuprofen found in the breast milk — the equivalent of about 0.2% of a regular pediatric dose of this drug.

It should also be noted that there have been 23 separate studies done on the effects of ibuprofen on breast-feeding babies. To date, none have shown any ill side effects.

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Warnings About Ibuprofen While Breastfeeding

Unfortunately, ibuprofen is not a silver bullet – and it is not for everyone. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has warned that women who have asthma or a history of stomach ulcers should not take ibuprofen, as it can make these conditions worse. Also, it recommends that women who have had a premature baby or a baby with low birth weight double-check with their doctor to make sure that ibuprofen while breastfeeding is appropriate for them.

It should also be pointed out that just because ibuprofen is safe for breastfeeding women does not mean it is safe during pregnancy. According to the BabyMed website, some doctors feel comfortable prescribing this for at least the first two trimesters, while some will prescribe it for all three. However, a few studies have associated its use with birth defects like gastroschisis (a newborn version of a hernia) and patent ductus ateriosis (PDA, which is the failure of a gap in the wall of the heart to close). Both of these defects are extremely rare, but their possibility has some physicians shying away from prescribing ibuprofen while a woman is pregnant. Many instead will prescribe acetaminophen as an alternative.

On the whole, ibuprofen does appear to be one of the better drugs a breastfeeding mother can choose for pain relief. This news will likely come as a relief for women suffering from breast pain and other issues that require a mild, over-the-counter analgesic. If you need pain relief while still breastfeeding, ibuprofen is an excellent choice because of how well it is broken down in the body and because of how little of it passes through the breast milk to the baby. As always; however, a woman should consult her doctor beforehand to make sure that any medication — even if it is over-the-counter — is recommended if she continues to breastfeed her baby. It is always better to be safe than sorry!

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