Taking Benadryl While Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know
Is It Safe to Take Benadryl While Breastfeeding?
Benadryl is a commonly used over-the-counter medication. The active ingredient in brand-name Benadryl is diphenhydramine, which is an antihistamine drug. Diphenhydramine is used to treat allergies, and it’s also included in sleep aids like Unisom because it promotes drowsiness. Diphenhydramine can also help treat nausea and certain cold symptoms. When someone uses Benadryl or any drug with diphenhydramine, the side effects are typically fairly mild. Side effects may include coordination problems and sleepiness. Diphenhydramine is described as a first-generation antihistamine. It’s the most commonly used antihistamine in emergency departments and, along with oral versions of Benadryl, it’s available in topical creams and lotions. Benadryl is considered safe to use during pregnancy. In fact, the active ingredient of diphenhydramine is sometimes given to pregnant women who struggle with morning sickness because it has some nausea-relieving properties.
What about taking Benadryl while breastfeeding? Taking Benadryl while breastfeeding isn’t considered to be a good option, even though it’s largely safe during pregnancy. Benadryl is believed to pass through breast milk and it can affect a nursing baby. Younger babies can be especially sensitive to the effects of Benadryl if it’s in their mother’s breastmilk. Unlike some other allergy medicines, Benadryl doesn’t affect how much milk you make but it can affect how much milk flows from your breasts while you’re nursing.
Most allergy medicines aren’t believed to affect a nursing baby, but Benadryl would not be the first option recommended to a breastfeeding mother. The active ingredient, diphenhydramine, can affect a baby. Some of the possible side effects of Benadryl on nursing babies include drowsiness, excitability, and irritability. The younger the baby, the more likely the side effects are to occur. Beyond Benadryl, there are very few allergy medicines that are not advised for use by breastfeeding mothers. However, there is one other ingredient often used in allergy medicines you may want to avoid if you’re nursing: pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine isn’t considered to be dangerous for the baby, but it can reduce milk production. If a mother already has issues with milk production or if she’s in the later stages of lactation with an older child, she should avoid any allergy medicine that contains pseudoephedrine. Some research shows the use of pseudoephedrine can decrease milk supply by as much as 24 percent.
Luckily, for breastfeeding mothers, there are plenty of safe alternatives to taking Benadryl while breastfeeding. The best options are antihistamines that aren’t sedatives since they are less likely to have a sedative effect on the baby. Claritin is one allergy medicine that has been studied during breastfeeding, and it’s shown to pass only marginally into breastmilk. Do note, however, that Claritin-D contains pseudoephedrine and can reduce milk supply.
If your doctor does advise you to take Benadryl for some reason, you can take it before bedtime after you’ve just breastfed your baby, or you might take it while you’re breastfeeding so it can start clearing your system before the next feeding. Other medicines you might take can include antihistamine nasal sprays and eyedrops. There are also decongestants that can be used during breastfeeding as well. However, many decongestant allergy medicines do have pseudoephedrine, so be sure to check the labels. Nasal decongestant sprays that can be used while breastfeeding include Afrin and Tyzine. For some women, a doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, which suppress inflammation related to allergies. Allergy immunotherapy is an option during breastfeeding as well. Immunotherapy is a series of shots given several times a week for anywhere from three to six months, which helps train the body’s immune system to stop attacking allergens.
There are also natural ways to deal with allergy symptoms if that’s something you’re more comfortable with. If your symptoms are related primarily to your sinuses and nasal passages, you can try something like nasal irrigation. There are Neti Pots and nasal washes that can break up mucus and ease irrigation without the use of medicine. There are even foods that can naturally help with allergies. For example, pineapple contains something called bromelain which may help with inflammation and nasal swelling.
Overall, with Benadryl and other allergy medicines, there are some general pieces of advice to follow. First and foremost, speak with your healthcare provider. Your doctor may suggest a Benadryl alternative or give you other instructions that will ensure that your baby is as safe as possible while you’re breastfeeding.
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