Breastfeeding Warnings

Surprising List of Foods And Medicines That Hurt Breast Milk Supply

Breastfeeding is a natural and essential part of early motherhood, providing numerous benefits for both the baby and the mother. However, many women face challenges in maintaining an adequate milk supply, and one factor that may contribute to this concern is the use of medications.

While some foods and medications are generally considered safe during breastfeeding and can even boost milk supply others may have a negative impact on milk production giving breastfeeding mothers sleepless nights. In this article, we will explore the relationship between medicines and breast milk supply, shedding light on the types of medications that may affect lactation.

Common Culprits: Medications that Can Reduce Breast Milk Supply

1.        Decongestants and Antihistamines

Many over-the-counter cold and allergy medications contain decongestants and antihistamines, which are known to potentially decrease milk supply. Pseudoephedrine, a common decongestant, can constrict blood vessels, including those responsible for milk production. Antihistamines like diphenhydramine may have a drying effect on the body, which can extend to the mammary glands, potentially impacting milk production.

2.        Hormonal Contraceptives

Certain hormonal contraceptives, particularly those containing estrogen, have been associated with a decrease in milk supply. Estrogen is known to suppress prolactin, a hormone crucial for milk production. However, progesterone-only contraceptives, often referred to as “mini-pills,” are generally considered safer for breastfeeding mothers.

3.        Antihypertensive Medications

Some medications prescribed for hypertension, such as beta-blockers and diuretics, may have an impact on breast milk supply. These drugs work by affecting blood flow and fluid balance in the body, potentially influencing the mammary glands’ ability to produce milk.

4.        Antiretroviral Drugs

For mothers living with HIV, antiretroviral medications are essential for preventing mother-to-child transmission. However, some antiretrovirals may affect breast milk supply. It is crucial for HIV-positive mothers to work closely with their healthcare providers to find a balance between maintaining viral suppression and ensuring an adequate milk supply.

5.        Chemotherapy Drugs

Mothers undergoing chemotherapy face a complex situation. While it is generally advised to avoid breastfeeding during chemotherapy due to the potential transfer of harmful substances to the baby, some chemotherapy drugs may also impact milk production indirectly. Consulting with an oncologist and a lactation consultant is crucial for making informed decisions in such cases.

Foods That Hurt Breast Milk Supply

Maintaining a healthy and abundant milk supply is a concern for many breastfeeding mothers. While a well-balanced diet is generally encouraged during lactation, certain foods and lifestyle factors may inadvertently affect breast milk production.

It’s important to note that individual responses to these factors can vary, and what affects one woman may not have the same impact on another. Here are some foods and habits that some women find may potentially influence breast milk supply:

1.        Caffeine: Excessive caffeine intake has been associated with a decrease in milk supply. While moderate consumption is generally considered safe, it’s advisable for breastfeeding mothers to monitor their caffeine intake and observe their baby’s behavior. If there are signs of increased fussiness or difficulty sleeping, reducing caffeine intake may be considered.

2.        Alcohol: Consuming alcohol in moderation is generally considered safe during breastfeeding. However, excessive alcohol intake can affect both the quantity and quality of breast milk. It’s recommended to wait a few hours after consuming alcohol before breastfeeding to allow the body to metabolize it.

3.        Peppermint and Sage: Peppermint and sage are herbs that, in large amounts, are believed by some to have the potential to decrease milk supply. While these herbs are generally safe when used in culinary amounts, it’s advisable to avoid excessive consumption or concentrated forms (such as essential oils) if there are concerns about milk supply.

4.        Soy Products: While soy is a common component of many diets, some women report a decrease in milk supply when consuming soy products. If there are concerns, eliminating or reducing soy intake can be considered, and its impact on the milk supply can be observed.

5.        High-Mercury Fish: While fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, some high-mercury fish may be a concern during breastfeeding. High mercury levels can affect the baby’s developing nervous system. It’s advisable for breastfeeding mothers to choose fish low in mercury, such as salmon and trout.

6.        Large Amounts of Parsley and Peppermint: Large amounts of parsley and peppermint are sometimes associated with a potential decrease in milk supply. Culinary amounts are generally safe, but concentrated forms or herbal supplements should be used cautiously.

7.        Not Drinking Enough Water: Dehydration can affect milk supply. It’s important for breastfeeding mothers to stay adequately hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Thirst is a good indicator of the body’s need for fluids.

8.        Highly Restrictive Diets: Extreme calorie restriction or highly restrictive diets can impact overall nutrition, potentially affecting milk supply. It’s crucial for breastfeeding mothers to maintain a balanced and nutrient-rich diet to support both their own health and that of their baby.

Mitigating the Impact: Strategies for Breastfeeding Mothers

1.        Consultation with Healthcare Providers

The first and most crucial step for breastfeeding mothers taking medications is to consult with healthcare providers. Obstetricians, pediatricians, and lactation consultants can work together to assess the potential risks and benefits of specific medications. Alternative medications or adjustments in dosage may be considered to minimize any adverse effects on milk supply.

2.        Timing of Medication Administration

Understanding the timing of medication administration can be critical. Taking medications immediately after breastfeeding may help reduce their concentration in breast milk, allowing for a longer time for the body to metabolize the drugs before the next feeding session.

3.        Regular Monitoring of Milk Supply

Breastfeeding mothers on medications should closely monitor their milk supply. Any noticeable decrease should be promptly discussed with healthcare providers to explore potential modifications to the treatment plan or alternative medications.

4.        Consideration of Lactation Supplements

Certain herbal supplements, such as fenugreek can increase breast size and milk supply. Others such as blessed thistle, are also believed to support lactation. However, their effectiveness varies among individuals, and it’s important to consult with healthcare providers before incorporating them into the regimen.

It’s essential to remember that individual responses to medications and foods can vary, and some women may not experience any noticeable impact on their milk supply from consuming these items. Additionally, any concerns about milk supply or dietary choices during breastfeeding should be discussed with a healthcare provider or a lactation consultant.

Frequently Asked Questions on Medication and Breast Milk Supply

1. Can I take medications while breastfeeding?

Yes, many medications are safe during breastfeeding. However, it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medication to ensure it is compatible with breastfeeding and won’t adversely affect your milk supply.

2. How do medications affect breast milk supply?

Some medications may directly impact milk production, leading to a decrease in supply. Additionally, certain drugs can indirectly affect lactation by influencing hormones or other physiological processes related to breastfeeding.

3. Are over-the-counter medications safe while breastfeeding?

Many over-the-counter medications are safe, but it’s crucial to check with your healthcare provider before taking them. Some may contain ingredients that could affect milk supply or be transferred to the baby through breast milk.

4. Can medications be passed to the baby through breast milk?

Yes, medications can be passed to the baby through breast milk, but the amount varies depending on the drug. Your healthcare provider can help assess the risk and guide you on the appropriate course of action.

5. Will taking medications impact the quality of my breast milk?

In most cases, medications do not significantly alter the quality of breast milk. However, certain drugs may alter the taste, color, or composition of the milk. Consulting with your healthcare provider will help you make informed decisions.

6. Can I continue breastfeeding if I need to take medication?

In many cases, breastfeeding can continue while taking medications. Your healthcare provider will consider factors such as the medication’s safety profile, your health condition, and the age of your baby when providing guidance.

7. How can I ensure my baby’s safety if I need to take medication?

Maintain open communication with your healthcare provider and inform them about your breastfeeding plans. They can help you choose medications with the least impact on milk supply and assess potential risks to your baby.

8. Are there alternatives to medications that won’t affect breast milk supply?

In some cases, alternative medications or treatment options that pose minimal risk to breastfeeding may be available. Discuss with your healthcare provider to explore suitable alternatives.

9. Can herbal supplements impact breast milk supply?

Yes, certain herbal supplements may influence milk supply. It’s important to inform your healthcare provider about any herbal supplements you are taking to ensure they won’t interfere with breastfeeding.

10. Should I stop breastfeeding if I need to take medication?

Not necessarily. In many instances, breastfeeding can continue while taking medication. Stopping breastfeeding abruptly may have its own set of consequences. Work closely with your healthcare provider to find a solution that ensures both your health and your baby’s well-being.


Breastfeeding is a unique and intimate experience that requires careful consideration of various factors, including medications. While some food and drugs may potentially impact milk supply, it is crucial for mothers to work closely with healthcare providers to find a balance between effective treatment and maintaining breastfeeding goals.

The decision to continue breastfeeding while on medication should be made on an individual basis, taking into account the specific circumstances and the potential risks and benefits involved. By staying informed and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals, mothers can navigate the complexities of medication use during breastfeeding and ensure the well-being of both themselves and their infants.


Joan David-Leonhard

Joan David Leonhard is a recent Pharm.D graduate with a strong passion for the pharmaceutical industry and a particular interest in pharmaceutical media and communication. Her brief internship experience includes roles in pharmacy where she built strong patient-pharmacist relationships and a pharmaceutical media internship where she actively contributed to drug information articles, blog posts, social media engagement, and various media projects.
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