What Cough Medications To Use During Breastfeeding?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses what cough medications are safe to use while breastfeeding.

Feb 04, 2018

Brett asked

What cough medicine would be ok for my breast feeding wife to use?


Many medications and supplements carry risk during pregnancy and for those breastfeeding. It is always a good idea to look into any medication you are considering using and weighting the risks and benefits before use.

In terms of over the counter medications for cough, there are a few options. However, in most cases data is limited and before using the listed products below, it is a good idea to check with your doctor.

Cough Medications Considered Safe While Breastfeeding

Cough Drops

Most cough drops are considered safe while breastfeeding. Specifically, menthol cough drops and those which contain the numbing agent benzocaine are unlikely to pass into the breast milk. Menthol has been anecdotally reported to reduce milk supply in some women. However, this is difficult to confirm and many studies do not provide sufficient information to make a definitive conclusion. There doesn't appear to be risk to the infant when using menthol cough drops however.

Delsym (Dextromethorphan)

Dextromethorphan is the most commonly used over the counter cough suppressant. There is limited data available regarding the use of the medication in breast feeding women unfortunately. Due to what we known about the molecular structure of dextromethorphan, some transfer into the breast milk is expected according to one source. Nevertheless, most experts consider dextromethorphan to be compatible with breast feeding. Many cough syrups that contain dextromethorphan contain alcohol and those specific ones should be avoided.

Mucinex (Guaifenesin)

Mucinex is available as a stand alone product or in combination with other drugs such as dextromethorphan. It can help to reduce chest congestion and excess mucus. Like dextromethorphan, there is a lack of data available regarding use in breast feeding woman. Per the manufacturer of Mucinex, it should be used cautiously in those breast feeding due to the drug not being formally studied in that regard.  According to LactMed, a drug and lactation database, It is unlikely that regular doses of guaifenesin would cause harm to an infant. Make sure to avoid alcohol containing products however.

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