Popping an Excedrin in response to your little one’s nonstop crying is a natural response, but is it a safe one? Taking Excedrin while nursing is a heavily debated topic among doctors and new mothers. While the risk of damage to your infant is low, there are dangers involved that should be addressed.
First off, what is Excedrin? It’s a pain reliever that focuses on relieving headaches and migraines, which often go hand-in-hand with a cranky baby making noise. It’s one of the best-selling over-the-counter brands for pain relief in the United States, but have you ever stopped to check what exactly it’s made up of? Each capsule of Excedrin Extra Strength Pain Reliever contains “250 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen, 250 mg of aspirin, and 65 mg of caffeine.” (source)
For the most part, acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine are safe to take while nursing, but some are more problematic than others.
Acetaminophen – Is it Safe?
Acetaminophen sounds like a complicated chemical term more likely to be used in scientific labs than around the house, but you’re likely more familiar with it than you realize (source). It’s a very common pain reliever and fever reducer and is found in Nyquil, Midol, Robitussin, Tylenol, Vicks, and a massive variety of other household brands.
But is it safe? Using acetaminophen while nursing has been found to be perfectly safe by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even though the acetaminophen is passed along to your baby through your breast milk, it’s at such a small dose that there is no recognized danger (source).
What About Aspirin?
Aspirin, like acetaminophen, is used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation. Note that aspirin should never be given directly to children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome, which the Mayo Clinic describes as “a rare but serious condition that causes swelling in the liver and brain.” (source).
BabyMed advises that it should be avoided during breastfeeding due to the potential risk of thrombocytopenia, fever, anorexia, petechiae, hemolysis, G-6-PD-deficiency. Although the risk of Reye’s syndrome transferred through aspirin-laced breastmilk is small, they recommend that nursing mothers use an alternate drug. There has been one observed case of metabolic acidosis in the child of a woman taking aspirin while nursing (source).
Admittedly, these risks are extremely low and are unlikely to affect you or your baby, especially in the small doses found in Excedrin. Still, it is important to keep these factors in mind when making your decision.
Is Caffeine Dangerous?
It’s difficult to avoid caffeine, which stimulates the central nervous system. It’s found in coffee, tea, soft drinks– and yes, in Excedrin as well.
You should, of course, avoid excessive levels of caffeine while breastfeeding. 750 mg per day is the cutoff; any higher and you risk “hyperactivity and wakefulness” in your infant (source). While 65 mg per capsule of Excedrin may seem low, don’t forget that the typical dose is two capsules, raising it up to 130 mg (source). If you take the maximum dose of eight capsules per day, you’re taking in 520 mg per day.
While this is still below the maximum cutoff for caffeine, don’t forget that everyday food and beverages contain it. The average cup of coffee has 95 mg of caffeine, and a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola has 55 mg of caffeine. It’s extremely important to keep track of just how much caffeine you are putting into your body, especially if you smoke, which will intensify the effects of caffeine even further.
In short, taking Excedrin while breastfeeding is not necessarily dangerous, but should be taken with caution. In small, controlled doses there is virtually nothing to be concerned about.
The acetaminophen content is safe for your baby, and while the aspirin content can be linked to complications (thrombocytopenia, fever, anorexia, petechiae, hemolysis, G-6-PD-deficiency, Reye’s syndrome, and a single confirmed case of metabolic acidosis), it is a minor risk. As for the caffeine content, the maximum recommended daily dosage of Excedrin falls within the acceptable range for breastfeeding mothers, but all other forms of ingested caffeine should be considered.
There is a risk when taking Excedrin while nursing, but it is so small that it doesn’t necessarily outweigh the benefits. Before doing so, however, you ask your doctor for their opinion and discuss any other potential complications. He or she will be able to advise you on the best step to take.
Do you have any thoughts or questions? Have you taken Excedrin while breastfeeding or have an opinion on the matter? Don’t forget to leave a comment below and share your thoughts!
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