Baby breastfeeding from mom who has taken benadryl
skaman306/Moment/Getty Images

Is It Safe To Take Benadryl While Breastfeeding? An Expert Explains

Why it might be risky, and the best alternatives.

When you’re expecting, there is quite a laundry list of medications to avoid. Once your baby arrives, though, the options to treat illness increase substantially — even if you’re nursing. Just like you are allowed to again indulge in a glass of wine or oysters, you’re also allowed to once again take more common medications without compromising your baby’s health. However, if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll want to check with your health care provider before taking most medications. Benadryl, or diphenhydramine, is an antihistamine, and is one of the most commonly used medications taken for allergies, inflammation, itching, and rashes. Benadryl is particularly good at combatting the runny nose, itching eyes, and sore throat that comes along with seasonal allergies. But, it’s powerful stuff. So, can you take Benadryl while breastfeeding?

Can you take Benadryl while breastfeeding?

Benadryl does pass through breast milk into a baby’s system, says Dr. Betsey Marks, a pediatrician and internist in Albany, New York. Despite this fact, it is still somewhat common to take this medication while nursing. Benadryl is a “first generation” antihistamine. While infrequent doses of Benadryl are fine while nursing, Marks says, most doctors will recommend nursing parents take “second generation” antihistamines such as Claritin (loratadine) or Zyrtec (cetirizine). First-generation antihistamines work generally all over the body, which is why they can cause more side effects than second-generation drugs. Second-generation antihistamines have been developed to work more selectively in the body, so they don’t cause as many side effects.

When to take Benadryl while breastfeeding, and how much to take.

Amanda Caroline da Silva/E+/Getty Images

The standard dose for Benadryl for adults is 25 mg to 50 mg every 4-6 hours. If the lower dose works, that is the best choice to make while you are nursing. Adults should not take more than 300 mg of Benadryl in a 24-hour period without a doctor’s permission. “Small and infrequent doses” of this medication while you are nursing is best, says Marks, though again, you should reach for the “second-generation” antihistamines first.

What are the risks of taking Benadryl while breastfeeding?

When Benadryl is passed to an infant, the baby is at risk for all of the side effects the drug can cause in adults. The main side effect of Benadryl is drowsiness — pilots are not even allowed to fly for a day after consuming Benadryl. Other side effects include restlessness, dizziness, a sore throat, and nausea. Since the drug can also cause these same side effects in adults, it’s important to be cautious about the sedative effects of the drug, which could make a parent less aware of their baby in co-sleeping situations or other situations requiring close supervision. In addition, diphenhydramine can cause a decrease in breast milk supply when used in larger doses.

The bottom line is that some Benadryl is likely fine while you’re nursing, but it is best avoided and there are better, safer options out there.


Dr. Betsy Marks, M.D., pediatrician and internist in Albany, New York