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What herbs to avoid while breastfeeding?

What herbs to avoid while breastfeeding?

Are you getting ready to welcome a new life into this world? If so, you need to make sure you keep yourself and your baby safe while breastfeeding. You might be asking, "during pregnancy what food to avoid," and you might be wondering what not to eat when pregnant. Even though the vast majority of foods and drinks are going to be fine while breastfeeding, there is still a long list of what to avoid in pregnancy. Herbs can pass from your body into your milk supply, where they might be ingested by your baby. Even though most natural foods are on the list of "what can I eat when pregnant," you should avoid most herbs and supplements, including chamomile tea pregnancy. 

Why and How Particular Herbs Can Affect Your Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

There are several ways herbs can impact your pregnancy and breastfeeding. These include: 

They Can Decrease Your Milk Supply

One of the first ways herbs may affect your pregnancy and breastfeeding is that they could reduce your milk supply. What this means is that when your baby goes to nurse, they may have a difficult time drawing any milk from your breast. There are some cases where specific herbs have been used by nursing mothers to treat oversupply issues; however, if you do not have an oversupply issue, this could have a negative impact on your ability to give your baby the nutrition he or she needs. While the amount of herbs used in cooking is unlikely to cause milk supply issues, you should be careful if you take large amounts of herbs regularly. 

They Can Affect Your Breastfeeding

It is also possible for herbs to have a negative impact on your breastfeeding because they could lead to negative side effects in your baby. Just because herbs are beneficial for you does not necessarily mean they are beneficial to your baby. Your baby is much smaller, and it doesn’t take much for a baby to overdose on an herb or medication. Furthermore, your baby’s organs and tissues are still developing, so they may not have the enzymes needed to metabolize herbs quickly. This could lead to negative side effects that might impact his or her development. That is why it is important to be aware of a few examples of herbs you should avoid. 

Which Herbs To Avoid

Even though a lot of parents are safe while pregnant and breastfeeding, there are still a few examples of herbs to avoid while breastfeeding. These include: 

Alkaloid Containing Plants

First, you should avoid plants that contain alkaloids. In particular, pyrrolizidine alkaloids are hepatotoxic, which means they can cause severe liver damage in your baby. The liver is responsible for removing toxins from the body. This specific alkaloid is commonly found in Borage, Coltsfoot Leaf, Joe-Pye Weed, and Kava Kava. Protect your baby’s liver by staying away from plants that contain alkaloids. These are not safe herbs for breastfeeding, and they are not lactating herbs.  


While breastfeeding, you should also stay away from bitters, if they can have a negative impact on your baby’s smooth muscle tissue. This could impact his or her flexibility, mobility, and development. There are numerous examples of bitters, with some of the most common being Wormwood, Mugwort, Gentian, Golden Seal, Rue, and Feverfew. They are not herbs safe for breastfeeding. 


You should also stay away from anthraquinone. Anthraquinone is known to be a laxative, and it can have a negative impact on the health of your baby. Anthraquinone works by stimulating peristalsis of the intestines. If this happens in your baby, it could have been negative side effects on his or her gastrointestinal issues. It could also force his or her digestive tract to excrete food before it has had a chance to extract the necessary nutrients. There are numerous examples of herbs that have anthraquinone including aloe, senna, Alder Buckthorn, and Cascara Sagrada. These are among the top herbs to avoid while nursing.

Oil Containing Plants

You should also avoid plants that contain oil while breastfeeding. Even though the exact impact of these oils can be different depending on the type of oil you take, you should try to stay away from them while breastfeeding and pregnant. Even if you place them on the surface of your skin, the oils can cross through the skin and pass into your milk supply, entering the bloodstream of your baby. Infants have an underdeveloped kidney and liver, so they cannot process these oils as quickly as a full-grown adult. You should stay away from them while breastfeeding and pregnant. They are among the supplements to avoid while breastfeeding.


There are several other examples of herbs you should avoid as well. These include bearberry, cayenne, artichoke, kelp, licorice, and melilot. You should make sure to stay away from St. John’s Wort as well. While this is commonly used to treat depression, it interacts with numerous medications that are commonly taken while pregnant. While its impacts on babies is still an active area of research, it could cause your baby to get tired and lethargic. 

While this list is far from complete, you should talk to your doctor before you decide which herbs you want to continue taking while pregnant or breastfeeding. 

What Can You Use Instead?

If you are interested in taking supplements that can help you while breastfeeding, it is best to stick with things that have been heavily researched and shown to be safe. Even though there are some herbs that have not been shown to be unsafe, there is not a lot of research to suggest herbs are safe for mom and baby while breastfeeding. 

There are a few examples of over-the-counter medications and prescription medications that can be safe for moms while breastfeeding. A few examples include: 

  • If you are looking for pain relievers, a few examples of safe options include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These medications are also called Tylenol, Advil, and Naprosyn, respectively. 
  • If you are looking for decongestant medication that can treat the common cold and allergies, you should try to avoid anything that contain pseudoephedrine, which can decrease milk supply. Most other medications are safe.
  • If you have a yeast infection, fluconazole, also known as Diflucan, can be safe to use.
  • Other antibiotics that have been shown to be safe include amoxicillin, ampicillin, and cephalosporins, including Keflex. 
  • Several antihistamines are typically safe as well, including loratadine and Fexofenadine. These medications include Claritin, Alavert, and Allegra Allergy. 
  • If you need to go back on birth control pills, you should take pills that only contain progestin and not estrogen.
  • If you are having gastrointestinal problems, there are several medications that should be safe. These include famotidine and cimetidine. They are also called Pepcid and Tagamet. 
  • It is not unusual for women to develop mental health issues shortly after birth. There are several antidepressants that are safe including paroxetine, Sertraline, and fluvoxamine. These medications are also called Paxil, Zoloft, and Luvox, respectively. 
  • There are constipation medications that can also be safe while breastfeeding. Examples include Colace and Diocto.

This is not a comprehensive list of medications, but they have been studied much more closely than herbal medication. Therefore, if you are looking to stay as safe as possible while breastfeeding, then you may want to go with some of these medications instead. That way, you know you and your baby can be kept safe while nursing. 

Talk To Your Doctor

Clearly, there is a lot to remember while you are breastfeeding. You can love your newborn baby, and you want him or her to be as safe as possible. The best way for you to guarantee that everyone involved can remain safe, happy, and healthy is to talk to your doctor. New research is coming on all the time, and it is important for you to stay on top of this information. That way, you do not put yourself or your baby in harm's way. Your doctor should be able to point you in the right direction if you are looking for supplements and medications you can take while breastfeeding and pregnant.

Stay Safe While Breastfeeding

It is important for you to remain as safe as possible while breastfeeding. Even though you probably had a routine that you developed before getting pregnant, you need to be careful about what you put in your body. Some of the herbs and supplements that you take may pass into your milk supply, where they may enter the bloodstream of your baby. Your baby does not have the same capacity to metabolize herbs and supplements as you do. Therefore, these can lead to dangerous side effects. It is important for you to talk with your doctor before you take medication, herbs, or supplements while pregnant. Make sure you ask all the questions ahead of time.


There are several common questions people have about breastfeeding and herbs. These include: 

Can I drink herbs while breastfeeding? 

In general, you should not drink while breastfeeding. Even though the herbs that you put on top of your food are probably going to be safe because they are used in small amounts, the same cannot be said of herbs that you drink. There are some herbs that have been explicitly shown to be unsafe for your baby while pregnant. Examples include bitters, alkaloids, and plants that contain oil. Even though there are herbs that have not been explicitly shown to be unsafe, they have not been studied enough to be proven safe while breastfeeding. Therefore, it is better to stay away from them. 

Can I use supplements while pregnant? 

In general, you should not use supplements while pregnant. Many of these supplements, particularly dietary supplements, contain ingredients that are far too concentrated for your baby. While you are pregnant, you and your baby share the same blood supply, so supplements can be dangerous. Furthermore, many of these ingredients can pass from your bloodstream into your milk supply, where they can be ingested by your baby. You do not want your baby to ingest these supplements because they do not have the capacity to process them, which means your baby could overdose, leading to dangerous side effects. You should stay away from supplements while pregnant and breastfeeding. 

What is the most useful vitamin for pregnancy? 

Even though there are a lot of vitamins you need to take while pregnant, one of the most important ones is called folic acid. Folic acid is a relatively small and easy vitamin for you to take while pregnant. Folic acid is incredibly important for the development of the central nervous system of your baby. If you would like to reduce the chances of your baby developing brain and spinal cord issues, you need to take folic acid as indicated by your Ob-Gyn.