Knowing what food you can and can’t eat and what medications to avoid isn’t just something pregnant women are concerned about. Pregnant women are advised to avoid certain medications while they are still expecting but the rules can become more confusing for nursing moms.
With a lack of research and evidence to support the safety of certain medications while breastfeeding, many nursing mothers are left with warnings like ‘speak to your doctor before taking this medication‘ or ‘use with caution if nursing‘.
So, what is a breastfeeding mom to do if she is suffering from acid reflux, heartburn, diarrhea, or nausea?
When a person who isn’t nursing suffers from these symptoms they may simply reach for an antacid, but are medications like Pepto Bismol safe to use while breastfeeding? Can nursing moms take medication for heartburn and other common digestion issues?
In this article
What Is Pepto Bismol Used For?
Pepto Bismol is an over-the-counter antacid medication used to treat stomach problems like diarrhea and acid reflux. The active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol is called bismuth subsalicylate, which belongs to a drug family called salicylates.
Pepto Bismol can be taken in the form of a chewable tablet, a caplet, or a bright pink liquid.
People suffering from stomach problems can take either regular or maximum strength Pepto Bismol depending on their symptoms but must always follow the dosage instructions carefully.
Can You Take Pepto Bismol While Breastfeeding?
Nursing moms are not immune to stomach issues like constipation, nausea, and heartburn and there may be times when they want to take something to relieve their symptoms, but is Pepto Bismol safe for nursing moms?
There is currently no definitive clinical research that can provide strong evidence that Pepto Bismol is safe to take while breastfeeding. However, other drugs that fall into the salicylate category have been found to be harmful to nursing babies.
For example, research into Aspirin (another salicylate-based medication) has found that the drug can enter the breastmilk and have harmful effects on the breastfeeding baby’s health and development.
Whilst the research into Pepto Bismol and nursing is currently scarce, the knowledge on the safety of other salicylate drugs for breastfeeding moms is enough for the American Academy of Pediatrics to suggest using caution when taking Pepto Bismol and the National Institutes of Health to suggest finding an alternative to Pepto-Bismol altogether if you are nursing.
Is Pepto Bismol safe during breastfeeding? The clinical research is too thin on the ground to confidently answer either way.
As Pepto Bismol is in a similar drug family to Aspirin, a drug that has been found to be harmful to nursing babies, the best option would be to find an alternative treatment for stomach problems while nursing.
Alternatives To Pepto Bismol While Breastfeeding.
Just because Pepto Bismol is best avoided while you are nursing, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through your stomach problems and symptoms.
Speak to your doctor about what is safe to take for your symptoms while you are breastfeeding and they may be able to prescribe other drugs like Imodium for diarrhea and Omeprazole for heartburn or acid reflux.
There are many natural ways you can treat an upset stomach that won’t harm your nursing baby and will not interfere with the safety of your breastmilk.
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Natural Ways To Treat Upset Stomach While Breastfeeding.
Stay hydrated if you have diarrhea. Drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids and avoid foods that will make the problem worse, such as spicy and fatty foods.
Eat bland foods in small quantities and diarrhea usually stops by itself within a couple of days. If symptoms persist then speak to your doctor who will be able to recommend the safest way to treat your diarrhea symptoms while you are nursing.
There are several ways you can relieve the symptoms of nausea without taking Pepto Bismol. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and eat small and nutritious meals frequently throughout the day to avoid low blood sugar.
Drinking ginger or peppermint tea may help to relieve your nausea and taking vitamin B6 supplements can also help. You could also try wearing anti-sickness wristbands which are often used by people who suffer from motion sickness.
Heartburn and acid reflux
There are some over-the-counter medications that may be safe to take when breastfeeding, however, it is always important to consult with your doctor first. There are many lifestyle changes nursing women can make which will help alleviate the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux.
Lifestyle changes nursing moms can try to reduce acid reflux and heartburn include:
- eating several small meals a day, instead of three large ones
- chewing food thoroughly
- drinking between meals (as opposed to having a drink with a meal
- avoid eating for 2–3 hours before bed.
- avoid fatty, spicy, or acidic foods, carbonated drinks, chocolate, and caffeine
- avoid lying down during or after meals
- go for a gentle walk after eating to encourage healthy digestion
- avoid clothing that is tight around the stomach
- lay on the left side of the body while sleeping in bed.
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Safety Tips For Taking Pepto Bismol While Breastfeeding
If after reading this article you do still want to take Pepto Bismol, here are 5 key safety tips to remember:
- Always ask your doctor about the safety of medication while breastfeeding before you take them
- Always follow the dosage instructions carefully
- Use the smallest dose possible for your symptoms
- Stop using the medication immediately if you or your baby become unwell
- Use safe alternatives if possible.
The Final Thought & Safety Tips
When it comes to breastfeeding and taking Pepto Bismol, there is not a definitive answer with regards to its safety. There have not been enough clinical studies to confidently prove the safety of taking Pepto Bismol while nursing.
If a nursing mother wants to take Pepto Bismol to relieve symptoms of common digestive issues, the best recommendation is to consult with her doctor first.
The best option to treat stomach upsets while breastfeeding would be to use a natural remedy or a safe while nursing medication if possible.