Allergy sufferers unite; the pollen count is brutal this year! For those of us that struggle with hay-fever, we tend to develop an arsenal of over the counter remedies to get us through the season, in an attempt to resemble a some-what functioning human. But, could your go-to allergy remedy be effecting your breast feeding journey? The short answer, yes...
An easy guideline to follow; avoid Sudafed and any OTC medicine with "D' in the title
How can I treat my allergy symptoms?
Breastfeeding while managing allergies can be challenging, but it is possible. If you are breastfeeding and suffer with allergies like I do, it's really important to identify which symptoms you are experiencing and to treat them appropriately.
Whenever possible, treating your symptoms locally (eye drops or nasal spray) versus taking a medication that may possibly enter your blood stream and your milk supply, is generally considered to be the safest solution.
Any Decongestants to avoid?
Yes! An easy guideline to follow; avoid Sudafed and any OTC medicine with "D' in the title. (Claritin D, Allegra D, Zyrtec D etc.) These medicines contain higher levels of the decongestant pseudoephedrine which in small studies, has proven to reduce breast milk supply by as much as 24% within 24 hours!
Anecdotally, many practitioners and parents report that high doses of any antihistamine with a sedating, drowsy effect can reduce a mothers milk supply, (though there is no known evidence to support this) so best to avoid these if you can.
Why does this effect breast milk supply?
Firstly, pseudoephedrine itself can reduce levels of prolactin (the hormone that produces breast milk) and as a vasoconstrictor, it restricts blood vessels within the body. Any compression to the breast tissue, be it external (too tight bras or compression sport bras) or by vasoconstriction (through medication) can impact milk production because the hormones required to produce milk are transported via the blood, and are therefore restricted.
So what OTC allergy medicines are safe to use while breast-feeding?
The preferred antihistamine while breast feeding is Zyrtec (cetirizine) and while there are other second-generation antihistamines that are also considered safe, there just isn't enough research to support their use without effect on milk supply (second generation antihistamines include Allegra (fexofenadine), Claritin (loratidine), and Xyzal (levocetirizine)
Menthol & Breastfeeding
Though there is no clinical research to prove this conclusively, it is commonly known that peppermint and its derivatives (e.g: menthol) have been known to decrease milk supply. Topical application when trying to relieve congestion means limited absorption into the blood stream but, if you're taking oral menthol drops, keep a close eye on your supply and if you notice a dip, it might be best to avoid.
How can I relieve my symptoms?
Sinus rinses all. the. way. Life changing! This will literally rinse the allergens from your nasal passage and sinuses and therefore reduce the body's response to them. I carry one around with me and will even rinse when out and about, allergy seasons here in the Carolina's are no joke!
Some antihistamines such as Zatador (ketotifen) are also available as eye drops, which can offer great relief to irritated, watery eyes
Balms - I never leave the house without Roses & Azalyia's Allergy Balm. Placed under the nose and even inside the nostrils, it can ease my congestion and brain fog within 20-30 minutes and best of all, their products are organic!
Most importantly, always consult your healthcare provider and lactation counselor about your symptoms, medications and best practice choices for your body, your baby, and your breast feeding journey. Suffering with allergies can be absolutely miserable, never mind while exhausted and hormonal during the post-partum phase - don't suffer alone and find a solution that works for you!
Reference: Pseudoephedrine: effects on milk production in women and estimation of infant exposure via breastmilk - British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2003 Jul