Gastrointestinal medications and breastfeeding

J Hum Lact. 1998 Sep;14(3):259-62. doi: 10.1177/089033449801400321.


Medications used to treat gastrointestinal symptoms are increasingly being used as more have been gained nonprescription status. Most of the gastrointestinal medications, such as laxatives, antacids, and antidiarrheal agents, are used short term. Women who breastfeed should be aware of the risks of taking any medications, whether prescription or nonprescription. There is little information describing transfer into breast milk for many of these products. Cimetidine, atropine, cascara, cisapride, loperamide, magnesium sulfate, and senna are the only products identified by the AAP as compatible with breast feeding. Metoclopramide is listed by the AAP as a drug whose effect on nursing infants is unknown but may be of potential concern, although studies published to date have not reported any adverse effects. The safest laxatives and antidiarrheals are those that are not absorbed and should be considered first-line therapy for conditions of constipation or loose stools. Famotidine and nizatidine are excreted into breast milk to a lesser extent than cimetidine or ranitidine and may be the preferred histamine antagonists. Despite the limited data on the use of cisapride in nursing women, it is considered safe by the AAP and may be preferred over metoclopramide for first-line prescription treatment of heartburn. Although most of these agents appear safe in the nursing infant, caretakers should be aware of the potential adverse reactions that may occur in infants whose mothers require these products.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidiarrheals / adverse effects*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Cathartics / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Histamine Antagonists / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant


  • Antidiarrheals
  • Cathartics
  • Histamine Antagonists