What Medications Are Safe For Heartburn When Breastfeeding?

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While it is common for women to experience heartburn during pregnancy, some may continue to experience heartburn when breastfeeding as well. Also known as acid reflux, pyrosis, or cardialgia, it is characterized by a burning sensation felt in the center of the chest. It happens due to the reflux of stomach acids into the oral cavity from the lower end of the esophagus ( food pipe), leading to an unpleasant taste and discomfort (1) (2). It may help to know that simple changes in diet and lifestyle can manage or reduce heartburn symptoms. However, you may even consult your doctor if you have any doubts. Read this post as we talk about the causes, symptoms, prevention, and management of heartburn during pregnancy.

Does Breastfeeding Cause Heartburn?

Stress and sleep deprivation may lead to heartburn when breastfeeding

Image: iStock

There is no direct correlation between breastfeeding and heartburn. Women who are more prone to heartburn might find their situation aggravated during breastfeeding due to sleep deprivation, stress, pregnancy-induced weight gain, food choices or bending down frequently.

Can You Breastfeed When Having Heartburn?

Yes, it is safe to breastfeed even when you have heartburn. It is unlikely for your baby to face any problems due to your heartburn. If you are concerned, then you may contact your baby’s doctor. In addition, contact your medical provider or registered dietitian to discuss your diet to determine what foods are causing heartburn and to develop a plan that best suits your needs.

Is It Common To Get Heartburn When Breastfeeding?

Women with a heavy body weight are more prone to develop heartburn while breastfeeding

Image: iStock

There is no proven correlation between the occurrence of heartburn and breastfeeding. Heartburn can occur at any time, including when you are breastfeeding. While the exact prevalence of heartburn in lactating mothers is not known, not all lactating mothers develop heartburn.

Some factors like smoking, high body weight, etc., make a woman more susceptible to heartburn while breastfeeding. Women who had heartburn during pregnancy might be more prone to developing heartburn while breastfeeding.

Quick fact
Reduced esophageal sphincter tone caused by increased progesterone during pregnancy may continue after delivery and cause heartburn in some lactating women (2).

Symptoms Of Heartburn While Breastfeeding

Heartburn in breastfeeding mothers may present itself as shoulder or upperback pain

Image: iStock

The symptoms of heartburn in breastfeeding mothers are similar to other adults. The following symptoms could indicate heartburn (3) (4).

  • Burning in the chest or upper abdomen
  • Sour or bitter taste in the mouth
  • Coughing
  • Hiccups
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • A feeling of food being stuck in the throat
  • Pain in shoulders or upper back

These symptoms appear shortly after eating or drinking a beverage and may persist for a few minutes to many hours. These symptoms might worsen while lying down or bending over.

When To See A Doctor?

Heartburn usually resolves with diet and lifestyle changes. But if it continues to bother you a lot and shows no signs of relief, then you must see a doctor. The doctor may give you suggestions on dietary changes and prescribe medicines to control the acid reflux.

What You Can Take For Heartburn When Breastfeeding?

Some medicines help prevent heartburn in breastfeeding mothers

Image: iStock

The doctor might prescribe one of the following medicines to help you with heartburn (2) (5). This information is for educational purposes and should not be considered a replacement for assessment or treatment by a healthcare provider.

1. Antacids

Antacids provide rapid and short-term relief from heartburn. The following are the common contents of the prescribed antacids.

  • Hydroxide salts of aluminum, calcium, magnesium, or their combinations
  • Alginic acid
  • Simethicone
Point to consider
Aluminum-containing antacids may cause constipation if consumed in excess. Also, none of these contents pass into breast milk as they act locally to neutralize acid (6).

2. Histamine H2- blockers

Ranitidine and famotidine are the commonly prescribed histamine H2-blockers to help with heartburn during lactation.

3. Proton pump inhibitors (PPI)

PPI are said to be the most effective drugs for chronic acid reflux. Pantoprazole and omeprazole are the commonly prescribed PPIs for heartburn during lactation.

4. Other drugs

Depending on your condition and requirements, the doctor might also prescribe medicines containing baclofen to treat your heartburn.

Heartburn that happens during breastfeeding is treated the same way it is treated in non-lactating mothers. The first line of medicines is usually antacids, followed by other options. Do not take any medicines without consulting your doctor.

Causes Of Heartburn When Breastfeeding

The exact cause for heartburn during breastfeeding is not known.

However, the following are a few common causes for heartburn among adults (3) (4).

  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Spicy food like black pepper, mustard, etc.
  • Food high in fat
  • Foods such as coffee, chocolate, acidic foods like orange juices, tomatoes, grapefruits
  • Lying down within two hours of eating
  • Bending over frequently to care for the baby
  • Consuming caffeinated drinks in large amounts
  • Eating large meals
  • Wearing tight clothes
  • Medications like NSAIDs, aspirin, some blood pressure medicines, sedatives, and ibuprofen
Quick tip
Maintaining a journal helps identify foods and activities that could be triggering heartburn. Also, you can find a customized solution accordingly (4).

Preventing Heartburn When Breastfeeding

Heartburn in lactating women is mostly due to lifestyle and dietary reasons. Therefore, to prevent them, inculcate the following habits (4).

  • If you are overweight, try to lose weight
  • Eat a healthy, wholesome diet
Wholesome diet helps prevent heartburn in lactating mothers

Image: Shutterstock

  • Avoid junk, fried, spicy and unhealthy food
  • Do not consume excess caffeinated drinks
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid food items that you notice cause heartburn
  • Eat small meals
  • Avoid lying down after a meal
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothes
  • Raise your head using pillows or lift the bed with blocks so that you are elevated, thus letting gravity reduce acid reflux

There is no direct correlation between heartburn and breastfeeding in pregnancy. Food choices, weight gain, stress, sleeplessness, or anxiety can cause heartburn when breastfeeding. You may nurse your baby during heartburn since it does not cause any harm to the baby. You may visit a doctor if there is no improvement in heartburn after food and lifestyle changes or if it worsens. Doctors may prescribe you lactation-safe medications to prevent acid reflux. You may avoid caffeinated drinks, spicy foods, lying down after meals, and follow preventive measures such as eating smaller and more frequent meals, and raising your head with pillows to manage heartburn at home.

Infographic: Tips On Preventing Heartburn When Breastfeeding

Although more common during pregnancy, breastfeeding mothers may also experience heartburn due to hormonal and lifestyle changes. Nevertheless, there are a few things breastfeeding mothers can do to prevent heartburn, as suggested in the infographic below. If your heartburn does not resolve after following these remedies, speak to your doctor.

how to prevent heartburn while nursing [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Definition of “heartburn”; Definition organization
2. Philip O. Anderson, Treating Gastroesophageal Reflux and Heartburn While Breastfeeding; Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California
3. Heartburn and Acid Reflux: What You Need to Know; Cedars-Sinai organization
4. Heartburn (acid reflux) – causes, treatment; Southern Cross
5. Thelin CS, Richter JE, Review article: the management of heartburn during pregnancy and lactation.; US National Library of Medicine
6. Indigestion and Breastfeeding; Breastfeeding Network, UK
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