Can You Take NyQuil When Breastfeeding?

check_icon Research-backed

Image: iStock


Common cold can make bedtime quite annoying. It makes your nose stuffy, gives you a headache, and eventually makes it impossible for you to sleep.

In such situations, you might have the urge to pop in an over-the-counter cold medication such as NyQuil to alleviate the irritation and sleep better. But can you use NyQuil when you are breastfeeding? Is it safe for the baby? MomJunction answers these questions about NyQuil while breastfeeding and if the medicine has any effect on the baby.

What Is NyQuil?

NyQuil helps get relief from flu like symptoms

Image: iStock

NyQuil is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that provides relief from the symptoms of cold and flu such as a sore throat, sneezing, cough, minor body aches, headache, fever, and runny nose. There are several variants of NyQuil available as syrup or liquid-filled capsules.

What Are The Ingredients Of NyQuil?

NyQuil and DayQuil for could and cough

NyQuil contains a pain and fever reliever, a cough suppressant, and antihistamine. A few variants have added nasal decongestant or may consist of only a cough suppressant and antihistamine. Of the many variants of this medicine, DayQuil is for daytime usage and ZZZQuil is a non-habit forming medicine used to facilitate sleeping at night.

The variant that is commonly used for nighttime relief from cold symptoms is NyQuil Cold & Flu, which is the original version of the medicine. There is also a sub-variant called NyQuil Severe Cold & Flu. The following table contains information about the various active ingredients found in the medicine (1) (2) (3):

Acetaminophen (Paracetamol)Pain and fever suppressantRelieves pain, Reduces fever.
DextromethorphanCough suppressant and expectorantHelps reduce coughing and expel mucus from the respiratory tract (4).
Doxylamine succinateAntihistamineHelps cut down the allergic reactions of the body. It has sedative properties (5).
Phenylephrine (Only in NyQuil Severe Cold & Flu)Nasal decongestantReduces swelling of blood vessels in nasal passages thus easing a nose block (6).

Note: The manufacturer-recommended dosage of NyQuil Cold & Flu is 30ml in six hours, and NyQuil Severe Cold & Flu is 30ml in four hours. If you have the NyQuil Cold & Flu capsule version, then the recommended dosage is two capsules every six hours. You should not have more than four doses of NyQuil in 24 hours.

Besides alcohol, NyQuil has several other inactive ingredients that do not have a remarkable effect on you. Having alcohol during lactation is never a good thing even if it is in small quantities. Alcohol and other active ingredients make breastfeeding mothers worry about the safety of NyQuil during lactation.

Is It Safe To Have NyQuil While Breastfeeding?

The safety of NyQuil while breastfeeding depends on how safe is each active ingredient:

  1. Acetaminophen (paracetamol): Research has shown that this drug is safe for breastfeeding women and their infants (7). Maternal dosage is not known to affect the infant adversely.
  1. Dextromethorphan: The effects of this compound on breastfeeding infants have not been extensively studied. But some research suggests that a normal dose should not have unfavorable effects on breastfeeding infants older than two months (8).
  1. Doxylamine succinate: Irregular, small doses of doxylamine are not known to cause any problems. Larger doses of this antihistamine can cause drowsiness in babies since doxylamine readily passes into the breast milk (9). A maternal dose of antihistamines can cause colic, irritability, and drowsiness in the baby, but it is unlikely to be severe.
  1. Phenylephrine: It is less likely to transfer to breast milk, which means your baby will not get high doses of the medicine. Phenylephrine may cause a slight decrease in milk production due to the drug’s effect on the prolactin hormone (10).

Alcohol can cross the blood-milk barrier and from there enter the infant’s body. Medical experts state that less than two percent of alcohol consumed by the mother reaches her breast milk (11). The quantity of alcohol in a dose of NyQuil is too little to pass through the breast milk and cause any problems to the baby.

Moreover, an alcohol-free version of NyQuil liquid is available, and the capsule versions do not contain alcohol at all. In any case, it is best to consult a doctor before you use NyQuil. Even if you get the green signal to have NyQuil, you must be watchful of the probable side effects of the medicine on the baby.

Can NyQuil Have Side Effects In Babies?

Babies may develop a rash as a side effect to the acetaminophen

Image: Shutterstock

There are no documented side effects of maternal NyQuil usage on a breastfeeding infant. However, watch out for the potential side effects that the baby may show.

  • Some babies may develop a rash as a side effect to acetaminophen. This is mostly not dangerous.
  • Excessive drowsiness and lethargy to the point that the baby seems sedated.
  • An abrupt change in feeding and sleeping patterns.
  • The baby does not seem to get enough breast milk per feed.
  • Chronic colic due to no discernible reason.
  • Constant irritability and lack of interest in playing, and other activities.

If you notice any of these problems, then stop NyQuil usage and consult the physician. There are some situations in which you must avoid the drug entirely.

When To Avoid NyQuil?

It is best to avoid NyQuil if:

  1. Your baby has a history of allergic reactions to acetaminophen and antihistamines or tends to exhibit a reaction to any medicine consumed by the mother.
  1. The baby is less than three months old or a preterm infant. Newborns and preterm babies are more sensitive to the presence of drugs in breast milk. Even small quantities of medicine may cause adverse effects.
Mothers with preterm babies should avoid NyQuil

Image: Shutterstock

  1. The baby has a liver, kidney, or heart problem. Drug compounds may exacerbate such issues. Your baby’s doctor can guide you in detail about it.

In such cases, you should contact your doctor for alternatives to treat the symptoms of a common cold.

What Are The Alternatives To NyQuil?

When you cannot have NyQuil but need some relief from symptoms of cold, you can try the following.

  1. Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is safe for breastfeeding moms and their babies. If you want relief from body aches, headache, and fever, then you can have acetaminophen.
  1. Resting and staying warm: Rest and keep yourself warm through the night can help you feel better.
  1. Drink warm beverages and plenty of fluids: Eat warm food and soup for relief from the discomfort caused by cold.
Warm soup can help mothers find some relief

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Steam inhalation: It can clear a stuffy nose and make breathing easier.
  1. Saltwater gargles: Salt soothes a sore throat and provides pain relief.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take for NyQuil to exit my system?

How long NyQuil Liquid takes to wear off depends on physical factors, the amount consumed, etc. (12). It may take around 65 to 78 hours to exit the system completely.

2. Does NyQuil contain alcohol?

NyQuil Cold & Flu Nighttime Relief Liquid contains 10% alcohol, which helps dissolve the other ingredients. It is listed as an inactive ingredient (12).

3. Does NyQuil have more alcohol than beer?

NyQuil Cold & Flu Nighttime Relief Liquid contains 10% alcohol, while most beers contain around 5% alcohol (13).

Treating a cold while breastfeeding could make you think about whether the medications could harm your baby. Though the common cold usually resolves with home care and rest, sometimes you may consider resorting to OTC medications such as NyQuil when breastfeeding. However, you must consult your doctor to comprehend the safety aspects, recommended dose, and possible side effects to the baby of this medication while lactating. Also, you must avoid NyQuil if your baby is preterm and has a history of allergies to medications.


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. NyQuil Severe Cold & Flu Relief Liquid; Official Vicks website
2. NyQuil Cold & Flu Nighttime Relief Liquid; Official Vicks website
3. NyQuil/DayQuil Cold & Flu Relief Liquicaps Co-pack; Official Vicks website
4. Dextromethorphan (DXM); University of Maryland
5. Doxylamine Succinate; National Center for Biotechnology Information
6. Phenylephrine; U.S. National Library of Medicine
7. The Transfer of Drugs and Other Chemicals Into Human Milk; American Academy of Pediatrics
8. Dextromethorphan; National Center for Biotechnology Information
9. Doxylamine; U.S. National Library of Medicine
10. Phenylephrine; U.S. National Library of Medicine
11. Alcohol’s Effect on Lactation; National Institutes of Health
12. Nyquil and Alcohol; Alcohol Rehab Help
13. What Is A Standard Drink?; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Was this article helpful?
The following two tabs change content below.

Rohit Garoo

Rohit Garoo did MBA from Osmania University and holds a certificate in Developmental Psychology from The University of Queensland. The zoologist-botanist turned writer-editor has over 8 years of experience in content writing, content marketing, and copywriting. He has also done an MBA in marketing and human resources and worked in the domains of market research and e-commerce. Rohit writes topics...
View Profile

Dr. Dur Afshar Agha

Dr. Dur Afshar Agha is a consultant pediatrician with decades of experience in various medical facilities both in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. She has headed the Department of Preventive Pediatrics at the prestigious, Children’s Hospital and Institute of Child Health in Pakistan and is a life member of the Pakistan Paediatric Association. She has also completed her Post Graduate Program...
View Profile