Many of us forgo our morning cup of coffee while we are pregnant or breastfeeding.
This might be easier for pregnant women, as coffee is a common aversion in pregnancy.
Enter a newborn baby, breastfeeding around the clock, sleep depravation, and maternal exhaustion, and many mothers again find themselves reaching for the kettle to make their morning cup of coffee.
Lots of mothers of breastfed infants wonder: is consuming caffeine (or drinking coffee) safe while breastfeeding?
Caffeine and Breastfeeding
You might hear conflicting advice from your friends or healthcare providers about consuming caffeine while breastfeeding.
Some say that your baby consumes everything you consume. Although that’s partly true, only a portion of whatever lactating women ingest orally appears in their breast milk .
Many experts agree that moderate amounts of caffeine consumption are unlikely to have adverse effects on full term, healthy babies.
Recommended caffeine intake for breastfeeding mothers
According to the European Food Safety Authority, around 200 mg a day (approximately 2 cups of tea or coffee) is a safe daily intake for a breastfeeding mother.
How much caffeine gets into breast milk?
Generally speaking, about 1% of the caffeine you take in gets into your breast milk.
Exactly how much caffeine gets into your breast milk varies, depending on how your body absorbs and gets rid of it.
Most mothers find they are able to have 1 or 2 cups of coffee per day without it having a noticeable effect on their babies.
When does the amount of caffeine in breast milk peak?
Caffeine levels peak in your breast milk about one hour after you consume caffeine.
Whether or not you empty the breast, or when, the caffeine will work its way out of your system and out of your breast milk.
How long does it take for babies to get rid of caffeine?
The half life of caffeine in a newborn baby is 50-100 hours (and even longer for a premature babies). ‘Half life’ refers to the amount of time it takes for a drug’s active substance in your body to reduce by half.
For this reason, it is possible for caffeine to build up to significant amounts in breast fed infants, particularly in a newborn’s body.
By comparison, for adults, it takes an average of about 12 hours to get rid the caffeine they consume.
By 3 to 4 months of age, most babies are able to get rid of caffeine as quickly as adults do.
Considering this information, it might be worthwhile to go easy on the caffeine in the early months.
Is maternal caffeine consumption dangerous for breastfed babies?
There is no scientific opinion to demonstrate that maternal caffeine consumption is dangerous for a breastfed child. In fact, in a prospective cohort study on maternal caffeine consumption and infant nighttime waking, there was no observed effect on sleeping patterns or heart rate.
Anecdotally, however, some breastfeeding mothers report that if they consume a lot of caffeine (e.g. more than 300 mg a day) they do notice various signs in their baby. Some of these signs include their baby being unusually irritable or having poor sleep patterns. This makes sense, as caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant.
Watching your own baby for any signs of the potential effects of your caffeine intake is one way to help you decide how much caffeine is a safe amount for you.
If you have any concerns about your baby, always seek advice from an appropriate health care provider.
The amount of caffeine in drinks
Although there have been no findings to suggest that moderate maternal caffeine intake is harmful to a breastfeeding baby, the effects of caffeine increase, based on maternal dose.
It order to keep track of your caffeine intake, it’s helpful to know the actual caffeine content of caffeinated drinks.
The following information will help you keep track of your caffeine consumption:
- Freshly brewed coffee (235 ml) – 95 mg of caffeine
- Espresso (30 ml) – 64 mg of caffeine
- Instant coffee (235 ml) – 60 mg of caffeine
- Black tea (235 ml) – 45 mg of caffeine
- Green tea (235 ml) – 26mg of caffeine
- Matcha green tea (235 ml) – 70 mg of caffeine
- Cola (235 ml) – 20 mg of caffeine
- Energy drinks (235 ml) – 70 mg of caffeine
Caffeine free beverages
If you are conscious of trying to lower your caffeine intake, these alternatives are considered safer options for some breastfeeding mothers:
- Decaffeinated coffee
- White tea
- Chamomile tea
- Ginger tea
- Some herbal teas.
Other things to be aware of
Caffeine also occurs naturally in certain foods and over-the-counter medications and might be indicated under a different name. Always check the label if you are unsure. Sources of caffeine in food, which might be shown on the label, can include ‘yerba mate kola’.
If a breastfeeding mother has a nipple vasospasm, caffeine consumption could make it worse.
If you are in the early days and weeks of caring for a newborn, you might want to consider how caffeine could affect your ability to rest. If you are trying to rest when the baby sleeps at varying times during the day, having too much caffeine might make it more difficult for you to settle for a nap.
In conclusion, it might be a good idea to be more conservative if your baby is less than a few months old or is premature.
Generally, moderate caffeine consumption (e.g. 200 mg a day or approximately 2 cups of tea or coffee) is unlikely to cause any problem for most breastfed babies.
Although many things change with the addition of a new baby, you might not have to give up your daily cup of coffee or tea – a relief for many tired breastfeeding mothers.