Is It Safe To Drink Coffee When Breastfeeding? What Are The Concerns?

Find out the risks of enjoying a cuppa.

coffee while breastfeeding

Food restrictions while you’re pregnant are expected, even normal, right? But what about after the baby arrives?

After 9 months of caution and deprivation, can you return to your former eating life?

Most of us pregnant ladies try our best to eat as clean as possible, wondering whether that nibble of soft cheese or that bite of sushi you had before you found out that you were pregnant will affect the little noonoo in any way.

But for breastfeeding moms, the worry remains even after the baby is born.

One of the few disadvantages of breastfeeding is that some food restrictions remain. My mom and aunts told me countless tales of how eating certain foods while breastfeeding affected their babies. For instance, cabbage made the baby gassy, or drinking coffee kept the baby up all night.

Hold up – my little one gets a sip of coffee through my breast milk? Is this safe? The short answer: yes, to some degree, and when your baby is over 3 months old.

You can have some coffee, but drinking copious amounts of caffeine while breastfeeding is not advisable. This is because small amounts of what you consume pass into your breast milk, and to your baby.

Here’s the deal on what happens when you drink coffee.

The effects of caffeine on babies will differ depending on a number of factors.

Firstly, what you do in pregnancy, echoes in eternity! Just kidding.

But seriously, if you drank some caffeine while pregnant, it is likely that your baby will have less of a reaction to caffeine intake after birth.

However, if you made sure that not a single drop of caffeine entered your preggie belly, your little one may have more of a reaction to caffeine if you imbibe after birth.

Secondly, older babies tend to react less to caffeine than babies under 6 months, so if your baby can’t stand it when you drink that latte, wait a few months to see if the little one can handle it later on, when they’re a bit older.

According to Baby Center, babies are able to process caffeine after 3 months, and they will get better at processing and excreting it as they grow.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association warns that new born babies take a long time to process caffeine, up to 160 hours (that’s around 6 days!) By 6 months, it should take your baby around 3 to 7 hours to process caffeine.

How much is too much?

Only around 1 percent of your caffeine intake enters your breast milk via your bloodstream. Caffeine in breast milk peaks around an hour after consumption.

How much is too much depends on the individual mother and baby. If your body processes caffeine quickly and efficiently, there may be less of an adverse effect on your baby as well.

The upper limit for pregnant or breastfeeding moms is often said to be 300mg of caffeine per day (around 2 cups of coffee, depending on the brew).

HealthyChildren.org (a site by the American Academy of Pediatrics) says that “if you drink no more than three cups of coffee spread throughout the day, there is little to no caffeine detected in the baby’s urine.”

I know from personal experience that I drank a little coffee while pregnant, and I drink the occasional cup now and then, especially in winter – my baby seems to be managing well.

However, one of my friends rarely ever drinks coffee, and when she did happen to have a cup, her baby was up all day! So it really does depend on the baby and the mother, and your usual habits.

Effects of caffeine in breast milk.

Caffeine is a mild stimulant and studies show that moms reported various effects of caffeine on their babies, including that their babies were jittery or slept poorly. Caffeine may also affect the mom’s let-down response.

Kelly Mom reports on a 1994 study that suggested that “chronic coffee drinking might decrease iron content of breast milk.”

Hidden caffeine.

Remember that it’s not only coffee that has caffeine. Other foods such as energy drinks, soda, tea and even my most beloved, chocolate, contain caffeine.

So don’t think that you can drink 5 cups of tea a day without any caffeine fallout.

The amounts of caffeine in chocolate and tea are much less than that found in coffee. However, if you’re drinking a few cups of coffee, and eating some chocolate, and having a cup of tea or maybe an energy drink during the day, it all adds up.

What to do about your coffee addiction?

 If your baby seems to tolerate a bit of caffeine, you can continue to drink some coffee, but be wary of having too much.

Stick to consuming as little caffeine as you can, to ensure that your baby doesn’t become overly stimulated or fussy. Moderation is key. Do not down espresso after espresso, even if you feel it’s the only thing keeping you up after a few too many sleepless nights.

If you’re consuming a lot of caffeine, try to slowly reduce your caffeine intake over a few weeks. Don’t go cold turkey, as you may experience some withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches.

If your baby is reacting to the caffeine in your diet, it may take a few days for the little one to return to normal after you quit coffee, since it may remain in his or her system for a while.

Different coffees have different amounts of caffeine. Maybe you can switch to a brand that has less caffeine. Hey, if you just like the taste of coffee and don’t really need the caffeine fix, why not go decaf?

The bottom line.

To be safe, avoid caffeine when your baby is a new born.

If you plan to drink coffee or consume other caffeinated food or drinks, introduce it slowly, when your baby is a little older, and monitor your baby to see whether the little one has any adverse reaction.

You don’t need to deprive yourself completely, but making sure your little one can handle your coffee habits should come first.

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