Is It Safe to Consume Caffeine While Breastfeeding?
If you’re used to having coffee first thing in the morning (like me), thinking about letting go of your customary cup may be too much to bear. This is especially true when you need a pick-me-up after a late night or when you lack sleep. But, do you really need to avoid caffeine when you’re breastfeeding?
The answer to this question is yes and no. Yes, because numerous studies show that the caffeine you ingest will pass through to your baby via your breastmilk, and no because a limited amount of this substance won’t really make much of a difference. Now, the question remains, how much caffeine while breastfeeding is acceptable and what is considered too much?
RELATED: Benefits of Breastfeeding for You and Your Child
Caffeine While Breastfeeding: The Good, the Bad, and the Oh No!
For most moms, mixing caffeine and breastfeeding is a big no-no. But for some, it seems to be fine. To help you determine whether or not it’s okay for you to enjoy a cup or two of your favorite brew while breastfeeding, here are some interesting facts (good, bad, and OMG!) about caffeine, your milk, and your baby.
- Caffeine per se isn’t really that bad when it comes to breastfeeding, as long as you keep it within acceptable limits. How much is acceptable when it comes to breastfeeding and caffeine? Studies have shown that while caffeine does appear in breastmilk after momma ingests it, if she stays within the 300 mg threshold for the day, it’s safe for her baby to breastfeed.
- Staying within the 300 mg limit is easy enough if you base it on the number of cups of coffee you ingest in a day. This should be around three 6-ounce cups of regular coffee. This means you shouldn’t order your coffee in venti or grande sizes anymore.
- Caffeine isn’t only found in coffee, so you also need to take note of other caffeine-laden drinks and snacks that you consume. You might think that you’re safely within your 300 mg limit but you’ve actually exceeded it because of other stuff that you eat or drink that also contains caffeine.
- Even if there is an acceptable threshold for caffeine ingestion while breastfeeding, there are some instances when it’s a complete no-no. This is because some babies, particularly preemies and newborns, are highly sensitive to it, no matter how little you take in. This sensitivity to caffeine was actually used in neonatal intensive care to help babies with apnea.
- Babies who are sensitive to caffeine may become jittery, restless, fussy, and cranky. If you’re unsure whether coffee or caffeine is the reason for your cranky baby, you can try to slowly eliminate caffeine from your diet for two weeks then add it back in after it’s out of your system for another two weeks. If your baby’s mood changes with this experiment, you’ll know that your little one is sensitive to caffeine and should stop taking it while you’re breastfeeding.
- Caffeine ingested by a 6-month old baby through breastmilk can stay in their system for up to 2.5 hours. If caffeine is ingested by a newborn, however, it can actually last a few days in their blood.
- The amount of caffeine per cup of coffee isn’t totally set at 100 mg per 6-ounce cup. It can actually range from 30 mg to 700 mg, depending on the type of coffee you drink. This means that even if you only drink two small cups of coffee in one day, but the brew you prefer is on the stronger side, you may actually be ingesting more caffeine than is safe for your baby.
- Some people say that caffeine can reduce your breastmilk supply, but there isn’t any solid proof to back this claim up. What happens, however, is when you take in lots of caffeine and it affects your baby, they don’t breastfeed as much, and this is what causes breast milk supplies to dwindle. If you don’t breastfeed that much, your body will think that you don’t need the breastmilk and it will dial down its production.
Fast Facts About Caffeine and Breastfeeding
Aside from the facts about caffeine intake listed above, moms also ask a few other questions about coffee, breastfeeding, and what can happen when a momma drinks coffee while lactating. Here are some of the frequently asked questions that mommas ask:
Does caffeine affect baby while breastfeeding?
Caffeine may or may not affect your baby. This is dependent on how sensitive your baby is to caffeine, how much you ingest, and how old your baby is.
How long after coffee can I breastfeed?
If you really can’t live without your daily cup, you should be aware that caffeine levels in your breastmilk peak an hour or two after ingestion. Caffeine levels will start to taper out after this time, so if you’re worried about how to get the caffeine out of your system before breastfeeding your baby, use this benchmark.
Does caffeine in breast milk keep baby awake?
Caffeine in your breast milk can keep baby awake and make them jittery, but only if there is a lot of it in your system or if they’re highly sensitive to the substance. Other side-effects you can expect from your baby ingesting the caffeine in your breast milk include fussiness, irritability, and hyperactivity.
Can I have one coffee a day while breastfeeding?
This depends on how strong your coffee is and what one coffee means to you. If “one coffee” means a venti or a grande, then you should reconsider this. One coffee a day won’t hurt (as long as your baby isn’t sensitive to caffeine, that is), but that one coffee should be a standard cup or mug (6 to 8 ounces) and not the huge ones that you’re used to.
We’ve also heard of other moms who could take up to 3 cups of coffee a day! It’s worth noting that the effects of coffee also depend on the baby’s health condition. More mature bellies mean greater tolerance.
What are the sources of caffeine you may not know about?
As mentioned above, having 300 mg of caffeine or lower is okay for women who are breastfeeding, and this can be had with 3 cups of coffee. Unfortunately, caffeine isn’t just found in coffee. It’s also present in a lot of other drinks and foodstuff.
For you to keep your caffeine levels below the recommended daily dose, here is a list of some of the drinks and snacks that also have caffeine in them and how much of it can be found in a serving:
1 8-oz cup
|Monster Energy Drink
16 oz. can
|NOS Energy Drink
|Mountain Dew Amp
||8.4 oz. can
||8 oz. can
|Hydrant Hydration Mix
||8-16 oz. of drink for each .3 oz packet
12 oz. can
|Regular or Diet Pepsi
||35 to 38 mg
|Regular or Zero Coke
|A&W, Mug Rootbeer
|Ben & Jerry Coffee Ice Cream
|Haagen Dazs Espresso Ice Cream
|Breyers Coffee Dessert
|Hershey’s Milk Chocolate
||1.5 oz. bar
|Hershey’s Special Dark
||1.4 oz. bar
|Hershey’s Cocoa powder
|Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa
As you can see from the chart, a lot of products that people eat and drink have some caffeine in them. Anything made with cocoa beans can carry somewhere between 45 mg to 240 mg of caffeine, depending on how much pure cocoa is used in the confection. While tea is considered healthier than coffee by some pundits, it doesn’t mean that tea doesn’t have some caffeine in it either.
You should also be aware that there are some medications that carry quite a bit of caffeine in them. Examples of these include workout supplements (up to 200 mg per capsule), pain relievers (up to 130 mg per caplet), and headache medication (up to 200 mg per tablet).
How to Drink Coffee While Breastfeeding
Now that you know caffeine can be found in a lot of other food sources (particularly coffee-flavored ones and those that have chocolate in them), you may want to rethink the “3 cups of coffee is safe” benchmark for safe caffeine ingestion. To help you avoid the possibility of taking in too much caffeine while breastfeeding, or to prevent the substance from passing on to your baby through your breast milk, here are some helpful tips you can follow:
1. Pump and dump
This is a trick that mommas use when they believe that they have a lot of caffeine in their system. This is also a trick they use when they drink a glass or two of alcohol. What you do is to pump out the milk you have in your breasts an hour or two after ingesting more caffeine than you think is safe for your baby, and throw it away. You could also use the milk for other purposes, like a milk bath or a breastmilk soap or balm.
Some mommas also opt to keep the pumped milk and label the container with a sun—a symbol that means the milk could be fed to the baby during the day but not at night (the time when you don’t want them to be jittery!).
RELATED: Best Breast Pumping Tips to Increase Your Milk Supply
2. Schedule feedings 3 hours or more after your daily cup
If you really can’t live without your brew, make sure to take it hours before you’re scheduled to breastfeed your baby. Always keep in mind that caffeine and breastfeeding aren’t an ideal mix, but you can still have a cup or two safely and without passing the caffeine to your little one. Do this by feeding your baby before you have your customary cup, and then wait for 3 to 4 hours before feeding your little one again.
3. Find an alternative that has very little to almost no caffeine in it
A lot of mommas don’t like decaffeinated coffee because it doesn’t have the flavor they look for in a cup of brew. Good thing there are alternatives, like Milksta’s Boobie Latte, which give you the satisfying coffee flavor and creaminess that other decaf coffee drinks don’t have.