With all the sleepless nights and new challenges of being a new parent, you might be one of the many mothers who need a cup of coffee to sustain their energy. However, knowing that coffee has a caffeine content, you might wonder- is it okay to drink coffee while breastfeeding? Here’s what experts say about drinking coffee or caffeine and breastfeeding.
For our coffee-lover moms, here’s the good news! Coffee is generally safe to take in moderation while breastfeeding. This would mean that you can have a sip of your much-desired latte from time to time to help boost your energy for the day.
However, taking too much of caffeinated drinks like coffee may have certain effects to your baby. Thus, it is worthwhile to know a bit more about how much caffeine can you have while breastfeeding, along with some essential tips to minimize its effects to your baby.
Is it safe to drink coffee while breastfeeding?
According to the Medications and Mother’s Milk by Dr. Thomas Hale, caffeine is listed in the Lactation risk category L2 meaning it is safer to take while breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics also classified caffeine as a medication that is compatible with breastfeeding.
While caffeine can reach the breast milk, it is only 0.6 to 1.5 percent of the total caffeine that is consumed by the mother. The mother’s body will metabolize and eliminate the rest of it.
Caffeine is even used to treat breathing problems for premature newborns in much higher doses than what is found in a breastfeeding mom’s milk. So given that you take it in moderation, caffeine while breastfeeding is generally safe.
How much coffee can you drink while breastfeeding?
Now that we know coffee and breastfeeding are safe together the next big question is how much coffee can you drink while breastfeeding?
Generally, experts advise that you consume less than 750mg of caffeine each day, which is about the equivalent of 5 cups of coffee.
However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the safer limit for lactating moms would be 300 mg of caffeine in a day. This is around 2 to 3 cups of coffee in a day.
Though it is the typical range, some babies may be more sensitive than the others. Babies widely differ in their tolerance to caffeine and how quickly can they metabolize caffeine in their bodies. Premature babies and those who are younger than 6 months of age may find it longer to process and excrete caffeine in their bodies. Babies 6 months and older can usually metabolize caffeine faster and become less sensitive to its effects.
It is also important to remember that coffee isn’t the sole source of caffeine. It can also be found in other sources, like soda, sports and energy drinks, and even that hot chocolate you might be taking on a daily basis.
To give you a guide, here are the other common sources of caffeine and how much is their estimated caffeine content:
- Hot tea- up to 48 mg of caffeine per 8 ounces
- Iced tea- up to 42 mg per 16 ounces
- Chocolate or cocoa drink- 2 to 5 mg per 8 ounces
- Soda- up to 55 mg per 12 ounces
- Milk chocolate bar- 10 mg per 1.55 ounces
- Dark chocolate bar- 31 mg per 1.35 ounces
How long does caffeine stay in breast milk?
The level of caffeine in the breast milk peaks at around 1 to 2 hours after you take coffee or other caffeine-rich sources. It usually needs around 4.9 hours before caffeine reaches its half-life in the mother’s body. Half-life means the time needed before half of the total amount you’ve taken is eliminated from your body.
How can coffee affect my breastfed baby?
Consuming too much coffee leads to higher caffeine levels in your system. Levels that are higher than 750 mg of caffeine can trigger caffeine stimulation to some babies. Caffeine stimulation will make your baby more wakeful, irritable, and cause sleep interruptions.
So what can you do if your baby shows signs of caffeine stimulation? If you are a regular coffee drinker, you might consider cutting back on your caffeine intake once your baby begins to show these symptoms.
Can coffee affect breast milk?
There is currently no evidence stating that coffee or caffeine can alter the mom’s breast milk or affect her breast milk supply. However, if your caffeine-stimulated baby nurses less than the usual or breastfeeds ineffectively because he is irritated, then these conditions can lead to decreased breast milk supply.
How to minimize caffeine effects while breastfeeding
Remember, you shouldn’t eliminate caffeine abruptly from your system since it will cause withdrawal symptoms like severe headache. If you want to decrease your caffeine consumption, the trick is to do it gradually. Here are some tips on how breastfeeding mothers can reduce their caffeine intake:
Tips To Decrease Your Caffeine Intake
Cut back a cup
Cutting back a cup of coffee in a day can be tolerable for most people. For instance, you may drink only 2 cups instead of 3 per day.
Half cup technique
If you regularly drink coffee 3 times a day, you may consider taking half of a cup each time. This way, you can still enjoy coffee in your most favorable time of the day while you slowly minimize your consumption of caffeine.
You can also try mixing half cup of regular coffee to a half cup of decaf coffee. Decaf coffee many also contain some caffeine, but in significantly lower amounts.
Eliminate or minimize intake of other caffeine-rich foods and drinks
If you’re only taking around 1 to 2 cups of coffee in a day and your baby still seems to be overstimulated, it is also better to be mindful of the other food and drinks that you take. Chocolates, energy drinks, teas, and soft drinks also contain significant amounts of caffeine so it is best to regulate your intake of these items too if you want to minimize caffeine in your body.
Once you gradually decrease your caffeine consumption, your baby’s symptoms will also gradually improve. Usually, it will take a couple of days to a week before your baby becomes less irritable and shows improvement on his sleep.
Additionally, you may want to think about the best time to drink coffee or eat your much-desired chocolate bar. Surely, it wouldn’t be right before or while you breastfeed your baby or else, you’ll end up dealing with a hyperactive little one.
Instead, you might consider having it right after nursing or pumping, or when your baby will most likely sleep longer. This way, you’ll have enough time to eliminate most of the caffeine out of your body before your baby gets hungry and nurse again.
Coffee and breastfeeding are usually compatible with each other provided that you drink coffee moderately. However, if your baby seems to show signs of being overly stimulated by caffeine, you can gradually decrease your coffee intake and regulate your consumption of other caffeine-rich food and drinks. This way, you can still enjoy your much-desired latte without disrupting your baby’s mood and sleep.