Caffeine and Breastfeeding

When you are breastfeeding, you have to be very careful with what you eat. The flavors from the food you eat and drink are released in your breast milk.

Caffeine intake should be limited. When you drink a cup of your favorite latte or have a bite of chocolate, caffeine will enter your bloodstream. Once the caffeine is in your bloodstream, one percent of it will be released with your breast milk. This has been a concern for many breastfeeding mothers. Here is some information to help you understand the effects of caffeine on you and your baby.

Can I Drink Caffeine While Breastfeeding?

You can drink caffeine when you are breastfeeding your baby, but you have to limit the amount. You can no longer have your two coffees a day. Your baby’s body is still developing and the baby cannot break down the caffeine. If there is an excessive amount of caffeine in the breast milk, this can accumulate in the baby’s system, causing discomfort.

The Limit

The exact limit put down by experts is around 300 milligrams per day. This is equivalent to about 16 ounces of brewed coffee. 300 milligrams of caffeine per day is said to be safe for mothers who are breastfeeding, and is believed to cause no changes in a baby’s behavior.

Drinking more than two or three cups of coffee in one day will affect both the mother and the baby. Too much caffeine will cause the mother, the baby or both of them to be jittery and agitated. The caffeine can also cause both of you to have trouble sleeping.

Every baby reacts differently. For some babies, a small amount of caffeine can be irritating. Other babies will not seem to be effected at all by two cups of coffee. If you find that your baby is restless or is in discomfort, you may want to consider reducing the amount of caffeine you intake. Remember, caffeine is not always in the form of coffee. Other products high in caffeine include carbonated sodas, which are consumed daily by many people.

When to Drink and How to Drink

If you cannot function without your daily cup of coffee in the morning, try switching to decaffeinated coffees. If you are to drink coffee or other caffeine filled beverages, drink them after you have fed your baby. That way, your body has the chance to excrete some of the caffeine before the next feed. Do not drink anything caffeinated right before you feed your baby.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Overstimulation. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system. When you have a cup of coffee, your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises and your breathing rate quickens. Although these changes may not seem harmful, they can have a long-term effect on your body. If you are used to drinking a lot of coffee, your body becomes accustomed to the increased bodily rhythms. Once you decrease the coffee intake, you may experience feelings of withdrawal. These can include depression, fatigue and anxiety.
  • Dehydration. When you have an excessive amount of caffeine, you are risking dehydrating your body. Too much caffeine can also reduce your milk supply, making it difficult for you to keep up with your baby’s appetite.
  • Sore nipples. Caffeine has been linked to vasospasm of the nipples. When blood vessels are constricted, your nipples can experience vasospasm. If your nipples are sore and painful because of vasospasm, you may need to reduce the amount of caffeine you are having.
  • Caffeine-containing medications. Be aware of the medications you take. Some over the counter medications have caffeine as an ingredient, in particular medication used to relieve headaches. Pills designed for weight loss and energy drinks contain caffeine as well. If you are breastfeeding, make sure you consult with a doctor before you take any of the aforementioned.

Sources of Caffeine

It is difficult to avoid caffeine altogether. It is found in many different foods and medications. Caffeine is found naturally in coffee, tea and chocolate. Many soft drinks and energy drinks also contain high levels of caffeine. Cappuccinos and lattes can also be very high in caffeine. Some over the counter pain relievers and cold medications contain levels of caffeine.

Decreasing the caffeine in your diet does not have to be difficult. Instead of having a regular coffee, try decaffeinated tea or coffee. Or perhaps you can opt for a healthy glass of fresh fruit juice or milk. Organic and herbal teas are great substitutes, but do not have more than two cups a day while breastfeeding.

Caffeine Content in Common Sources

Food/ Drink

Average caffeine content

Amount equivalent to 200mg of caffeine

Mug of instant coffee

100 mg

Two mugs

Mug of tea

75 mg

Two mugs

Can of energy drink

80 mg

Two cans

Small bar of plain chocolate

50 mg

Four bars

Small bar of milk chocolate

25 mg

Eight Bars

Mug of green tea

50 mg

Four mugs

Can of soda

40 mg

Five cans

Mug of filtered coffee

140 mg

One mug

Watch a video for more information on caffeine and breastfeeding:

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