Maybe you heard that drinking coffee while pregnant is not the best plan. Perhaps your doctor told you that excess caffeine can lead to a low birth weight or increase the chances of miscarriage. So dutifully, you restrained from your morning cup of coffee during your pregnancy. It was hard, I know! So you have waited for 9 months, your baby is finally here, and you are already getting very little sleep due to a little newborn wanting your attention at all hours of the day. A nice, hot cup of coffee (or 3 cups…) sounds like a lifesaver! However, you still have one possible glitch….
If you are breastfeeding, you are well aware that everything you eat and drink still goes right to your breast milk and into your baby. So is it okay to drink coffee when you are breastfeeding? What might happen if you do give in and have a cup or two to help you through the day? And how much coffee, if any, can you have when breastfeeding? Well, I am here to help you answer all of those questions!
How much coffee can you have when breastfeeding?
To begin, the overall consensus among experts is that, yes, it is okay to drink coffee while you are breastfeeding! Horary!! The startup that coffee pot and keep reading! A good amount of research has been conducted and studies have shown that less than 1% of the caffeine you ingest will end up in your breast milk. When you were pregnant, caffeine would go right through the placenta and directly to your baby which is why coffee while pregnant tends to be frowned upon. However, that tiny, tiny amount of caffeine that is transmitted into your breast milk is almost insignificant when it comes to the naturally healthy makeup of breast milk. So you shouldn’t worry! Breastfeeding plus coffee means you are a great mom!
Although research has shown that it is perfectly safe to drink coffee while breastfeeding, it is still recommended that you limit your caffeine to about 300 milligrams (mg) daily (sorry mom, you can’t drink that whole pot of coffee like you may want to). This suggestion is for all caffeine; coffee, sodas and any other caffeinated drinks you might be consuming should all stay under 300 milligrams a day total.
To give you a general idea about how much caffeine is in coffee and other drinks, an average 8 ounce cup of coffee has about 95-200 mg of caffeine (depending on where you get your coffee- a Starbucks 16 ounce coffee has 300 mg along while a Dunkin Donut’s cup of the same size only has 220 mg). A can of Coke contains 35 mg but a 5 Hour Energy drink will rack up 138mg of caffeine.
The main idea is to be aware of how much caffeine you are drinking and, as you can see, coffee has the highest caffeine levels. So it is okay to drink coffee but try not to go too crazy- I know being sleep deprived with a newborn baby will make you want to drink a gallon of coffee but relax and savor a nice cup or two! Besides, if you resisted coffee during your pregnancy, one or two cups will have a greater effect on you now!
Why babies can’t have caffeine?
Maybe you are wondering why caffeine might be bad for a baby in the first place- why can’t babies have caffeine? Well, a newborn baby’s body cannot break down caffeine and have excessive caffeine might build up in his system. This may make your baby irritable, fussy and may hinder his sleep. Imagine if your body couldn’t process coffee and every cup you drank stayed in your system for days- you would be full of energy and running around like crazy but it also might not feel so good.
At three months old, a baby’s system will be mature enough to begin to break down caffeine. While caffeine will still have more of an effect on a baby’s system than it may have on an adult (I am not suggesting to let your baby drink coffee at 3 months old!), it will not pile up in their system quite as quickly as it did when they were younger. At this point, maybe you can consider a second or even third cup of coffee at breakfast! However, processing caffeine is still new to your baby’s body so moderation is still key- let your baby get used to coffee before adding on that fourth cup in the morning!
I mentioned that less than 1% of the caffeine you drink will transfer into your breast milk, so why have some mom’s have noticed changes in their baby’s behavior after they drink coffee? Well, that goes back to the fact that even a small amount of caffeine will stay in the baby’s system for a lot longer than you may realize. A baby under three months old will take 97.5 hours to break down any caffeine in their little bodies- that’s more than 4 days! So if you are breastfeeding your baby and drinking four cups of coffee a day, that will certainly add up to the tiny baby’s body.
If you do notice that your baby is cranky, can’t sleep or is behaving differently once you begin drinking coffee, try cutting coffee out of your diet (I know, it’s hard!) for two weeks and see if you notice any changes. This will give your baby time to process any caffeine that may have built up in their system and you can judge their behavior before and after you have coffee. If your baby sleeps better once you cut coffee out of your diet, maybe wait a few months before having coffee again. Not all babies will be vulnerable to caffeine forever so let his little body mature, then try again!
Some babies are extra sensitive to caffeine as well. While doctors recommend not drinking coffee while pregnant, some say that a cup or two is okay. Mom’s who drink coffee while they are pregnant may then have babies who are used to the caffeine and have no problem when breastfeeding from a coffee drinking mom! If you cut out coffee completely when you were pregnant, your baby’s body may be shocked by the caffeine and it may have more of an effect on his system. Imagine if you never had coffee in your life and then had a big, full cup every day for 4 days in a row- you would definitely feel different! That is exactly how it will affect your baby.
Tips and tricks help you enjoy your coffee
While again it is important to stress that coffee in moderation is completely okay to drink when you are breastfeeding, the thought of a restless, fussy baby may make you want to reconsider having a cup. There are a few tricks and tips that may help you (and your baby) enjoy your coffee a little more. I want you to be able to sip that coffee with confidence while nursing your little newborn!
One thing to consider is when you drink your coffee. If you have a cup of coffee and then breastfeed your baby 15 minutes later, the caffeine will be at its peak within your system and also within your breast milk. Drinking coffee and then shortly after, feeding your baby will be sure to have the most significant effect on your baby if he or she is sensitive to caffeine. Instead, try drinking your coffee immediately after you are done breastfeeding. This way, your body has time to break down some of the caffeine before you breastfeed your baby. Some mom’s and professionals even recommend drinking coffee while breastfeeding. This way, by the time the caffeine hits your bloodstream, your baby is done breastfeeding and your body has plenty of time to process the caffeine! So grab a hot cup of coffee and enjoy it while you are feeding your baby!
When you first begin breastfeeding, start off by only drinking a little coffee (maybe just one cup instead of the 5 cups your heart desires!). If your baby seems fine after breastfeeding and the caffeine hasn’t affected him, try having a little more coffee next time. Slowly increase your coffee intake until it satisfies you and also keeps your baby happy! Just baby step your way back into your coffee drinking habits!
As a new mom, you have a lot to worry about and so many new things to take in! You are also likely very tired, and adjusting to a whole new life with your little baby. Breastfeeding itself is also a challenge so thinking about caffeine intake and its effects on breastfeeding is just another source of concern. So here is the bottom line: Coffee is okay to drink while you are breastfeeding! Enjoy it! You have enough to worry about when it comes to the care of your little one. Just remember that moderation is best, especially when your baby is still a newborn. So get out your coffee pot or head to your local coffee shop and enjoy a hot cup of coffee- you deserve it!