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breastfeeding and caffeine

Should You Avoid Caffeine When Breastfeeding?

Do coffee and breastfeeding mix? If you’re a new mum (or are about to become one), you may be wondering if it’s safe to continue brewing your daily cup(s) of coffee—or if you should avoid caffeine at all costs while you’re nursing.

First off, no need to panic. You’re not alone in this. Mums everywhere rely on caffeine every day to stay awake, focus, and get things done.

Let’s start with how much caffeine is safe when you’re not breastfeeding. According to the experts, between 300 and 400mg of caffeine daily is okay for most people. That's roughly 3 or 4 cups of coffee. But when you’re nursing, you have to take baby’s health into account as well.

Breastfeeding and caffeine

How does caffeine affect your baby’s health?

This depends on a bunch of things, including the amount of caffeine you ingest, how your body absorbs it, how old your baby is, and whether or not you’re a smoker. Normally, about 1% of caffeine makes it into your breastmilk. The level of caffeine in breastmilk is highest about an hour after you consume something caffeinated.

For nonsmokers, caffeine usually stays in the body for about 12 hours. In newborn infants, however, it can take between 4 to 8 days before caffeine is completely broken down. Because newborns metabolise caffeine at such a slow rate, there's concern that it causes harm while it accumulates in their bodies. Babies can become jittery, irritable, colicky, constipated, have trouble sleeping, and show other signs of caffeine stimulation.

Caffeine hasn’t been shown to affect milk supply. But if it makes your baby cranky and gives him tummy trouble, he may not feed well. Decreased nursing could lead to a decrease in milk supply over time.

If you’re big on coffee, here’s something else to consider. Studies have noted that the chlorogenic acids in coffee could decrease the iron content of breastmilk, which could result in iron deficiency anaemia in the nursing baby.

How much caffeine can you have when breastfeeding?

The usual recommendation is to limit caffeine intake to no more than 200 mg a day while breastfeeding. This is especially important during baby’s first few months, when he is unable to break down caffeine easily.

If you’re nursing a premmie or an ill infant, you should cut back your caffeine intake even more. This is also true if you haven’t given up smoking, which compounds the effects of caffeine. If you notice bub gets especially fussy after you’ve had caffeine, try to cut it out from your diet for a week or two to see if there’s a change in his behaviour.

Keep in mind that aside from coffee, soft drinks, and tea, there are many other significant sources of caffeine. 

What to drink instead of caffeinated drinks?

Water, milk, unsweetened fresh juices, and other non caffeinated drinks are preferable. Not only do these provide good hydration, they also offer vitamins and minerals you need when nursing.

Herbal teas are a great alternative to coffee. We recommend these caffeine free infusions:

  • Weleda Nursing Tea - a delightful mix of fenugreek, fennel seed, caraway seed, and lemon verbena; supports lactation and soothes digestion for both mum and bub
  • Mama Body Tea Mama’s Milk - nourishing fenugreek, fennel seed, aniseed, caraway seed, spearmint, goat’s rue herb, and marshmallow root; promotes healthy milk flow

Disclaimer: Please consult your health care practitioner before drinking any type of herbal tea during pregnancy and while nursing.

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