You’ve spent the last 40 weeks avoiding caffeine. Now that your baby’s actually here, you’re probably getting less sleep than you need—and still trying to limit your caffeine intake. Trying to juggle your need for caffeine and your breastfed baby’s wellbeing? Here’s what you need to know about breastfeeding and caffeine.
If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you know there’s the potential that anything you consume will make its way to your little one. It is possible your child may have a sensitivity to caffeine. It’s also possible that breastfeeding and caffeine can work and it won’t interfere with your child’s schedule or behavior.
If your child is less than 6 months old, there’s a greater chance that they will be sensitive to caffeine. If you’re consuming caffeine and notice your child has difficulty settling, sleeping, or is extra fussy, you may want to cut back. Consider switching to caffeine-free alternatives or sticking to water.
I know you’re tired. Exhausted, actually. Caffeine can seem like a great way to give you the extra push you need to get through the day. It can also be a great way to get you feeling like you’re returning to the life you used to have.
Unfortunately, turning to caffeine can also be a great way to totally throw your body off course. Pumping your body full of a stimulant like caffeine might make some of those waking hours easier.
However, when it comes time to hit the hay, you may find it’s harder to fall asleep. You might even find the quality of the sleep you do have is pretty poor.
There are quite a few compelling reasons to skip caffeine altogether. Here are some of the top things you’ll want to consider:
Some of the negative impacts of caffeine are merely inconvenient. Others, though, may have serious health repercussions. Be aware they’re possible, so you can keep your eye out for them. This will allow you to adjust your caffeine intake as needed.
Like most other things, caffeine isn’t all bad. You don’t need to feel guilty for imbibing in the occasional pick-me-up when you’ve had an especially rough night. You should, however, be aware of exactly how much you’re consuming.
According to the current guidelines, you should anticipate sticking to less than 750 milligrams of caffeine a day. Any more than that and you may end up with a jittery baby.
The good news is, this is substantially more than you probably consumed while you were pregnant. Most recommendations only allow for up to 300 milligrams of caffeine during pregnancy. This means, post delivery, you could more than double your caffeine intake. It doesn’t, however, mean you can stop keeping track of caffeine altogether.
Wondering exactly how much 750 milligrams of caffeine actually adds up to? That’s roughly the amount you’ll end up consuming if you’re drinking five 5-ounce cups of coffee a day. If you’re a soda drinker, you should anticipate every 12 ounces of soda to contain about 40 milligrams of caffeine.
Knowing how much caffeine your favorite beverages have can help you dole out your daily caffeine milligrams. If you’d rather skip caffeine altogether, there are many great naturally caffeine-free beverages out there. Lemonade, water, fruit juice, and milk don’t have any caffeine to speak of.
Wondering if you can time your nursing sessions so you can get away with a little caffeine boost? The short answer is yes, you can have some caffeine and expect your body to metabolize it. The more complicated answer is that there are many factors to consider.
The first is that the younger your baby is, the more frequently they’re nursing and the more likely they will be impacted by caffeine consumption. You will need to consume less caffeine and possibly provide pumped milk from a bottle during a feeding to avoid passing caffeine on to your little one. The greatest amount of caffeine in breast milk is generally present 1–1½ hours after you’ve consumed the caffeine. So, it's a good idea to pump before reaching for that cup of coffee.
You should also know that not all items containing caffeine have the same amount of caffeine in them. A piece of chocolate or a cup of tea, for instance, will have significantly less caffeine in it than a double shot of espresso.
You can expect about 1.5 percent of the caffeine you consume to be passed on to your baby. While the half-life of caffeine in an adult’s system is less than 5 hours, it’s a whopping 97.5 hours in a newborn.
As your child ages, the half-life decreases. By the time your child is over 6 months old, the half-life of caffeine has dropped to about 2.5 hours.
It is certainly possible to juggle your own consumption of caffeine with your child’s nursing needs. That being said, you’ll be able to more easily achieve this as your child grows older.
There’s no real evidence that caffeine can negatively impact your breastmilk supply. There’s one main reason why women consuming caffeine may see a drop in production, though.
If you’re reaching for a caffeinated beverage when you’re thirsty, you’re likely not reaching for your water. Not only can some caffeinated beverages work to encourage dehydration, but you aren’t going to be keeping yourself hydrated without drinking water.
Proper hydration is critical to good milk supply and production. If you do drink caffeine and notice a dip in supply, consider upping your water intake.
Like many other things you’ve come across in your pregnancy and parenting journey, balancing breastfeeding and caffeine is all about moderation.
You don’t need to deny yourself caffeine. Just monitor your consumption and take note of any behavioral or health changes (for you or your baby) that may indicate you need to make some adjustments.
Cristin is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice, and the loving mother of two wonderful children. In her free time, she can often be found in a yoga studio or catching up on her favorite shows.