Written by Pradeep
Congratulations! You are a mother now! After toiling for nine months, you are looking forward to enjoying all the restricted foods. Cravings and food restrictions aside, constant feeding and taking care of your tiny bundle of joy, waking up through the night can all lead to exhaustion. How nice would it be if you could sip on a cup of hot coffee or a tin of iced coke! But then you are breastfeeding your little one. Can caffeine and breastfeeding go together?
While pregnancy is a period of food restrictions, these restrictions will continue through breastfeeding too. Your little one is extremely sensitive and has an underdeveloped digestive system. If your baby shows signs of diarrhea, rash, hives, vomiting, runny nose, irregular stools, or irritability after breastfeeding, then it’s a good idea to keep an eye on what you previously consumed. This article throws light on the safety of consuming caffeine during breastfeeding, how much you can take safely, and some healthy alternatives to caffeine.
Breastfeeding is the sole route of nourishment for your baby for the first couple of months after birth. Some of these foods can find their way into breast milk. Now, considering that the newborn baby may be sensitive to certain foods, it is sensible to think about what you eat.
One such common ingredient is caffeine, which, according to researchers, enters breast milk and cannot be tolerated by newborns. Caffeine is not just in coffee; it is present in most chocolates, drinks (soda, energy drinks), desserts, tea, pain relievers, etc. The baby’s underdeveloped system finds it difficult to break down the caffeine, and it may get stored in the body. The caffeine may render your baby restless and jittery.
Although only 1% of the caffeine consumed by a nursing mother reaches the baby through breast milk, which is deemed very low, is it safe for the baby? Every baby is unique, and so is their digestion and metabolism. The metabolism of a newborn baby is very sluggish and may take up to several days to process caffeine.
Therefore caffeine remains in the body of a newborn baby and may have unwanted consequences since his system cannot break down the caffeine. When your baby turns about 3 months old, he will be able to process caffeine with ease as his digestive system also develops. He should be able to excrete the same easily.
Now those mothers who have diligently avoided caffeine during pregnancy and resumed their intake during breastfeeding may also cause discomfort to the baby. Gas, bloating, loose, watery stools are a few signs of this. Strong coffee, herbal teas, and even carbonated drinks contain a reasonable amount of caffeine.
Since caffeine has the tendency to seep into breast milk, large quantities of caffeine may cause gas with discomfort to the baby. Some more sensitive babies can even suffer from diarrhea due to the presence of caffeine and breastfeeding milk. If you notice your baby feels uncomfortable or cries after a nursing post you have indulged in a cup of coffee, you may want to cut it down to see if that helps.
From coffee and tea, obviously, to soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolates, hot cocoa, chocolate milk, and some chocolate or coffee-flavored ice creams all contain caffeine in varying quantities. Herbal teas like the popular green tea also contain caffeine, and so do the regular soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi. To ensure that your caffeine intake is the minimum, do read the labels carefully..
Researchers suggest limiting caffeine intake to less than 300 mg per day. That is about 2-3 cups of coffee or tea each day, and no other caffeinated food product. It takes about an hour for caffeine to reach its peak in breast milk. Depending on the metabolism, most adults process caffeine within 2-3 hours of intake. So if you really have that coffee or chocolate craving, have it at least 2 hours prior to breastfeeding.
If you use coffee to battle sleepiness post-pregnancy to keep up with the increased demands of motherhood, think again! Your coffee may actually be working against you. Is caffeine the culprit behind colic? Is it keeping your baby extra alert and awake?
The more caffeine you gulp in, the greater the amount reaching your baby. If you find that caffeine is indeed upsetting the baby, then do not immediately withdraw from it. This may result in unpleasant side effects for you, such as headaches and dizziness. Slow down gradually.
The good news is that there is no evidence of caffeine affecting your breast milk supply. So you may continue to indulge in those chocolate brownies and sip on cola but in moderation. Read labels before you consume anything with caffeine in it so that you are aware of how much caffeine you are putting in your system.
Luckily for us, we have access to decaffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks. These drinks satisfy your cravings without messing with your caffeine content. You must pay special attention when buying drinks at bistros and coffee shops.
Espresso contains concentrated coffee, approximately 77 mg caffeine in just 44 ml. Although this differs from café to café, depending on what you order, your coffee may contain one or two shots of espresso. Stick to milder drinks such as latte or cappuccino!
If you have about 200 mg of caffeine per day, it’s unlikely to harm your baby. The more caffeine you have, the more will end up in your baby’s circulation. Your baby is a newborn, so it takes more time for them to clear caffeine from their body.
For example, it takes a newborn baby up to four days to clear the caffeine in their body. The amount of caffeine in your newborn’s body can build up if you are consuming a larger amount of caffeinated drinks and foods. This is because your baby’s liver and kidneys are too immature to make this process quicker. At the age of nine months, your baby will be able to eliminate caffeine from their body at a similar rate to you.
If you have more caffeine daily, it may unsettle your baby. If your baby feels restless or looks difficult to put to sleep, try to stop caffeine for some days and get back to it and check the difference in your baby and follow it.
You will be surprised to know that premature infants are often given caffeine therapy as a form of a life-saving drug for premature babies born with conditions such as Apnea of Prematurity. According to a review article published in the World Journal of Clinical Pediatrics, caffeine therapy can be an effective lifesaver for newborns with conditions such as apnea and hypoxemia.
Caffeine therapy is always done by neonatal experts under strict dosing and careful monitoring of the baby. For full-term babies, though, caffeine is not suggested in any form and may cause unnecessary stress for the mother and the baby. So, do talk to your doctor before you decide on starting your daily cuppa. They will guide you with how and how much caffeine you can safely take.
So, you have decided to give up coffee. Good on you! As a mother, you are prioritizing your baby over your own comfort. Nevertheless, you need not sacrifice your cravings completely. There are alternatives to help you get a mild caffeine kick and keep your energy levels up through the period of breastfeeding and tiring late nights.
Some excellent alternatives to your cup of coffee or tea included:
Finally, if you decide on skipping caffeine completely through the period of breastfeeding, here are a few tips for you.
Caffeine cravings kick in only when your energy levels are down. Keep them up by having a healthy, balanced diet.
Drinking lots of water builds your supply of electrolytes and keeps your blood circulation in top shape. Hydration also keeps your energy levels up. Wondering what to drink instead of coffee and tea? Fruit juices and smoothies are your best bet, especially if you stay in hot climates. For something warm, you can always have herbal infusions such as ginger tea minus tea powder.
You can safely take caffeine during breastfeeding, but in moderate quantities. Ensure that you drink your coffee or tea at least an hour before feeding your little one. Always talk to your doctor and seek advice for safe caffeine intake levels when you are breastfeeding.
Yes, you can. If your baby is having digestive issues, then try stopping your coffee for a few days. Also, avoid if your doctor has said a no.
Once in a while is ok. However, very cold drinks can affect the mother as immunity is low. Ensure your overall caffeine intake is not too high.
No, not at all. You can enjoy all those chocolates and your coffee. Just ensure you don’t have too much caffeine.
Not required unless advised by the doctor. If your baby is reacting negatively to caffeine, your doctor might suggest waiting an hour or two before feeding. This gives your body time to digest it without passing it in the milk.
Read Also: Can I Eat Chocolates When Breastfeeding?
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