What You Need To Know About Caffeine And Breastfeeding

By Janelle Turk

February 18, 2019

Janelle is a mother of 4 beautiful children, RN, sleep coach, lactation counselor and prenatal coach. She has a passion for working with new Mamas and easing the transition into parenthood. She believes in the value of qualified and professional support with zero judgement attached. "It's only a problem if it's a problem for you"!

Do any of you Mamas out there love a nice cup of coffee or tea? If you are able to drink it while its still hot, you are a lucky one! If you’re like me you may have to heat it up a few times throughout the day- one of the perks of parenting! Whether your drink is hot or cold, a question that is often asked is, “Can I have caffeine while I’m breastfeeding?”. The world of breastfeeding comes with a wide-array of information about what you should or shouldn’t consume, and how it may affect your breastmilk, and therefore your baby. We will take a closer look at this, as well as sources of caffeine that you may come across.

WHAT IS CAFFEINE?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that is commonly found in coffee, tea, and cacao plants. It works by stimulating the brain and central nervous system. This can cause alertness and prevent the onset of tiredness. Some people are more sensitive to it than others, these people may experience trouble sleeping, irritability, headaches, nervousness, or rapid heart rate.

CAN I CONSUME CAFFEINE WHILE NURSING MY BABY?

In short, yes, it is okay for most mothers to have caffeine in moderation while breastfeeding their child. It has been recommended by Health Canada that nursing mothers limit their caffeine consumption to no more than 300mg of caffeine/ day. There is no defined rule for caffeine consumption because there are different factors that need to be considered- such as how quickly mom and baby’s bodies process the caffeine.

The La Leche League of Canada states that approximately 1.5% of the caffeine mom takes in goes to the breastmilk. How old your baby is can also have a big impact on how they handle the caffeine. In a newborn baby, caffeine has a 97.5 hour half-life (the time required for the concentration of a substance in the body to decrease by half). Where as a 3-5 month old has a 14 hour half-life, and a 6+ month old has 2.6 hour half life. In comparison an adult has a half-life of 4.9 hours for caffeine. Caffeine levels peak in breastmilk at about 60-120 minutes after consumption.

It is important to note that most babies will not be affected by caffeine, but some, especially newborns may experience symptoms, due to their bodies taking longer to get rid of the caffeine.

WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS THAT MY BABY IS AFFECTED BY CAFFEINE?

If your baby has become unhappy, fussy, jittery, colicky, and or sleeps poorly after you have consumed caffeine, this could be an indicator that they are sensitive to it. If you baby becomes irritable and wakeful it may be time to change your caffeine choices. Take note of how much caffeine you have consumed. When was it consumed in relation to baby’s feeds? If you then eliminate the caffeine, or cut down on the amount of it, and the symptoms subside, you may have your answer! As your baby grows and matures you may be able to try increasing your caffeine intake as tolerated by your child.

WHAT FOOD & DRINK IS CAFFEINE FOUND IN?

Caffeine is found in a variety of food and drinks. Most common of these are: coffee, tea, pop, energy drinks, chocolate milk and any food containing coffee or chocolate. Caffeine can also be found in some over the counter medications as well as herbal medicines. Always be mindful of what you are taking in, and what is in it – check those labels!

The amount of caffeine in each drink or food does vary. Here is a chart to help decipher the levels in different drinks: (chart credit www.unlockfood.ca)

Caffeine in Coffee

Beverage Serving Size Caffeine (mg)

Coffee, brewed 250mL (1 cup or 8 oz) 80 – 179

Cappuccino or Latte 250mL (1 cup or 8 oz) 45 – 148

Coffee, instant 250mL (1 cup or 8 oz) 81 – 106

Espresso, brewed 30mL (1 oz) 64 – 90

Decaffeinated coffee 250mL (1 cup or 8 oz)/span 3 – 15

Caffeine in tea

Beverage Serving Size Caffeine (mg)

Iced tea, sweetened 1 can (355 mL) 22 – 64

Tea, leaf or bag (black, flavoured black)

250mL (1 cup) 43 – 50

Tea (green, oolong, white)

250mL (1 cup) 25 – 45

Decaffeinated tea 250mL (1 cup) 0 – 5

Herbal teas, all varieties 250mL (1 cup) 0

Caffeine in other beverages

Beverage Serving Size Caffeine (mg)

Energy drink, various types

250mL (1cup) 80 – 97

Diet cola 355 mL (1 can) 25 – 50

Cola 355 mL (1 can) 37 – 38

ALTERNATIVES TO CAFFEINATED BEVERAGES

If you are a coffee lover, you could opt for a decaffeinated coffee, but be aware there is still some caffeine present in this. If tea is your drink of choice, try to stick to herbal teas, as they have no caffeine. Hot water can soothe that urge for a warm drink without any added caffeine or calories. If you drink pop/soda you may find the odd kind that is caffeine free, such as root beer (always double check the label to be sure!). Milk, water, and natural fruit juices are always a safe bet as well.

If you have any further questions on caffeine and breastfeeding, or are needing support with breastfeeding please reach out to a Mama Coach. We are always here to support and guide you. I hope you can find time to enjoy a sip of your coffee while its hot today! Enjoy.

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