Posted ByKimberly Demucha Kalil
You didn't miss the wine or sushi while you were pregnant -- it was coffee you craved. Now that your baby has arrived, can you indulge in a morning cup of joe?
You passed on your venti vanilla latte for nine long months, but now that your baby is here, can you indulge in your favorite afternoon pick-me-up? Here's a guide to consuming caffeine while breastfeeding.
Can You Drink Coffee While Breastfeeding?
"Research that has looked at this question suggests that most babies will do fine if mom drinks a few cups of coffee per day," says Alice Callahan, a college instructor and the author of "The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby's First Year."
"We tell moms that if you want a cup of coffee, go ahead," says Colette M. Acker, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and founder of The Breastfeeding Resource Center. "A cup of coffee, but not a whole pot."
You shouldn't worry about hurting your baby by consuming caffeine while breastfeeding, as "it takes quite a bit of caffeine to affect a baby," says Acker. But you should always pay close attention to what you're eating and drinking, since it does pass to your baby through your breast milk.
How Much Caffeine Can You Ingest While Breastfeeding?
To put yourself at ease, Callahan, who has a doctorate in nutritional biology, suggests that you pay attention to how much caffeine you ingest, especially in the early stages of breastfeeding.
"Studies have actually shown no effect of consuming 300 to 500 mg of caffeine per day on babies' sleep patterns or heart rates," she says.
But you should ease back into your coffee or soda habit slowly, so that you can see how your baby reacts to the caffeine. "Considering that different babies might respond differently, it is probably best to be cautious and start with small amounts," says Callahan. "This is especially true with newborns, who metabolize caffeine slowly. Try one cup of coffee and see how it goes. As babies grow, they get better with metabolizing caffeine and can handle more."
Though the sleep patterns and behavior of most babies don't seem to be affected by caffeine, "some babies seem to be more sensitive than others," says Callahan. "If your baby seems wired after you drink caffeine, it's worth cutting it out to see if it helps."
When Does Caffeine Show Up in Breast Milk?
According to Callahan, caffeine shows up in breast milk about 15 minutes after you drink your latte and peaks within an hour. The concentration of caffeine in breast milk ends up being about 80 to 90 percent of what's in your plasma, she says. However, if you take into account the amount of breast milk a baby drinks and adjust for body weight, studies by The National Center for Biotechnology Information have estimated that your baby receives no more than 10 percent of your dose of caffeine, and likely much less.
How Will Different Types of Caffeine Affect Your Baby?
Think a hot cup of green tea would be better for your baby than your favorite latte? This is not the case. "Any source of caffeine would be expected to have the same effect, and it's important to be aware of all of your sources when considering your total intake," says Callahan. "Some people forget that things like chocolate and headache medications also contain caffeine."
According to Callahan, it might be a good idea to skip energy drinks, but not because of the caffeine. "I would avoid energy drinks, because they are often proprietary formulas and you can't be sure that all the other ingredients are safe for breastfeeding," she says. "Be aware that soda will also give you a big dose of sugar, which is fine in moderation, but not the best for your own health in large amounts."
The most important thing for you to remember about coffee and breastfeeding is that moderation is key. "It's the amount of caffeine that's important," Acker says. If you don't overdo it, both you and your baby will be just fine.
If you decide to forego your caffeine boost for a power nap, find a mother's helper on Care.com.
Kimberly DeMucha Kalil is a freelance journalist and software consultant living in Southern Arizona with her husband and two children. Most days you can find her on Twitter talking about how wonderful her children are.