The sleep deprivation and exhaustion of being a new mum can have you reaching for that coffee pick-me-up several times a day, just to survive! However if you are breastfeeding, you may be thinking twice about brewing your next cup, particularly if your baby has been particularly fussy. So does caffeine end up in your breast milk, and is it bad for your baby? We have the scoop!
Does caffeine end up in your breast milk?
Yes it does, in small amounts! Studies have shown that about 1% of the caffeine you consume will most likely end up in your breast milk, generally peaking about an hour after you consume it.
Is caffeine bad for baby’s health?
In small doses, caffeine is unlikely to cause any major issues for your baby. In higher doses however, you may start to notice the effects. But a couple of cups of coffee each day doesn’t tend to do harm.
How much is too much?
How much caffeine your baby can tolerate depends on his/her age, and individual tolerance levels. A newborn baby struggles to process caffeine, however as your baby approaches six months of age, their tolerance levels increase dramatically. So if your baby seems to not tolerate your caffeine intake when they are tiny, try and keep your caffeine levels to a minimum for the first couple of months, and then you may find you can increase the amount you consume as they grow older. Take note of when you consume caffeine, and monitor your baby’s demeanour to judge the effects.
How does excess caffeine affect babies?
An excess consumption of caffeine may result in a jittery, rather too alert baby, who may fuss a lot and struggle to settle down to sleep. So if your baby appears to be somewhat ‘wired’ and unable to settle or relax, you may want to re-think how much caffeine you consume. It can however be tricky to judge whether your caffeine is the source of your baby’s restlessness, so if in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
What about sources of caffeine other than coffee?
There are numerous sources of caffeine that you should also be aware of. Energy drinks tend to be some of the worst offenders, as they often contain large amounts of caffeine per serve. These may not be your best choice of beverage if you are breastfeeding. Coke or cola drinks are also high in caffeine and should be drunk in moderation. However caffeine can also be found in tea and – shock horror – chocolate! So if your baby appears to be really struggling with your caffeine intake, you might need to try cutting back on those items as well.
My baby is reacting to my caffeine intake – what do I do?
If you think there might be a pattern between your caffeine consumption and your baby’s irritability, it may be worthwhile cutting back to see if it helps. You may find it helpful to decrease your caffeine intake somewhat gradually, to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as headaches. It is also worth noting that it can take a week or two for symptoms to improve in your baby, so patience will be required to judge the result.
As a general rule, moderation is always best. Many babies will cope absolutely fine with the small amounts of caffeine that ends up in breast milk. Enjoying the occasional coffee with a friend, or relying on a morning pick-me-up shouldn’t wreak havoc on your baby and isn’t something you should feel guilty about. However large amounts of coffee or other caffeinated products could well cause issues, so if you do think your baby is reacting, try cutting back and see if it makes a difference. And if you are really worried, always consult your GP or maternal and child health nurse for advice.
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