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Coffee, Caffeine, And How It Affects Breastfeeding

For sleep-deprived new moms, caffeine can be a lifesaver. It's the boost of energy they need to get them through one more nursing session, baby's bath, or making a meal for themselves.

No matter how helpful the energy boost of caffeine is, many moms are concerned that their babies may be affected by ingesting caffeine through breast milk. The good news is that studies demonstrate it's perfectly all right for breastfeeding moms to enjoy caffeine in moderation.

How much is too much? How much caffeine is in favorite energy-supporting beverages and food? Read on to discover the answers to all of your questions about coffee, caffeine, and breastfeeding.

It's OK to Drink Coffee While Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding moms can rejoice! Several studies indicate that drinking a moderate amount of coffee every day is unlikely to have an adverse effect on their babies. Scientists suggest that limiting coffee consumption to approximately two or three cups a day is perfectly acceptable for breastfeeding moms.

Typically, two or three cups of coffee contain the equivalent of 200-300 milligrams of caffeine. Of course, the amount of caffeine in each cup of coffee may vary depending upon the coffee beans and how the beverage is prepared, so it's best to proceed with caution, read labels, and ask questions at the Starbucks counter.

What Is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a natural, popular stimulant that helps millions of people wake up each morning or get through an afternoon slump. This stimulant is found in cacao, coffee, and tea plants.

When people eat or drink a substance that contains caffeine, the central nervous system and the brain are stimulated. This may mean that you feel less tired and are able to stay more alert.

Around the world, about 80% of the population uses caffeine as a stimulant every day. That number is even higher in the U.S., where some 90% of adults use caffeinated products on a daily basis.

How Does the Body Absorb and Use Caffeine?

Caffeine moves quickly through the body, traveling from the stomach to the bloodstream and then to the liver where it is broken down into various compounds that have an effect on several of the body's vital organs.

While caffeine can affect many of the body's systems, its main effect is on the brain. This is where it blocks a neurotransmitter known as adenosine, which typically makes people feel tired.

Now that you understand how caffeine affects your brain, you can see why it's such a popular commodity with sleep-deprived new moms!

How Does Caffeine Affect Breast Milk?

One study found that the level of caffeine in breast milk peaks approximately two hours after consumption by the mother. Moreover, only a tiny amount of the caffeine that mom takes in actually shows up in breast milk.

Somewhere between 0.06 and 1.5 percent of ingested caffeine actually makes it into breast milk to be consumed by the baby.

Accordingly, if you want to limit how much caffeine your baby gets, consider breastfeeding immediately after a cup of coffee. An alternative is to wait to drink a cup until after a nursing session.

While many moms prefer to get their caffeine from coffee, it is worth remembering that caffeine is found in a wide variety of food and drinks. Everything from soda and energy drinks to chocolate and coffee-flavored ice cream may contain some caffeine. If you're concerned about passing caffeine to your baby, then it's wise to keep track of your intake from all sources.

Does Caffeine Affect Breastfed Babies?

Moms who aren't particularly careful about their caffeine intake can easily take in more than the recommended limit of 300 milligrams on a daily basis. When mom consumes too much caffeine, the effects can be seen in the baby. Symptoms of too much caffeine intake may include:

  • Extra fussiness
  • Irritability
  • Jitters
  • Troubled sleep patterns

In general, newborns and premature babies are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than older babies are. This means that certain babies may show the effects of caffeine intake even when the nursing mother keeps her consumption lower than the recommended 300 milligrams.

It's also possible that some babies may be more sensitive to caffeine than others. If you drink a moderate amount of coffee each day and notice signs of jitteriness or poor sleep patterns in your baby, it's worth considering cutting down on or eliminating caffeine from your diet.

Another important factor to consider is that while adults may retain caffeine in their system from between three and seven hours, infants cannot break it down as quickly. Studies suggest that because an infant's kidneys and liver are not yet fully developed, caffeine can stay in their system for between 65 and 130 hours.

This means that there is a chance that caffeine may build up in your baby's body over time. While this doesn't mean that it's not all right to enjoy your morning cup of coffee, it does suggest a greater degree of watchfulness while you assess how your baby reacts to the tiny amount of caffeine that he or she receives through breast milk.

Moms and Caffeine

Of course, it's not only the baby who might be affected by caffeine intake. The larger and more immediate effects happen to the person who actually ingests the caffeine-containing food or drink.

More than about four cups of coffee each day can produce these unwanted side effects in breastfeeding parents:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Tremors in the muscles
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Migraine headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Fast heart rate

Being a new mom is stressful and life-changing enough in itself. You definitely don't want to make things even more challenging by eating or drinking something that might make it even harder to sleep or make you more irritable. Carefully monitor your caffeine intake and see how it affects your mood and how you feel overall, and adjust your intake as needed.

Does Caffeine Intake Affect Breast Milk Supply?

No studies indicate that drinking coffee or otherwise using caffeine causes a decrease in breast milk supply. On the contrary, there is research that indicates that ingesting caffeine actually may have a positive impact on breast milk supply.

Other Ways to Boost Your Energy

If caffeine intake seems to have an adverse effect on you or your baby, you may choose one or more alternative sources of energy boosts. Each of these alternatives is natural and healthy, creating good habits that are worth following for a lifetime.

For instance, did you know that proper hydration can give you tons of energy?

That's right. Just drinking at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water every day can significantly increase your energy levels. Drinking enough water also comes with a host of other health benefits, so this may be a great way to keep your energy going on even the most challenging day.

Another great way to find some extra energy is through movement.

It may seem counterintuitive to take a walk or get in some exercise when you're feeling tired, but exercise has been scientifically proven to lower stress levels and release energy-giving endorphins. Aim to get about 150 minutes of moderate activity each week once your doctor has cleared you for exercise.

Yet another alternative for finding the energy to meet the challenges of the day is to be selective about what you put on your to-do list. Each day, prioritize the two or three things that are most important to you.

Having a list of a dozen things you'd like to get done can seem overwhelming and make you feel tired before you even start. However, when you focus on what's really essential for today and leave the rest to tomorrow or the day after, you'll find that you probably have enough energy to meet your goals.

Look to Euphoric Herbals for Help

Are you looking for other natural ways that you can boost your energy? At Euphoric Herbals, we specialize in a wide range of organic, all-natural supplements and other products.

Whether you are seeking a gentle way to stay energized throughout the day or are looking for something to help you unwind at night, look to Euphoric Herbals. We even support your healthy breastfeeding efforts so that you can give your baby the best start in life.