Caffeine and Breastfeeding

February 23rd, 2012 by

If you have ever been a coffee drinker, there is no greater time of need for caffeine than with a newborn.  Some mums cut back on caffeine intake  pregnancy, but what about during breastfeeding? Those sleepless nights definitely leave you craving a boost since there is no sleep to be had but how safe is caffeine during breastfeeding?  A recent journal publication is taking a look at that very question.

Babies are not able to metabolize and excrete caffeine as efficiently as adults, but since mom can metabolize caffeine drinking coffee while breastfeeding is ok – in moderation of course- according to healthcare professionals.  In an interview published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Caffeine Research, Ruth Lawrence, MD explains that babies’ low ability to metabolize caffeine could lead to accumulation causing symptoms like irritability and wakefulness.

Caffeine is found in more than coffee, it is also found soda, some sports drinks, energy drinks, tea, chocolate, and some over-the-counter medications.  Dr. Lawrence, from the Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and also the Editor-In-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine, asks some tough questions in the provocative interview.

Does caffeine exposure have long term effects on infants? Is there a safe level of caffeine intake during pregnancy and nursing?  While no precise answers exist, Dr. Lawrence attempts to point out what is known, and what is unknown about this topic perhaps to stimulate more research.  “Usually a mother, particularly if she is breastfeeding, is cautioned to limit her caffeine intake,” says Dr. Lawrence. After giving birth, mothers “should consume all things in moderation and try to avoid the excesses that might really add up to a lot of caffeine.”

What this Means for Mums

While this interview really doesn’t tell us anything new, it might be a good time to address caffeine intake while breastfeeding.  The tricky part is being aware of the non-coffee sources of caffeine in your diet, especially if you are a coffee drinker.  ‘Moderation’ for breastfeeding mums is roughly a maximum intake of 3, 6 ounce cups of coffee daily but this depends on you and baby.  Some babies are sensitive to caffeine, just the same as the potential for sensitivity for any part of a nursing mother’s diet, so you may need to decrease or eliminate if your baby is expressing any symptoms.  Also, newborns have a harder time metabolizing caffeine than older infants so the sensitivity may wane.  Moderate caffeine consumption during breastfeeding is approved by most physicians, midwives, and lactation specialists but you should always discuss any health questions or concerns with your healthcare professional.

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