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Caffeine and Breastfeeding

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Do you know how much caffeine you are you allowed to drink while breastfeeding? While many of you may know to limit caffeine intake during pregnancy, some may be wondering if the same rules apply once you start breastfeeding. The thought of continuing to limit your caffeine intake even longer may sound daunting, especially with your new chaotic sleep schedule. However, research shows that it is still best to be mindful of how much caffeine you consume when you’re breastfeeding.  

While side effects from drinking caffeine, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, are no longer a concern once you start nursing, there are still risk factors to take into consideration. For instance, about 1% of the caffeine you consume will go into your breast milk. While this may not seem like much, you should still be aware since babies less than three months old may have a hard time processing caffeine. 

Overdoing the caffeine on your end may disrupt your baby’s sleep and possibly cause agitation. Once your baby is about three months old, their bodies can process caffeine much better and according to research, does not affect sleeping patterns. However, it is important to remember that every baby is different.  If you think that cutting out caffeine might help your baby be more restful and less cranky, then try avoiding caffeine for a couple weeks and see if it makes a difference in your baby’s sleep/mood patterns.

Other reasons to limit caffeine while breastfeeding are centered around the mother’s health.  Nursing increases thirst and depletes fluids and because caffeine is a diuretic, increased consumption can cause more frequent urination and increase the risk of dehydration. Second, consuming caffeine throughout the day may interfere with your small windows of opportunity to nap.  By limiting your caffeine, you might find yourself getting more rest as opposed to gulping down five cups of coffee early in the morning and missing your chance for a 10 a.m. nap. 

So exactly how much caffeine is too much? Does all this mean that you can’t have any caffeine with your new (not-so-satisfying) sleep schedule?  Not necessarily.  Many experts say less than 300 mg of caffeine per day is the limit.  This translates into roughly 16 ounces, or about 2 cups, of brewed coffee.  To avoid going over on your caffeine intake while breastfeeding, familiarize yourself with the caffeine sources in your diet such as coffee, teas, colas, and chocolate as well as lesser-known items such as pain relievers, some medicines, and some cold medications. 

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and nationally recognized lifestyle and nutrition expert. She has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, healthy, family-friendly meals through her online videos and media appearances. She is the mom of toddler, Ellie, and is expecting her second daughter this winter. Follow her blog for practical, doable nutrition advice as well as real food tips for real families.


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