There you are, holding your sweet three-week old baby. She coos in your arms, a perfect cherub baby, happy and full from a feed.
You, on the other hand, haven’t had a full night’s sleep since she was born. These first weeks with your baby are a full on: a non-stop mix of questions, learning new skills, baby snuggles, diapers, and feeding.
And the thought crosses your mind for the third time today, “My God, I could REALLY use a cup of coffee right now.”
Cue the swirling voices of Google telling you all the dangers of coffee and breastfeeding
But you’re a human! And right now, you’re doing the super human job of being a parent.
It’s true, caffeine that you consume will enter your breast milk. And that means that your baby will have some caffeine if you indulge in a cup of coffee. Caffeine is found in a number of beverages, including coffee, tea, soft drinks, sports/energy drinks, and some herbal drinks.
After drinking caffeine, levels will peak in your breast milk about 1-2 hours after ingestion. The level of caffeine in your breast milk is quite a bit lower than the amount that you are drinking, around 0.06-1.5% of the maternal dose.
Safe levels of caffeine intake, according to the experts
So, what is a safe level of caffeine intake? The American Academy of Pediatrics classifies caffeine as a “Maternal Medication Usually Compatible with Breastfeeding.”
The European Food Safety Authority states that two cups of coffee, or 200mg of caffeine, is safe while nursing a baby.
The USA CDC states that 300 mg or less per day is acceptable.
One estimate that is often reported is 500mg per day, or less than five 150ml cups of coffee. You’ll find recommendations online ranging from 200-750mg of caffeine per day while breastfeeding.
(To be honest, that’s more than I was expecting.)
Let’s break down what that can look like in terms of Starbucks, since that’s a language so many of us speak.
Starbucks Coffee, Short Americano: 75mg caffeine
Starbucks Coffee, Grande Latte: 150 mg caffeine
Starbucks Frappuccino: ~98 mg caffeine
Other drink examples:
Coffee, brewed, 240ml: 120-180 mg caffeine
Green tea, 240ml: 30-35mg caffeine
Coke classic, 360 ml: 36 mg caffeine
Breaking it down like this can make it a lot easier to gauge how much caffeine is in a drink or each cup. You can always double check the caffeine amounts online if you’re not sure! You can click here for a resource for finding caffeine amounts in beverages.
How much caffeine is too much?
Deciding how much caffeine is too much is ultimately going to depend on your baby and how they react. Newborns take longer to metabolize caffeine than a six-month old does, for example, and some babies are going to be more sensitive than others.
Caffeine sensitivity in your baby can look like an irritable, fussy, or jittery baby. This can make it difficult for your baby to sleep, calm them down, or breastfeed.
If you suspect your baby could be reacting to your caffeine intake, you could cut it from your diet for 2-3 weeks. That’s about how long it takes for caffeine to clear your system. You’ll have a better idea then if caffeine is affecting your baby. As your baby gets older, they may become more tolerant to caffeine.
The Take Away
You are in charge of what you put into your body.
For some parents, no amount of caffeine intake feels right. And that’s the right answer for them!
For others, a couple cups of coffee are what they need to get through the day. And that’s the right answer for them!
It’s important that the choices you’re making feel right to you. As a parent, you have the insight into your baby’s health and behaviors that others don’t, making you the expert on your baby. You have the intuition and gut feelings about what feels right for you guys.
Doulas of Shanghai provide postpartum doula support to help you get the most out of this time with your baby. You don’t have to do this alone. Your postpartum doula can check in with you daily, weekly, or be there overnight to help you get that chunk of sleep you’ve been needing. Doula support will help you get your feet on the ground after bringing baby home, feel less anxious and more confident in yourself.
Contact us today to learn more about what a postpartum doula can do for you.
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