Caffeine and breastfeeding

Caffeine and breastfeeding

Caffeine and breastfeeding; A naturopath and IBCLC Lactation Consutlant weighs in

Breastfeeding and Coffee

It's often asked if coffee is safe while breastfeeding. The bottom line is that it is "safe", however, it's important to keep in mind that; 

  • only around 50% of the population are able to metabolise caffeine really effectively. 
  • 1.5% of the amount of caffeine that the nursing parent gets passes into the breast milk.
  • The half-life* of caffeine is about 97.5 hours in a newborn, 14 hours in a 3-5-month-old baby and 2.6 hours in a baby older than 6 months. In comparison, the half-life of caffeine in an adult is 4.9 hours (Hale, Medications and Mother's Milk 2017). 

*The half-life of a drug is the time it takes for the amount of a drug's active substance in your body to reduce by half.

Reducing the negative effects of caffeine on you and your baby

If you do choose to consume caffeine, make sure you are doing the following: 

  • Keep to 200 mg or less per day (1 espresso shot contains around 60 mg of caffeine) 
  • Have coffee after breakfast 
  • Add milk/mylk or healthy fats (ghee, butter, coconut) to slow and buffer the effects 
  • Consume between mid-morning and midday 
  • Avoid caffeine after midday for better sleep 
  • Opt for half-strength or a smaller serve

Consider Avoiding Daily Caffeine;

  • If you have anxiety or feel anxious frequently 
  • Experience heart palpitations 
  • Have insomnia or find it difficult to fall asleep 
  • Have a high dependency on coffee and can't get through the day without one or more cups 
  • If you can relate to any of these, you may be in the population of people who don't metabolise caffeine very well. 

Try a caffeine holiday 

I often discuss with clients that they have never actually had a period in their life without a daily coffee. If this is you, I would suggest gradually weaning off caffeine over one week, replace with decaf or cacao, and observe if your energy is more consistent. If you are breastfeeding, notice changes in your baby too. After a couple of weeks introduce caffeine back in and see how you and your baby feel.

Relying on coffee as a red flag 

I think the real question is why are you "needing" coffee/caffeine regularly. When you rely on a stimulant to get through the day, looking at where your energy levels could be optimised elsewhere is essential. 

Alternative sources of energy: 

  • Protein-rich breakfast on waking 
  • Optimal hydration ( around 3 L water per day) 
  • Sunlight & fresh air 
  • Prioritising rest 
  • Gentle exercise 
  • Dry body brushing 
  • Citrus essential oils 
  • Uplifting music and dancing 
  • Yoga Nidra and meditation

Joelleen Winduss Paye, IBCLC Lactation Consultant, Midwife & Naturopath

JWP Holistic Lactation Consultant  @jwp.ibclc

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