Breastfeeding can be exhausting, particularly in the early days period when a baby may sleep irregularly and wake up numerous times each night.
A morning cup of coffee might help a person manage sleep deprivation, but many people worry about the effects of caffeine on their babies. However, caffeine is safe in moderation for people who are breastfeeding.
Many people are told to limit or even eliminate caffeine during pregnancy due to the risk of caffeine crossing the placenta and affecting the developing fetus. However, caffeine is much less likely to affect a breastfeeding infant.
The body metabolizes most of the caffeine in coffee is before it reaches breast milk or has a chance to affect the baby.
According to Dr. Thomas Hale in Medications and Mothers Milk, caffeine is a low-risk drug in moderation. Only about 1 percent of the caffeine a woman consumes gets into her breast milk, and this minuscule amount is not enough to harm most babies.
Breastfeeding parents who want to take the safest approach should consider limiting caffeine intake to about 300 milligrams (mg) a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This amount of caffeine is equivalent to 2–3 cups of coffee.
Even caffeine consumption of more than 300 mg is unlikely to harm a baby. However, the CDC note that extreme caffeine consumption of more than 10 cups a day may cause symptoms in the baby, such as fussiness and jitteriness.
Caffeine levels in breast milk peak 1/2 hours after drinking coffee. A person who has recently breastfed may choose to watch their baby during this time to see whether they experience any effects from the caffeine.
Advantage and Disadvantage
While the potential advantage of drinking coffee during pregnancy sound scary, the risks of caffeine in breastfeeding infants are mild.
Some experts express concern that caffeine might affect a baby’s sleep, but a 2012 study carried out on 885 babies in Brazil disagrees. The study found no statistically significant impact on the sleep quality of babies aged 3 months when breastfed by someone who consumes caffeine.
A Korean study also found no serious risks of drinking coffee caffeine while breastfeeding, especially with moderate consumption of a few cups a day.
Some people believe that the acids in coffee may lower the iron content of breast milk, though there is no recent scientific evidence to confirm this. Breast milk is naturally low in iron, but babies need iron to develop normally, so people who drink coffee should discuss iron supplementation with a doctor.
People should do what feels comfortable for them, as there is no medical reason to avoid drinking coffee while breastfeeding. There is also no evidence that caffeine directly benefits the baby.