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I cried every morning for three weeks. The new schedule — no let’s call it a non-schedule because that’s what it really was — this new non-schedule was killing me. I was angry, emotional, tired, and at my absolute wits end. But still happy to have my son snuggled in my arms instead of dancing on my bladder all day. All that aside, I couldn’t shake the bone-dragging fatigue. And I was scared to have my beloved coffee because I’d always heard that it’s wrong to drink coffee while breastfeeding.
There aren’t many things you need to know about me personally, but this one little fact will make my next confession easier to understand: I’m rebellious, and maybe a tiny bit selfish. ??
You know what I did? I finally drank the coffee. (Did you gasp out loud?!?) But afterward, I started thinking of all kinds of questions that maybe I should’ve asked before.
- How does caffeine affect a nursing baby?
- How long will it stay in my breastmilk?
- Will caffeine hurt my milk supply?
- When is it safe to have another cup?
How caffeine affects a nursing baby
Drinking coffee might make you a nicer person, but it may have just the opposite effect on your baby. These are some common ways that babies react to caffeine in breastmilk:
- Alert – his eyes are wide open and he’s much more alert than he usually is
- Active – he just can’t seem to stop moving
- Sleepless – he’s having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep may actually be impossible for a little while.
- Fussy – maybe because the caffeine makes him feel unusual and it scares him, or maybe because he’s just so tired and can’t sleep. But if your baby is uncharacteristically fussy, it might be because of caffeine.
Age is a factor
The younger a baby is, the more impact caffeine will have on them. A newborn is going to have a stronger reaction to your mom-latte than he would if he was 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months. And a 3-month-old will have a stronger reaction than a 12-month-old and so on…
Another factor at play is a baby’s sensitivity to caffeine, which can be different for every baby. If you avoided coffee while you were preggo, your baby is likely to be more sensitive than one whose momma enjoyed her daily java. But just like adults, some babies are just going to be more sensitive to it than others.
How long caffeine stays in your breastmilk
Once you drink coffee, the caffeine can be found in your breastmilk within 15 minutes (source) and the caffeine content in your milk will peak 1-2 hours after you drink it. (source)
As far as how long it’s in your milk, it should lose its ability to affect your baby within 6-12 hours and it should be undetectable in breastmilk within 24 hours.
So you may want to have your espresso a right before you nurse (and before it has time to get in your milk). That way you won’t be nursing when your milk’s caffeine content is at its highest.
How caffeine affects your milk supply
There’s an old wives’ tale that says that caffeine reduces your milk supply. It’s just a myth. There isn’t any documented evidence that drinking caffeine will lower your milk supply.
BUT but but but….if you consume so much caffeine that your baby becomes fussy and overactive, he might not nurse well. And if he doesn’t nurse well for a few feedings, that could very well decrease your milk supply. So it could indirectly cause your supply to diminish.
Related Post: 8 Tips for handling breast engorgement while weaning
Another concern is how it affects the iron in your milk. According to the Drug and Lactation Database (LACTMED), “Coffee intake of more than 450 mL daily may decrease breastmilk iron concentrations and result in mild iron deficiency anemia in some breastfed infants.”
I looked up 450 mL to see just how much that is. It’s 15.2 ounces. So if you drink two 6 ounce cups of coffee, you’re safe there.
What happens if you drink coffee when breastfeeding
Remember my confession about rebelliously drinking a cup of coffee? Well, here’s what happened: I felt better.
My mood improved, some of the brain fog cleared, and I felt the intense joy of giving in to a craving.
As for my baby, he didn’t have any noticeable reaction to getting my newly-caffeinated breastmilk. He wasn’t fidgety or fussy, and he didn’t miss any sleep time.
Tips to safely drink coffee while breastfeeding
If you decide it’s not worth the risk, I’m not going to judge. You just clearly don’t love coffee the way I do. But if you’re already planning your next cup, let’s go ahead and talk about the best ways to keep your baby safe while you enjoy a cup of joe.
- Don’t drink anything hot when your baby is in your arms. I know you’re careful. Humor me here. One well-placed kick from baby to your coffee cup could burn him. It’s not worth it.
- Avoid breastfeeding when your milk’s caffeine content is at it’s highest: 1-2 hours after drinking your coffee.
- Keep your daily intake below 300mg of caffeine.
- Avoid energy drinks – they usually have extra ingredients that may not be safe for nursing babies.
- If you notice that your baby is becoming fussy or starts having trouble sleeping, stop drinking coffee for a few days to see if the problem resolves.
When you drink coffee the caffeine transfers to your baby through your breastmilk starting about 15 minutes after your first sip and peaking around 1-2 hours after.
Babies who are irritated by caffeine will be fussy, alert, have trouble sleeping, and might be fidgety. The younger a baby is, the stronger effect caffeine will have on them; although some babies are more sensitive than others.
Coffee will not hurt your milk supply unless it causes your baby to become fussy and not nurse as well.
Is it wrong to drink coffee when breastfeeding? No, it’s fine as long as you drink in moderation, time it carefully, and watch your baby for any signs that it might be irritating him.
Have you tried drinking coffee when you’re breastfeeding? Please share your experience in the comments below.