Waking Up Without Hurting Your Baby

Pregnant woman resting on sofa

For little things who sleep half the day, babies sure are exhausting. Some days, a quick boost of caffeine might be a lifesaver. But is it safe when you’re breastfeeding? You’re right to be concerned about what you ingest during this time, because your diet does affect your nursing baby. Luckily for coffee lovers and diet soda devotees, caffeine is safe in moderation while you’re breastfeeding.

Does Caffeine Hurt My Baby?

You may want to ask your pediatrician for permission before you start drinking caffeine. She’ll probably give you her blessing. Unless you guzzle several pots of coffee per day, your caffeine consumption shouldn’t hurt your baby. Only about 1 percent of the caffeine you ingest makes it into your breast milk.

Whether or not your baby tolerates that small amount of caffeine, however, is a different story. Some infants are completely untroubled by caffeine. In others, however, the caffeine has the same effect that it has on adults. It’s possible that your baby will be agitated and fussy after you nurse her while you have caffeine in your system. The stimulant also may keep her awake. Some moms report that drinking coffee makes their breastfed babies gassy, but gas can be caused by a number of factors.

If you notice that your baby seems agitated after you nurse her, cut out caffeine or drink it well in advance of feeding her. The longer you wait between ingesting caffeine and breastfeeding, the less caffeine your baby will consume. Caffeine has a half-life of about six hours. That means that if you ingest 100 milligrams of caffeine at noon, you’ll have 50 mg in your system at 6 p.m. and 25 mg at midnight.

How Much Caffeine Can I Have?

Experts warn breastfeeding moms to limit themselves to no more than two to three 8-ounce servings of caffeinated beverages per day. But, because beverages have varying caffeine levels, it’s important to be mindful about just how much of the stimulant is in your go-to drink. (Remember that caffeine can be found in chocolate and other foods, so check nutritional labels carefully.)

Say, for example, the doctor tells you to go ahead and drink up to three cups of coffee a day. An 8-ounce cup generally has 100 milligrams or less of caffeine per cup. But, if you order a large dark roast from your favorite chain, you might get 16 ounces of coffee containing more than 300 milligrams. If you count that as one of your three servings, you may end up drinking more caffeine than you intended to in a given day.

You can safely drink other caffeinated drinks like black tea or soda too. They tend to have less caffeine than coffee. Avoid energy drinks, which tend to have high levels of caffeine in addition to sugar and chemicals. If you must enjoy your favorite energy drink, pump and store caffeine-free breast milk in advance.

Ultimately, it’s your baby’s reaction that should dictate how much caffeine you drink in a day. She may get fussy when you nurse her after you drink a single cup of tea, or she may not have any reaction unless you have two cups of coffee. Try keeping a log that tracks your caffeine intake and her mood after nursing to look for any patterns.