Coffee and Your New Baby

A steaming cup of coffee sits on a table top

I love coffee, I love tea…

Earlier in the week, I was with a group of parents and young babies, hanging out. We shared coffee, tea and goodies. Our time together was ticking down and as everyone had either a Wiggler or a Wobbler with them I was wandering about offering a top-up of coffee.

“Oh no, I shouldn’t…” said one mom wistfully as she glanced down at the top of her child’s head.
“How much… what do you think…” her voice trailed off.

“THREE CUPS!” my brain screamed.
Three cups? How did I know this? Was this correct? Was I confusing pregnancy and breastfeeding? Was this old knowledge or up to date information?

I deferred to Dr. Jack Newman and the International Breastfeeding Centre and the conversation drifted towards alcohol consumption, pump and dump, an occasional glass of wine, and other people’s behaviours and opinions about breastfeeding parents.

At home with the World Wide Web and a library of books and pamphlets at my disposal, I dug in. Here is what I have found.

A few things about caffeine and the nursling-

There is no consensus on what is an appropriate amount of caffeine to ingest when breastfeeding. Recommendations ranged from “avoid caffeine” to up five cups per day. Actual figures on caffeine ingestion varied from 300-750 mg per day.

When looking at recommendations be aware that a standard serving of brewed coffee is FIVE OUNCES– that’s about 150 ml.
A Starbucks Tall is a 12 oz. serving-approximately 350 mL.
A Starbucks Grande is a 16 oz. serving or about 475 mL.
A medium cup of Tim Horton’s measures 14 oz. almost 4l5 mL.

Remember sports drinks, teas, colas and chocolate also contain caffeine in varying amounts.

Some babies seem to react more to caffeine in their nursing parent’s diet. Often this is the case when the parent avoided caffeine in pregnancy.

Breast milk usually contains less than 1 percent of the caffeine ingested by the nursing parent.

If you drink no more than three cups of coffee spread throughout the day, there is little to no caffeine detected in the baby’s urine.  Serving size is key.

Age matters, the age of the baby.
-Caffeine accumulates in the young baby’s body.
– The half life of caffeine in a newborn may be as much as 4 days.
-At 3 months of age the half life is a little over 12 hours.
At 6 months caffeine may be metabolized faster by the infant than by the parent!

-There is also a prolonged half-life of caffeine during the last trimester of pregnancy.

-Peak levels of caffeine are found in breast milk 60-120 minutes after intake. If you have a sensitive baby you can use this tidbit to your advantage in timing your cup of joy!

-Coffee does NOT decrease breast milk production. There is some suggestion that it may increase milk production.

-Caffeine seems not to have consequences on the sleep of infants at the age of 3 months-The same may not be said of the parent’s sleep.

And finally, a little ear worm for your listening pleasure!

Don’t just take my word for it – a Reading List

Healthline Parenthood

Government of Canada Recommendations

A couple of papers from the National Library of Medicine (USA)

The American Academy of Pediatrics

Hale’s Medications and Mother’s Milk 2019 Thomas W Hale, R.Ph.,  Ph. D Springer Publishing Company

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