After nine months of decaf, that first morning after delivering my babes I savoured every sip of that caffeinated soy latte. I knew on some level the caffeine would affect my breastmilk, but I thought the effect was far diminished compared to in utero coffee consumption.
Yesterday, I came across the article Booby trap: Caffeine and breastfeeding and realized I have/had many misconceptions when it came to breastfeeding and caffeine. I had not considered caffeine a psychoactive drug, a term I link to cocaine and LSD. Oh my, what have I done to my babies?
Caffeine is a smart drug; it can work its way into breast milk and right into your baby’s mouth within 15 minutes of a cuppa. The concentration of caffeine in breastmilk actually peaks about an hour after you have consumed it.
Hmm, maybe breastfeeding your baby before that cup of joe is a wise idea so that you don’t have to nurse an hour after that coveted latte.
The levels of caffeine in your breastmilk gradually lower in the next 14 hours. But even though the levels are lower, they will still be large enough to affect your baby. Tough gig, huh?…
Limiting yourself to one cup when breastfeeding could help prevent the sustaining effect.
Very young infants have ‘immature’ metabolic systems. This is the newborn equivalent of an adolescent not cleaning their room, except the baby’s room is their liver. This means they can’t process and expel drugs from their body – they certainly haven’t had as much practice as us oldies, either – so it takes about 8 days to metabolise most of the caffeine passed on in breastmilk from 6–8 cups of coffee…
Maybe drinking coffee every other day while breastfeeding would be a good solution. As babies get older, they can handle more caffeine in their breastmilk.
Whatever their age, if there is more caffeine in a baby’s system than they can metabolise, the caffeine will start building up in their system and stimulate their nervous system, just as it would with any adult.
My nervous systems must be full of espresso!
The effects of this for your baby will be agitation, being jittery or unsettled, and sleeping difficulties. Mothers know that when it comes to sleeping, babies are tough customers as it is, so cutting out the caffeine is one way of limiting the long nights.
Thankfully, neither of my children exhibited these symptoms.
The good news is the amount of caffeine you can safely consume while breastfeeding is actually quite a lot. Even when not breastfeeding, I never consume more than the recommended two to three cups, so I don’t think I overcaffeinated my young ‘uns.
As you can see, giving up my morning soy latte was the hardest part of pregnancy. I had no problem giving up alcohol, but as my sister told me this weekend, “You’re mean without caffeine.”