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Is It Safe for Breastfeeding Mothers to Drink Coffee?

Updated on December 30, 2016
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Mr. Kane has valuable experience in writing articles. His research on topics is adequate, hence he provides accurate information.

Is it safe for breastfeeding mothers to drink coffee?

Coffee and infants
Coffee and infants

Caffeine and breastfeeding

Many breastfeeding mothers often wonder whether it is safe to drink coffee while breastfeeding their new born babies. Well, according to research I performed on this topic; drinking coffee in moderation is safe for breastfeeding mothers and their babies (thus, according to babycenter.com). Below is how my research unfolded:

Just last week, I was at an old friend’s house, paying her and her family a visit. She’s been married for four (4) years now, and just delivered a new baby girl. To have a baby girl, that is awesome news, isn’t it? Yes, I think so. Anyway, during my visit, I noticed that my friend was breastfeeding her baby girl.

On the table by her side, I also noticed a variety of infant formulas such as Enfamil Premium Ready-to-Feed Formula, Gerber Good Start Protect Formula, and a host of others. So I asked: “Why all these formulas?” With a smile on her face, as if to say, “oh boy… men will always be men, always clueless what babies need to survive”, she replied “Well, while breast milk is the number one food for babies, I sometimes use these formulas when I’m not in the position to breastfeed.”

She continued, “Of course, breast milk naturally ensures the healthy development of the baby. But it also means that I must be careful what I eat so that it doesn’t negatively impact my baby. And this is when the infant formula comes in. If I drink coffee, for instance, I can’t breastfeed my baby, as she may be unable to digest the caffeine.”

Her words got me thinking deeply. Since I wasn't sure whether it was safe or unsafe for a nursing mother to drink coffee, I embarked on a short research to find some answers. My research led to this post, which will see me explore and shed some light on the topic of caffeine and breastfeeding.

Components of breast milk

Before we explore the safety of coffee for babies of breastfeeding mothers, let’s carefully examine the make-up of breast milk. Breast milk refers to milk from the breast that is fed to an infant from at least the first hour after he or she is born. Breast milk is made up of an essential mix of carbohydrates, amino acids, fats (such as omega 3 fatty acids), hormones, growth factors and antibodies.

The aforementioned nutrients, minerals and hormones in breast milk perform a number of vital functions, including promoting the proper growth and development of the baby’s immune system, reducing the baby’s susceptibility to infections, helping to develop baby’s digestive system. All these work together to give the baby a great start. Therefore breast milk is a superior food for babies, and nothing beats that.

How breast milk is formed

Next, let’s carefully examine how breast milk is formed. Breast milk is produced in small sucks, called alveoli, in the female breast during and after pregnancy. The milk travels through small ducts in the breast to the nipples, where the baby’s jaws and tongue press on the milk sinuses therein, causing the milk to flow into your baby’s mouth.

Most importantly, during breastfeeding, the baby’s sucking stimulates nerve endings in the nipple, which signal the brain to release two hormones, oxytocin and prolactin. Prolactin causes the alveoli in the breast to reach for nutrients, including proteins and sugars, in the mother’s blood, and turn them into breast milk.

Having established how breast milk is formed, it is obvious that a nursing mother who eats poorly will lack, in her blood, the nutrients required for the formation of breast milk. Coffee has become the subject of numerous debates concerning the appropriate foods for nursing mothers, mostly because of its caffeine content.

Caffeine is a substance that is found in tea, coffee, cocoa beans and other plants. It is added to food to give it a pleasing bitter taste. Caffeine is also used in over-the-counter medicines to enhance the effect of certain painkillers. Caffeine is also used to stimulate the central nervous system so that you become extremely alert, less tired and less drowsy.

Caffeine and breastfeeding babies

When a nursing mother drinks coffee, the caffeine in it is quickly digested, enters into her bloodstream, and, ultimately, her breast milk. However, research has shown that the amount of caffeine that enters into breast milk is less than one percent (1%) of what the mother consumed. This means that, your baby, by consuming breast milk, wouldn’t have to worry about digesting high levels of caffeine. And if there’s any danger at all from drinking caffeine, it should be significantly less so for the baby.

Other research has shown that, while coffee consumption by nursing mothers isn’t harmful to their children, it shouldn’t be overdone. This point of view is based on the fact that caffeine from coffee may accumulate in your baby’s digestive system. Furthermore, since the baby’s digestive system is not developed enough to excrete caffeine, he/she may begin to show symptoms of caffeine build-up, such as not sleeping for long, being restless, jittery, agitated and irritable. However, after three months, your baby’s system would have developed enough to be able to excrete caffeine well.

Summary

Generally, though, experts say that a moderate amount of caffeine, not more than 300mg per day, is safe, and will cause no changes in your baby’s behavior. It is up to mothers to observe the way their baby’s react to caffeine in breast milk.

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