Can I Drink Coffee While Breastfeeding?

I have been really busy (work) and have not been getting near enough sleep (the babe, maybe sleep regression?). To help power my long days, I have been drinking about 3 cups of coffee every day for the last 2 weeks. My pediatrician had mentioned that up to 5 cups were considered OK (at the time I was thinking 'are you crazy, I could never drink that much coffee...'), but I recently read somewhere that this recommendation is based on 5, 5oz servings (for a total of 25oz). My coffee mugs are more like 12oz, so I was left to wonder OMGOSH AM I DRINKING TOO MUCH COFFEE? and most importantly IS IT HURTING THE BABE? 

So, I did a little bit more research. Here is what I found:


What my doctor says: yes it's okay, but limit to less than 5 cups a day 

What the internet says: When you google search the term 'coffee while breastfeeding,' the first result that appears is from Baby Center. It says: "Yes, it is perfectly safe to have caffeine when you're breastfeeding."

What the research says: 

According to a 1989 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that reviewed 5 different studies caffeine may cause: "Irritability, poor sleeping pattern, excreted slowly;" but has "no effect with moderate intake of caffeinated beverages (2–3 cups per day)."

A more recent study, from 2012, found that Caffeine consumption during pregnancy and by nursing mothers seems not to have consequences on sleep of infants at the age of 3 months.

What the experts say:

On their site, La Leche League refers to THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING: "the amount of caffeine in five or fewer five-ounce cups of coffee will not cause a problem for most mothers and babies... A baby who is being over-stimulated with caffeine will be wide-eyed, active, alert and perhaps fussy."

And also to Breastfeeding: A Guide For the Medical Profession (fifth edition), by Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D. and Robert M. Lawrence, M.D., which says:  "With a given dose of caffeine that is comparable to that in a cup of coffee, the level in the milk is low, (1% of level in mother) and the level in the infant's plasma is also low. However, caffeine does accumulate in the infant."

Everyone seems to agree that caffeine is okay in moderation and most sources point to watching your babe's temperament to see if you need to cut back.

The good news here is that my babe has shown no signs of being disrupted by my uptick in caffeine consumption and is probably fine. The bad news is that I still feel like crud.

So, I did some more research. Turns out, there are plenty of reasons not to drink coffee, that have nothing to do with breastfeeding your babe --- a few relevant to my life include: it increases stress levels and anxiety, it is dehydrating, it causes inflammation and more.

Dr. Mark Hyman's #1 reason to give up coffee reads:

  1. The caffeine in coffee increases catecholamines, your stress hormones.  The stress response elicits cortisol and increases insulin.  Insulin increases inflammation and this makes you feel lousy.

Sounds like a brief description of my week so far.

update: just today I noticed that I also get leg and back aches when I drink coffee. Research has shown caffeine to be a potential cause of muscle contractions, it may also have something to do with coffee being a diuretic, which can cause mineral depletion. 

Thinking back to my coffee-free days during pregnancy, it actually felt pretty good not to artificially stimulate.

So, what to do? 

Research / experts / internet agree: drink coffee if you want. Do so in moderation. Will I keep drinking coffee? probably. Am I going to cut back to 1 cup a day to see if I feel better? yep.

NourishmentJacqui Somen