Expectant mothers had to do without a lot during their pregnancy, for example their beloved coffee. It is particularly difficult for coffee lovers to do without it during pregnancy and are therefore happy to drink their coffee again after childbirth. However, after the birth comes the breastfeeding period, during which you still have to pay attention to a lot in terms of nutrition.
In this article, we want to clarify questions about coffee consumption while breastfeeding and inform you about what you should consider. We also present some alternatives that could replace coffee while breastfeeding.
the essentials in brief
- Coffee is a popular drink for many to get through the day strengthened and awake. For many, coffee is indispensable.
- Anyone who consumes coffee or caffeinated beverages while breastfeeding should know that the caffeine ingested passes directly into breast milk.
- In principle, coffee and other caffeinated drinks are not prohibited. But you should pay attention to the amount and also to when you drink the caffeinated beverage.
Coffee and breastfeeding: what you should know
In the following we want to inform you about coffee consumption while breastfeeding and answer particularly frequently asked questions.
Is coffee allowed while breastfeeding?
You shouldn't drink coffee during pregnancy. However, according to the European Food Safety Authority (efsa), coffee and other caffeinated drinks are not prohibited while breastfeeding, but care should be taken when and how much coffee or caffeinated drinks are consumed, as too much caffeine could harm the baby.(1)
How much coffee can you drink while breastfeeding?
Now that you know that coffee is allowed while breastfeeding, we want to enlighten you on how much of it you can drink a day. Experts from the German Society for Nutrition advise limiting yourself to a maximum of 200 mg of caffeine per day, which corresponds to about two cups of coffee.(2)
You should not consume more than 200 mg of caffeine per day.
However, as a breastfeeding mother, you should definitely not take more than 200 mg. Too much caffeine for nursing mothers could cause consequences for the newborn.
When does the caffeine break down?
While you are drinking coffee while breastfeeding, you should be aware that the baby is also drinking through the breast milk, as the caffeine passes directly into the breast milk. According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, it takes about 30 to 60 minutes for the caffeine contained in coffee to get into the breast milk via the bloodstream.
The half-life of caffeine can be anywhere from 2 to 8 hours. This means that after these hours, about half of the caffeine in the body is broken down. In newborns, however, it often takes more than 3 days to break down caffeine before half of the caffeine is broken down.(3)
What effects does caffeine have on the baby?
A moderate amount of coffee per day does not have much effect on the newborn. (Image Source: Mike Kenneally / Unslash)
However, a study from Brazil in 2012 was able to prove that the consumption of caffeine in coffee has no negative effects on the sleep behavior of newborns. In the study, the experts interviewed 885 mothers and examined the sleep of their offspring. In the end, they came to the conclusion that moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy and in the first three months of breastfeeding had no effect on the newborn's sleep. Other studies also confirm this.(5)
Should I drink coffee in the morning or in the evening while breastfeeding?
To avoid that you or your baby cannot sleep peacefully at night, it is advisable to drink the coffee in the morning or to drink the caffeinated drink immediately after breastfeeding, otherwise most of the caffeine could get into breast milk directly. Drinking coffee right after breastfeeding is best to give your body enough time to break down the caffeine it has ingested.
What coffee alternatives are there for mothers who are breastfeeding?
If you want to reduce your caffeine consumption or do without it completely while breastfeeding, but still need a pick-me-up, you can use the following alternatives:
- substitute coffee
Here we present the alternatives to coffee when breastfeeding in more detail. These alternatives are either very little or not caffeinated at all and can still make you fit and awake.
There are many types of tea that contain significantly less caffeine and still keep you awake. Rooibos tea is a healthy alternative to coffee. The tea is not entirely decaffeinated, but still low enough to make an ideal substitute.
Like coffee, hot lemon tea can also wake you up in the morning. The high content of vitamin C in lemons can stimulate the metabolism. At the same time, a hot lemon provides plenty of energy and an increase in concentration throughout the day.(6) A healthy pick-me-up without caffeine.
For those who do not want to or cannot do without the taste of the coffee, the substitute coffee made from barley or malt is a good, tasty alternative that comes closest to the taste of coffee. The coffee does not contain caffeine and has a low content of tannins, which is particularly digestible for the stomach, which makes the substitute coffee much better than classic coffee from beans. The best-known substitute coffee made from barley and malt is that of Caro coffee. However, there are now many other brands that offer the substitute coffee.
Smoothie is a slightly different alternative to coffee, but a very healthy and varied choice. With any selection of fruit and vegetables, you can conjure up a healthy smoothie with lots of valuable vitamins according to your taste.
With additional seeds or nuts in the smoothie, you also have a protein source that particularly promotes concentration and wakes you up at the same time. (7) With low-fat or plant-based milk, a homemade smoothie is also low-fat and healthy. A healthy fresh smoothie is particularly suitable in the morning or in between as an energy boost.
As everyone knows, water is healthy and important for the body. Water can also have an energizing effect. Dehydration, i.e. lack of fluids, can cause tiredness. Instead of drinking coffee in the morning, you can drink warm or cold water for a change. For a certain taste you can refine your water with a dash of lemon, lime or berries. Lemon water in particular is considered to be very healthy.
According to a study in 2015, water with lemon boosts your digestion and also strengthens the entire gastrointestinal system by allowing the intestinal mucous membranes to regenerate faster. (8) Lemon water also provides healthy and valuable vitamins such as vitamin C through the citrus fruit, which stimulates and promotes the metabolism and concentration.
In summary, it can be said that the consumption of coffee and caffeinated beverages is allowed in moderation. Experts therefore recommend consuming 200 mg of caffeine per day. In addition, it has been proven that the consumption of coffee does not have any serious effects on the baby. But if you also consume more than 200 mg of caffeine while breastfeeding, you can assume that the offspring will have problems with restlessness, insomnia or stomach problems.
You should also pay attention to when you drink the coffee. It is best to drink coffee in the morning or after breastfeeding to give your body enough time to break down the caffeine in the body and so that as little caffeine as possible gets to the baby through breast milk. But if you want to be on the safe side and want to avoid coffee while breastfeeding, there are many alternatives that we have briefly presented to you. All alternatives contain very little to no caffeine, which reduces or can prevent the risk of harm to the baby.
- efsa.europa.eu: EFSA explains risk assessment of caffeine. efsa European Food Safety Authority, 2015 doi:10.2805/63320 Source
- ernaehrungs-umschau.de: Nutrition during pregnancy. Anne Hilbig, August 2013, p. M471 Source
- mobil.bfr.bund.de: Caffeinated foods from the perspective of risk assessment. BfR Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Anke Ehlers, April 6, 2016 Source
- kinderaerzte-im-netz.de: Drink caffeinated beverages in moderation when breastfeeding. April 03, 2012 Source
- Iná S. Santos, Alicia Matijasevich, Marlos R. Domingues. Maternal Caffeine Consumption and Infant Nighttime Waking: Prospective Cohort Study. 2012 May, 129(5) 860-868; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-1773 Source
- apotheken-umschau.de: Lemon: Citrus fruit full of vitamins. April 09, 2014 Source
- Li H, Li X, Yuan S, Jin Y, Lu J. Nut consumption and risk of metabolic syndrome and overweight/obesity: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies and randomized trials. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2018 Jun 22;15:46. doi: 10.1186/s12986-018-0282-y. eCollection 2018. Source
- Xiong Y, Chen D, Yu C, Lv B, Peng J, Wang J, Lin Y. Citrus nobiletin ameliorates experimental colitis by reducing inflammation and restoring impaired intestinal barrier function. March 16, 2015 doi:10.1002/mnfr.201400614 Source