Caffeine while breastfeeding

a coffee mug on the front porch
Olivia has hit her four month sleep regression and the only thing on my mind is how much coffee can I drink. Seriously, what’s the deal with caffeine while breastfeeding? How can I tell how much caffeine is even in my mug of coffee? Is decaf cool now? Warning: real life math ahead!

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Are you new-mom-tired? I am. Honestly, now that Liv is a bit older, I’m even more tired than when I was getting up every 2 hours to feed her in the newborn days. Call it new mom fear.. I mean adrenaline? Maybe it’s because today I’m trying to do more with my awake time. I miss the newborn days! These days I think about caffeine while breastfeeding and coffee all of the time. I realized I didn’t know much about the recommendations and I also had no clue what those recommendations meant in my life. Like, how many mLs is my morning mug? Here’s what I learned…

I’m breastfeeding: I aim for two or three cups of coffee per day. But why? 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should limit caffeine while breastfeeding.  I can have three cups of coffee every day. They recommend spacing it out. Yahoo! Why? 

When we drink a cup of coffee, less than 1.5% of the caffeine hits the breast milk, and that’s not enough to impact our baby. The 1.5% number is from this study where a researcher gave women a dose of caffeine, then over twelve hours the researcher analyzed the women’s breast milk and infant’s urine. A range of 0.6% to 1.5% of the dose of caffeine was detected in the mom’s milk and no caffeine was detected in the baby’s urine after they breastfed every three hours.

~Pause to make a cup of coffee~

The AAP does not tell us how many mgs of caffeine per day is OK. Great! So by using math and assuming one 12 oz cup of coffee is 200 mg, that means you can have 600 mgs. But they caution against an (arbitrary?) upper limit. They say 5 cups or (again, with my math and assumptions) 1000 mgs. They don’t cite a study, so I can’t read the original source. I think the takeaway is… there is an upper limit! Here’s what the AAP says about that:

“However, if you feel that your infant becomes more fussy or irritable when you consume excessive amounts of caffeine―usually more than five caffeinated beverages per day―consider decreasing your intake.”

If you’re pregnant – the guidance for coffee is one cup per day – why?

The research here is more clear. Caffeine crosses the placenta so expecting mamas need to be careful. We are allowed to safely enjoy 200 mg of caffeine per day – that is one 12 oz cup of coffee. 

I cherished one cup of coffee every morning. 

*Forgets coffee and it is now cold*

As I’m writing this, I actually can’t remember the last time I drank a full cup of hot coffee – I certainly was still pregnant. Most days I leave half-drunk cups sprinkled around the house. When I get back to the cup, it’s cold and I start over. Maybe I’ll start pouring half cups and then I can have 6 cups! I also have no clue how big my coffee mugs are. That feels like it could be helpful. 

What the heck is a normal size of coffee? 

I measured a few mugs we had around. Take the time to measure! Why not be informed? 

Step 1: Find something with ounces on it. Hello baby bottles! I’m using the container that came with my Spectra pump – it’s 5 oz.

Step 2: My coffee cup is bigger than my baby bottle (5 oz) so I’m going to start with the water in my bottle and then pour it in my mug. Repeat until I get to the top!

Step 3: Do the math. (More math!)  There are 8 Ounces in one cup. If you need to convert cups to Ounces, multiply the cup value by 8. The result value is US Ounces.

Today my Duck Off mug is 8 oz.

Now what about the amount of caffeine? Not all coffee is created equal.

Ugh, this one is hard too! I tried to put together a ‘quick reference for caffeine while breastfeeding’ for you, but it’s just not that easy, even just for coffee. There is so much variation between brands! According to this nifty caffeine calculator, a Starbucks Grande is 16 oz and has 310 mgs of caffeine, at Peets a 16 ouncer is 267 mgs of caffeine and at McDonalds that same size cup of coffee is 145 mgs. So if you want to push the limits, you might want to look up your brand. 

Here are some other common drinks (and chocolate) in my life I was curious about: 

  • Coffee 8 oz  brewed up to 200 mg 
  • Excedrin (Extra Strength, Migraine, and Tension Headache), 1 capsule, 65 mg
  • Espresso 1 oz 64 mg
  • Black Tea 6 oz 45 mg
  • Diet Coke 12 oz can 42 mg
  • Green Tea 6 oz 40 mg
  • Coke 12 oz can 32 mg
  • 1 square dark chocolate, 1 oz, 12 mg
  • Decaf Coffee 8 oz decaf 5 mg

Other things I learned I just had to share: 

  • Dark roasts have more flavor and light roasts have more caffeine
  • Dark chocolate has more caffeine than milk or white chocolate

If you’re concerned about caffeine while breastfeeding or pregnant, stick to the generic guidelines. (Remember that’s 1 cup if you’re pregnant and no more than 3 if you’re nursing).

I just discovered (good) decaf coffee!

It exists! A lot of the local brands we buy have a caffeine-free line. And a friend of mine has an awesome coffee company that just does decaf and half caf (check her out!). So the good stuff is out there!

Why did it take me over a year to figure out decaf? It’s all about logistics. We grind our beans at home. How do I swap the beans in the grinder? Well– I figured out  the amount of beans to put in a full pot of coffee, and now I just grind that much. What is the magical measurement? All roads lead to my Spectra pump collection bottle – it’s 5 oz of beans and that is 1 pot in our house.

Now, go drink that cup of Jo and enjoy!

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