Q: I have heard it’s a good idea to limit caffeine intake while breastfeeding, because it may build up in the infant’s system. What effect will this build-up have on the baby?
A: Caffeine can build up in baby’s system, especially if Mom is consuming more than the equivalent of five, 5-ounce cups of coffee a day. A baby can be overstimulated by the caffeine his mom consumes, and may be fussier than usual and may not sleep as long as he might if caffeine wasn’t an issue. Some babies are more sensitive than others and may react to less than that.
Remember that caffeine is not only in coffee, but also tea, most soft drinks, and a number of over-the-counter drugs, including stimulants, some pain relievers, diuretics, and weight-control aids. Read the labels carefully. Also, chocolate contains a similar compound that can act like caffeine, but rarely causes a problem for nursing mothers. (Whew!)
If you are consuming a lot of “stuff” that contains caffeine, and your baby seems to be overly fussy, try eliminating the caffeine for a week or two and see if he improves. You can substitute caffeine-free products for most of the drinks. If you are used to consuming a lot of caffeine, you may experience headaches from withdrawal.
By Melissa Clark Vickers
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant