Caffeine is a difficult thing for a mother with a newborn; it can be a great way of dealing with countless sleepless nights, but on the other hand, many might wonder whether if it’s ok when you’re breastfeeding. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re one of the 85% of Americans who intake caffeine daily, and you might even find you’re addicted, with a recent study by the University of Florida finding 15% of caffeine users meet the criteria for addiction. Caught in this struggle between needing caffeine while also knowing it might be best for your child to cut back, it’s useful to know both the facts and some basic tips on using caffeine while breastfeeding.
What’s the harm of caffeine in your breastmilk?
Firstly, breathe a sigh of relief: you can drink caffeine while breastfeeding. However, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you should drink a maximum of 200 mg per day. This is equivalent to about two cups of instant coffee or four cans of caffeinated soda. To understand how your caffeine intake affects your baby, remember that like everything else you’re eating and drinking, what you’re consuming is what baby is having too. Therefore, just as coffee acts as a stimulant for you, it can also make baby more awake and as a result, he or she can find it more difficult to get to bed at night. Moreover, your child might not be able to process and break down the caffeine properly yet. This could cause a rise in your baby’s stress hormones.
Caffeine might affect you and your baby in another way too, and this one might surprise you. Caffeine affects individual people in different ways: not everyone feels wide awake after an energy drink. In fact, some people can experience a different caffeine reaction compared to others. Caffeine makes you feel more alert through stimulating a signaling molecule in the brain, known as a messenger, called cyclic adenoise monophosphate. However, with regular coffee use, your body can become immune to this stimulant. Therefore, when the initial vivifying effect fades away, some people can be left feeling even more sleepy than before they had any coffee at all! Moreover, if there was sugar in your drink, as is often the case, your body might be experiencing a sugar crash at the same time, doubling the downer.
How to cut down on caffeine
Now that the adverse effects of too much caffeine for new moms are clear, it’s worth making a plan for how to cut back on these bittersweet beverages. If you’ve been drinking five coffees a day for the past ten years, this can seem quite daunting, but with a plan in place, it becomes a lot easier to take the plunge. The first step is to analyze how much caffeine you’re taking in each day: do you have a tea out of habit come 3 pm, or do you feel like you can’t face the morning without a coffee? Writing down your daily intake will help you calculate how much you’ll need to cut back.
Once you know how much you need to reduce your intake by, it’s now time to put your plan into action. Cut back gradually on caffeine, to avoid withdrawal symptoms like pounding headaches. Swap the coffee for caffeine-free alternatives, like herbal teas aimed at new mothers or just plain water to make sure you stay hydrated. Finally, a good tip is telling your friends and family what you’re up to, so they can keep an eye on whether you’re sticking to your goals.
Avoiding the caffeine fiend
A small amount of caffeine for breastfeeding mothers is unlikely to cause problems, but it may not be having the positive effect on your own wakefulness that caffeine is often assumed to have. Therefore, it’s worth reducing your caffeine intake by replacing caffeinated drinks with alternatives like herbal tea. To give your baby the best start in life, make sure you’re taking care of your own body too.
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