Caffeine is a stimulant that is extremely addictive. Letting go of this drink when pregnant or breastfeeding can be challenging for most people.
Once you discover that you are pregnant however, it is recommended that, if you must, limit your caffeine intake to one cup a day, or, better still, don’t take any at all.
But, when breastfeeding, you are allowed to have a few cups of coffee a day, and this will not have any negative effects on the baby.
What is the difference between regular coffee and decaf?
Well, most people believe that decaf is not as strong as regular coffee, and in fact, it doesn’t have any side effects at all. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have been known to drink decaf comfortably with the belief that it cannot harm their children.
Let us look at why these two are different;
If you measure using a regular 8 oz cup of coffee, regular coffee contains 95mg of caffeine, while in the same cup, decaf coffee contains 3mg. This clearly shows that, contrary to popular belief, decaf is not purely caffeine-free, and in fact, the main difference between the two is that decaf contains a lesser amount of caffeine than regular coffee.
The reason behind these statistics is that decaf is produced after the regular coffee has been processed from the coffee beans to remove at least 97% of the caffeine. This process is normally done using solvents such as carbon dioxide, water and other types of organic solvents. The beans are then roasted and ground again.
Now, another factor to consider is that the amount of caffeine in the decaffeinated coffee will depend on the amount of coffee you are using, the cup size and the method of preparation.
How can you tell if your baby is sensitive to coffee?
If you have been taking a significant amount of caffeine in your diet and your baby seems fussy, irritable and doesn’t sleep for too long, you should consider decreasing the amount of caffeine you are taking to caffeine-free beverages for a week or more because there is a possibility, he could be sensitive to caffeine.
Observe your baby for a while, to see whether the symptoms will disappear. Of course, the symptoms may be as a result of any other cause, but try reducing your caffeine intake to rule it out. if it isn’t the reason for the fussiness, then, take your child to the pediatrician for a more accurate diagnosis.
Will caffeine decrease your milk supply?
Currently, there has been no proof that caffeine can reduce your milk supply. The myth of it cutting the amount of milk is however widespread, and most women have been made to believe the same. There have in fact been some studies that claim that caffeine can increase the milk supply.
So, how much is too much coffee?
We may be talking about decaf, but there is still a chance of taking too much. Remember even a small amount per cup can become a big amount if you take too many cups of coffee in a day.
Coffee affects babies differently, and therefore the following documented facts may not necessarily apply to all mothers, and you should observe your child keenly to be able to identify how much caffeine is affecting him.
Many different sources recommend that you shouldn’t take more than 5 cups of coffee per day. If one cup of decaf has 3mg, this, therefore, means that you should always try to limit your intake to 15mg per day.
What is the nutritional value of coffee if any?
Both regular coffee and decaf have the same nutritional content. The only difference is the amount of nutrients in each.
Regular coffee contains antioxidants, same as decaf, but the percentage is greatly reduced during the decaffeinating process to approximately 15%.
The antioxidants available in decaf coffee are polyphenols and hydrocinnamic acids. Others include 2.4% of magnesium – the recommended amount per day, 4.8% of potassium, vitamin B3 and 2.5% of niacin
If you are like most people you may end up wondering why then, you need to shift to decaf if the amount of nutrients is the same as that of regular coffee, but this would be wrong because regular coffee has a higher caffeine content and this is what causes a reaction in babies, especially during breastfeeding.
Effects of caffeine while breastfeeding:
As per the American Academy of Pediatrics, a limited amount of decaf coffee, less than 15mg per day is good enough, and it doesn’t cause a reaction on the breastfeeding baby. However, a higher intake may cause the following effects on your baby;
- The caffeine consumed during breastfeeding may accumulate in the baby if the mother drinks too much, and this may cause the baby to become highly sensitive to the caffeine and react by becoming cranky, or restless, and in some extreme cases, the baby may become colic.
- The baby is not able to eliminate the caffeine from their bodies, and this causes them to become jittery, irritable, have insomnia and even constipation.
- Caffeine by nature is a diuretic and may cause dehydration in the nursing mother.
- Chronic ingestion of caffeine can cause the nursing mother to have a lower iron content in their milk.
- Excessive caffeine consumption can affect the letdown reflex – this is the process of milk ejection from the breasts, and this may also cause nipple vasospasm.
Decaf is therefore much better than coffee due to having low levels of caffeine and it possess very little risk to the breastmilk and the baby, so, if you are a good mother, why take the risk?
Again, if you notice that breast milk is affecting your baby adversely, it is recommended that you take a break from breastfeeding for a while and try introducing formula to your baby’s diet such as the Enfamil newborn and infant formulas
Where else is caffeine found?
Caffeine is not only found in coffee alone, you can see it in a wide variety of caffeinated drinks, such as diet cokes, Pepsi Cola, tea leaves, coffee yogurt, energy drinks, etc., so, be careful with these drinks as well.
Breastfeeding mothers tend to get extra tired during the day as a result of the process of breastfeeding, and they are mostly tempted to drink some energy beverages, or drinks with high sugar content to re-energize. This is wrong.
Take time and read the label, plus, do some investigations as to what is contained in your favorite beverage, in order to avoid exposing your baby to dangerous substances that will do more harm than good.
So, what is the verdict on all this?
The verdict is that; According to the pediatrics association, breastfeeding mothers can consume some coffee because it is compatible with lactation, but they should try and avoid regular coffee completely. Decaf is completely acceptable.
As a mother, you should, however, put the safety of your child first, and if you realize that your baby is reacting to the caffeine even in the decaf coffee, you are advised to stop consuming it immediately, because, at the end of the day, you are the one to suffer with an irritable and uncomfortable child.
Many of our parents advised strongly against coffee intake during breastfeeding, and until recently, this was a big taboo for both breastfeeding and pregnant mothers, but, thanks to research and technology, we can now comfortably enjoy our delicious cup of coffee even while breastfeeding. Always remember however that moderation is key.
Please note that; In case your baby is sensitive to coffee when he is younger and necessitates you to stop taking caffeine altogether when breastfeeding, he may not be sensitive to it when he is a little older, so, you can try it again.