Perking Up Without Harming Your Baby
You can handle middle-of-the-night screaming fits, leaking breasts and the occasional bite, but if you're also going to be expected to do your job and function in the world, you're going to need coffee. Good news, caffeine lovers: drinking coffee is generally safe for breastfeeding moms. You can't guzzle it all day, but you can get a quick fix throughout the day without a problem.
Is My Coffee Consumption Safe for My Baby?
In a word, yes. Only about one percent of the caffeine you ingest makes its way into your breast milk, so drinking a cup or two over the course of the day means your breastfeeding baby is exposed to just a tiny amount of caffeine.
If your baby has any reaction to caffeine, it will probably look a lot like your own reaction to a good cup of coffee. You may notice that she's more alert than normal or seems unusually fussy or irritable after a feeding.
To minimize any effect on your baby, drink your coffee right after nursing so your caffeine level has a chance to drop off before the next session. Don't drink coffee at all before nighttime feedings. The last thing you want to do is make your baby more alert in the evenings. If you're making enough milk to pump and store, avoid coffee before pumping and give your baby these caffeine-free servings on days when you desperately need to pound the espresso.
Some babies have stronger reactions to caffeine than others, so discontinue coffee if your baby seems uncomfortable after nursing. And if your baby has any medical issues, talk to your pediatrician before drinking coffee. For instance, avoiding coffee is probably best if you're breastfeeding a months-old preemie or a baby whose system is extra vulnerable for any reason.
How Much Can I Drink?
Unless your baby is a newborn, you should be able to drink around three cups of caffeinated drinks per day without noticing any significant effect on your baby. Remember, a cup is 8 ounces—so that 16-ounce grande from Starbucks counts as two cups. If you can't function without a steady stream of coffee all day, cut your regular brew with decaf to minimize your caffeine intake without breaking your routine. Decaf contains such a small amount of caffeine that even drinking a pot of it probably won't bother your baby.
The smaller your baby, the less caffeine you should consume. Newborns are more sensitive to it than older babies. By the time your infant is 10 or 12 months old, you may be able to drink 4 cups or more of coffee per day without it bothering him.
The same recommendations apply to all sources of caffeine. If you drink multiple cups of caffeinated coffee each day, don't add caffeinated soda and black tea.