Breastfeeding moms rejoice: drinking coffee isn’t going to mess up your baby’s sleep

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Go ahead and have that cup -- you're probably going to need it. © Photo by dyobmit, used under Creative Commons license.

I remember spending HOURS Googling many variations of “If I drink coffee will my breastfed baby be hopped up on caffeinie?” when my son was an infant. I’m not even exaggerating — hours and hours and hours. I was worried that my son would turn into a coffee-addicted person before his time (because face it: in our family, it’s bound to happen) and convinced that his less-than-stellar sleeping skills were because I drank coffee 8 hours before I nursed him. So it would have been totally RAD if NPR had published Caffeine Might Keep Moms Awake, But Not Their Babies three years ago… but here it is for some of you who need it:

“When we planned the study, we worked with the hypothesis of association between heavy maternal consumption of caffeine and higher infant awakenings at night,” Marlos Rodrigues Domingues, a researcher at Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Pelotas and co-author of the study, tells Shots in an email.

It’s not clear why the infants’ sleep wasn’t affected. The babies might have developed a tolerance to caffeine while in the womb, Rodrigues says. But other studies have found no caffeine metabolites in the urine of babies whose mothers drink coffee, suggesting that the babies don’t absorb caffeine the way older children and adults do. The results were published in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers tracked 885 babies born in 2004. All but one of the mothers consumed caffeine, either in coffee or in the herbal drink mate, which is popular in South America. And 20 percent of those women drank a lot of coffee — more than 300 mg a day of caffeine, or about six espressos.

About 14 percent of the babies awoke more than three times a night, and 41 percent woke up at least once a night. Caffeine or no, it seems likely that babies will wake up when they want to. “Night waking is common throughout the first year of life,” Rodrigues says.

So moms, drink that coffee if it helps, because it doesn’t seem to be harming the baby at naptime.

Don’t you want to high five the hell out of these researchers… over a cup of coffee? Granted, you probably should still chat with your doctor and/or your kid’s pediatrician if you have concerns, but in the meantime you can read the rest here!

Comments on Breastfeeding moms rejoice: drinking coffee isn’t going to mess up your baby’s sleep

  1. has anyone experimented on themsleves and baby to see if it’s true for you? our sleep is so all over the place i could never tell if caffine made any difference or not. god i hope this is true!!!!

    • I experimented because my baby has a lot of sleep issues, so I gave up caffeine for a month (longest month of my life!). It didn’t seem to make a difference at all, so back onto the coffee I go! Honestly, forcing myself to not have caffeine made me cranky, which made sleep problems so much harder to deal with. So as far as I’m concerned, if having a latte makes it easier for me to cope, then I’m all for it.

  2. Based on my education (Molecular and Cellular Biology) I’d have told ya all this. Caffeine is metabolized too quickly to wind up in breast milk. (of course I have no actual data on this, just science of metabolism and logic skills at work there.)

  3. This calms one of my fears…. But what about caffeine affecting breast milk production? I’ll read the article, but I don’t think the researchers were looking at that.

    • I don’t know any research on this, but I do know that breast milk production can be affected by dehydration, and caffeine can make you dehydrated. I would think (and based on my own experience) that as long as you get enough water to stay hydrated it’d be fine.

      • Based on personal experience I agree with this. My milk production goes down when I drink coffee INSTEAD of water. If I’ve got a big glass of water next to me all the time and drink as much of that as I drink coffee, I’m fine.

    • I’ve had no issues with breast milk supply, a baby who at three months sleeps from 9 pm to 7 am most nights and I’ve been drinking 1-2 cups of coffee and maybe 4 cups of tea a day since she was a week or so old.
      I was worried for a start so tried testing – 2 days no caffiene vs 2 days my regular caffiene consumption – and found no difference in my daughters sleeping, feeding, or general crankiness.

  4. I am a first time mom (of a 3 month old) and full time graduate student… I gave up coffee entirely during my pregnancy for fear of miscarriage (my sole caffeine source for 9 months was a small daily ration of dark chocolate). After my son was born, I was exhausted (as all new moms are!) and trying to stay afloat with my classes, so I began experimenting with my old friend coffee (again, only drinking one small cup immediately after my son would eat -so it had a couple of hours to work through my system before the next feeding). I was so careful because I was so scared that my baby would get all irritable or never sleep again -like the parenting books say. Then, we went to his 1 month check up and the doctor said I was very well-behaved because apparently she drank a pot of coffee a day while breastfeeding her 3 children and it never effected any of them. Later, I was talking with my mom about my concerns, and again, she was never told you couldn’t drink coffee and breastfeed -in fact, that’s how she survived having two children within 18 months of each other! So, now I am happily drinking 1-2 strong cups a day and we are successfully navigating newparenthood and grad school (which is thankfully starting to wind down for the semester!).

  5. Oh Coffee! It’s my special friend… I cut back when I was pregnant, but after my son was born I drank it more often. Eventually I realized that it wasn’t affecting his sleep, and went back to my over-consumption. I suppose it might have an effect on the flavor of the milk, but so does everything else.

  6. On a related note: I’m expecting my first child and have had one friend, over and over, warn me that eating “gassy” foods like broccoli and onions while breastfeeding will lead to a colicky baby. I’ve read conflicting evidence about this and was wondering if anyone could shed some light on their experiences? Do/did any of you notice a difference in your baby depending on the food you ate?

    • Gassy vegetables are gassy because of the their carbohydrates breaking down in the intestines. Since the baby isn’t getting the carbs, it shouldn’t have any effect at all on baby’s gut. There are proteins such as cows milk protein that are passed through the breast milk which can cause stomach problems for sensitive or allergic babies.

    • I think it’s an individual thing. I found broccoli and brussel sprouts made my son gassy, but not onions, pork, or other things people ‘warned’ me about. I just looked for patterns and cut foods out as needed.

      • Totally individual. My 4 month old gets fussy when I eat lots of garlic, but is fine with broccoli. Which I’m actually kind of bummed about–that would have been the best excuse to not eat broccoli ever. 😉

      • re: SevesteenSame article. The guy benihd WaterJoe used to be a floor trader at Chicago Board of Trade and the rule on the floor restrict the thing you can bring there (coffee and soda are out. But as far as I can tell, they’re mostly worry about stain). So he had a friend of his cooked up this caffeinated water without after tatste.

  7. I drank no coffee at all during my pregnancy (mostly as penance for not realizing I was preggers until I was 6 weeks along, during which I did shots at a concert & drank beer & smoked pot on a camping trip), and when I asked my son’s pediatrician about coffee and alcohol just after he was born, she gave me a pretty unequivocal “no biggie.” I love my coffee at the beginning of the day & beer at the end — and my kiddo seems none worse for the wear.

  8. Through experiments on myself and my kiddo, I was not able to notice any effects of caffeine on my then-nursling. But I’ve known several breastfeeding moms who felt certain there was an effect. And these are skeptical, intelligent, less overbearing than me, type of mommas, so it makes me wonder. Also, different people metabolize the same substance differently. It’s well known that drugs don’t have the same effect on all people, so I wonder how that factored into the study.

  9. This is the entry on the drug and lactation database which agrees with the study cited above, that moderate caffeine intake has no effect on infant sleep.
    There is evidence though that very high caffeine intake can cause problems for infants, particularly premature and very young babies, and also that caffeine reduces the iron content of breastmilk and contributes to infant anaemia. A few caffeinated drinks and the odd alcoholic beverage are unlikely to do any harm at all, but remember to check all the info out there before you start drinking 8 espressos a day! There is more to the health effects of caffeine than just sleep problems.

  10. Didn’t need a specific study to tell me, haha. The body filters most non-food substances out of breast milk, so yes, it’s okay to drink aspirin and yes, it’s okay to take anti-depressants.

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