Caffeine During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

by on May 4, 2012


Pregnancy entails a lot of concerns. Pregnant women want to be extra careful when it comes to foods and substances that they take. Some chemicals found in food products are thought to affect the unborn child as well as childbirth.

Caffeine may be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, but it should be consumed in limited amounts. These women should never consume more than 200 mg of caffeine each day.  Serious side effects for pregnant women may include miscarriage if caffeine is consumed in large amounts. In nursing mothers, side effects may include irritability, difficulty sleeping and increased bowel movements in babies consuming caffeine through the breastmilk.

Is Caffeine Safe During Pregnancy?

Yes. Although the safety of caffeine during pregnancy still remains controversial within the medical community, in general, most healthcare providers agree that moderate intake of caffeine is safe. In 2010, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) announced that a cup of coffee each day (200 mg/day) is not expected to cause problems on the unborn child as well as the outcome of pregnancy. Findings of recent studies affirm the safety of caffeine for pregnant women. These studies failed to show an increased risk in pregnant women who consumed caffeine.

Although the results of these studies are reassuring, they do not give a “go signal” to heavy caffeine intake during pregnancy. Pregnancy can have a slowing effect on metabolism, which can possibly increase the risk of side effects or overdose due to excessive caffeine intake.

There are also earlier studies that link caffeine intake with increased risk of miscarriages, low birth weight and premature birth. In one of the studies, researchers have found that consuming more than 300 mg/day of caffeine can likely increase the risk of miscarriage. Because of these potential risks, heavy coffee drinkers are advised to cut down their daily caffeine consumption if they plan to become pregnant in the near future.

Take note that coffee is not the only source of caffeine in the diet. There are a lot of foods and beverages that contain caffeine. Be sure to read product labels to avoid going beyond the recommended dietary allowance for caffeine in pregnant women. As much as possible, choose foods and beverages that are caffeine-free.

Is Caffeine Safe For Breastfeeding Women?

Yes. When taken in moderate amounts, caffeine should be safe for breastfeeding women and should not affect the breastfed child. Studies show that a small amount (usually less than 1 percent) of caffeine is passed through the human breast milk. The peak amount of caffeine was noted after two hours of taking the caffeine.

Since newborns have immature metabolic system, exposure to caffeine through the breast milk can lead to accumulation in the body. However, at about 3 months, the infant can effectively process and excrete caffeine.

Many healthcare providers recommend that breastfeeding women should not consume more than 300 mg of caffeine per day (about 16 ounces of brewed coffee). This amount should not cause any changes in the breastfed child. However, consuming more than the recommended dietary allowance (more than two to three cups of coffee) can lead to side effects on the child such as irritability, jitteriness, or agitation. It can also lead to sleeping problems for the infant.

Take note, however, that every child is different and may react different to caffeine exposure. If you observe behavioral changes in your breastfeeding child when you consume caffeine, you should consider reducing or avoiding caffeine.