How Much Coffee Can I Drink While Nursing?
Ever since becoming a mom, coffee has become a very important part of my life. VERY. The cumulative effects of sleep deprivation are just too real, and sometimes a cup of coffee feels like the only thing that is possibly going to get me through the day.
So, I have commandeered a cabinet shelf in our kitchen to house my caffeine supplies. This is my little shelf of joy. And I have even leveled up to buying primo locally roasted coffee beans and purchased an espresso machine. Yum!
Although I love my coffee and ideally would love to sip on it all day long, I have set some limits for myself. And this is because I am breastfeeding and caffeine can transfer to breastmilk. So when I started brewing myself a second cup of coffee everyday, I started to wonder, exactly how much coffee can I drink while nursing?
While Healthline notes that only a tiny 1% of caffeine transfers from mom to baby, some babies may be more sensitive to those small amounts of caffeine. Additionally, especially premature babies and young babies can not process caffeine very quickly, so it can build up in their systems.
Effects of Caffeine on Breastfeeding Babies
In good news, Medical News Today explains that drinking coffee while breastfeeding does not pose the same risks to a baby as drinking too much caffeine while pregnant.
So, while there is not the same concern of effects of caffeine on breastfeeding babies as babies in the womb, breastfeeding mommas may still notice some negative side effects of caffeine on their babies. Healthline states that excessive caffeine can make some babies fussy and disrupt their sleep patterns.
Exactly How Much Coffee Can I Drink Per Day While Nursing?
La Leche League International explains that breastfeeding moms can safely have 200-300 mg of caffeine daily. And that caffeine is greatest in a person’s system 1 to 2 hours after consumption. And ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommends no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day while breastfeeding.
Like La Leche League International, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) also recommends staying under 300 mg of caffeine/day while breastfeeding.
Interestingly though, another web page on breastfeeding from the CDC leaves one with a little different perspective on how much coffee is too much. They state, “Irritability, poor sleeping patterns, fussiness, and jitteriness have been reported in infants of mothers with very high intakes of caffeine, about 10 cups of coffee or more per day.”
10 cups?! That seems like an awful lot for a person whether they are breastfeeding or not. Medical News Today echoes this more lax perspective and states that even more than 300 mg of caffeine per day is “unlikely to harm a baby”.
I’ll continue to play it safe though and stick to my 200-300 mg of caffeine daily, but it does make me feel better about having my 2 cups of coffee knowing that the CDC is using 10 cups of coffee as a reference point for significant effects on baby.
Another point to consider is the timing of coffee consumption. La Leche League Canada notes that caffeine content is highest in breastmilk 1 to 2 hours after drinking it. So I like to try and drink my coffee either right before I breastfeed, while I’m breastfeeding or right after I breastfeed.
How Many Cups of Coffee is 200-300 mg of Caffeine?
Having some clear numbers in regards to a daily caffeine limit is great, but how exactly does 200-300 mg of caffeine translate to a cappuccino or a cup of drip coffee? After all a Venti Starbucks drip coffee is going to have a very different level of caffeine than a cappuccino with a double shot of espresso.
As it turns out, the answer to the question of caffeine content in coffee is really not all that clear. In fact, there is quite a wide range of answers depending on the source.
For example, the table below shows some numbers from different sources I found online regarding caffeine content in a double shot of espresso. As you can see, these numbers range from 58 mg to 150 mg. So can I safely have 3 cappuccinos a day or should I just stick to 1 while breastfeeding? While the difference may not be significant to many people, it can be important for a breastfeeding momma who wants to follow the guidelines.
The reason caffeine content is not always so clear is because the amount of caffeine in a cup depends on how coffee is brewed and the type of bean used.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters explains that batch brew coffee (like that from an automatic drip coffee maker) has the highest caffeine content, then pour over, and then espresso.
- Batch brew coffee has more caffeine than pour over or espresso because the brew time is longer.
As far as type of coffee beans and caffeine content is concerned, Super Coffee explains that there are “robusta” coffee beans and “arabica” coffee beans. You can use either in espresso drinks, but robusta coffee beans can have twice the amount of caffeine as arabica coffee beans. In good news for pregnant or breastfeeding ladies, Super Coffee states that coffee beans sold in the US are usually arabica beans.
I looked on the two different bags of coffee I have in my cupboard, and nowhere does it indicate whether they are robusta or arabica coffee beans. I find this odd given that robusta beans can have twice as much caffeine (even if most coffee beans sold in the US are arabica beans). It would be nice to look on a label and get some confirmation.
Luckily a quick google search of any given coffee bean company usually reveals what kind of beans they use and some general information regarding caffeine content.
For example, Stumptown Coffee Roasters explains that a double shot of espresso usually has less than 100 mg of caffeine. Meanwhile, an 8oz cup of batch brew has somewhere in the range of 120-180 mg of caffeine. And they explain that differences between different coffee bean roasts (with the exclusion of arabica vs robusta beans) are “minuscule”. Again, the caffeine content is determined mostly by the brewing method.
Enjoying my Coffee While Breastfeeding
In conclusion, I’ll be enjoying my cup or 2 of coffee everyday without worrying about ill effects on my nursing baby. There’s enough to worry about and deal with while breastfeeding (eg Nipple Pain, Milk Blebs, etc…), so I’m glad to at least check this one off my list!
And since there seems to be a lot of varying information regarding just how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee, knowing some general ranges is helpful. It also gives me some additional peace of mind to drink my coffee right before, during or right after breastfeeding. Even though our bodies do a pretty good job of metabolizing caffeine before it reaches breastmilk, caffeine is highest in the system 1-2 hours after drinking it.
I’m also keeping in mind that the caffeine content is largely determined by the brewing method. And the longer the brewing time, the more caffeine there is. So espresso, french press and pour over have less brew time and contact with hot water than drip coffee.
So there you go! I hope this is helpful and I’m wishing all the breastfeeding mommas continued strength and endurance on their breastfeeding journeys.