Is it safe to drink coffee while breastfeeding?
Yes, it is safe to drink coffee and other caffeinated beverages while breastfeeding. This question - and similar questions concerning alcohol, fish, fermented cheese, and certain medications - is common because during pregnancy your care provider likely recommended limiting your caffeine intake. This is because what you consume while pregnant passes directly over the placenta in your baby. With breastfeeding, your body has to metabolise what you consume first, and then get to producing breastmilk. In the simplest terms possible, breastmilk goes through more of a 'process' which ends up 'filtering' things more than how you nourish your baby while you're pregnant. What you consume while pregnant has a stronger effect on your baby than what you consume while breastfeeding.
How much coffee can you drink while breastfeeding?Before we answer this question it's important to understand that it's safe to consume most foods and beverages while breastfeeding, and that a small percentage of what you consume does indeed end up in your breastmilk. There are very few things that you have to outright restrict while breastfeeding because the amount that passes into the milk is such a small percentage. Here's what Kelly Mom has to says about a mother's diet while breastfeeding:
There are NO foods that you should avoid simply because you are breastfeeding. It is generally recommended that a nursing mother eat whatever she likes, whenever she likes, in the amounts that she likes and continue to do this unless baby has an obvious reaction to a particular food.
So how much coffee can you drink while breastfeeding? It's generally safe to drink 1-2 cups of coffee per day. No more than 1.5% of the caffeine you drink will end up in your breastmilk, and it peaks 1-2 hours after you consume it.
Some babies can be sensitive to caffeine. According to Kelly Mom, "Newborns have a much harder time metabolising caffeine than older infants. Preterm or ill infants might also have more problems with mom’s caffeine intake." One study shows that it can take over 4 days for a newborn baby to metabolise caffeine, however, by the time a baby is 6 months old it takes no more than 2.6 hours - which is even faster than it takes for an adult takes to metabolise it!
How long does caffeine stay in breastmilk?
If you think your baby might be sensitive to caffeine, when you drink it is an important thing to consider. When you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages, the caffeine content in your breastmilk - although small - is at its highest 1-2 hours after you drink. So, you should take care not to drink coffee too close to your baby's bedtime or nap times. A good rule of thumb is not to drink coffee later than 3pm - even if you're not a breastfeeding mama - because it can impact your ability to sleep.