Consuming Caffeine While Pregnant or Nursing: Here’s the Scoop

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Whether it’s pregnancy or postpartum, the health of a growing baby is every new mom’s first priority.

We tighten up our diets and sacrifice some of our favorite foods to minimize health risks to baby. And it leaves many of us wondering—do I have to give up coffee, too?

According to health experts at Mon Health Obstetrics and Gynecology, the answer is no—not entirely.

“Like most things during pregnancy or postpartum, moderation is key,” says Dr. Erica Arthurs, Mon Health OBGYN. “We certainly don’t recommend mothers indulge in an entire pot of coffee a day, but that doesn’t mean they can’t look forward to a small cup each morning.”

While research is mixed, most experts agree that moderate consumption of caffeine poses minimal risk. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, moderate caffeine consumption (defined as less than 200 mg per day) does not appear to be a major contributing factor in miscarriage or preterm birth. That means expecting and breastfeeding mothers can enjoy up to one 12 oz. cup of coffee or two 8 oz. cups of tea per day.

The dangers of too much caffeine

Research shows that during pregnancy, caffeine does cross the placenta and pass to the baby. In some studies, too much caffeine has been linked to infertility, miscarriage and birth defects.

And in the case for nursing mothers, caffeine also passes through breast milk. While mom’s metabolism can handle it, baby’s system is not mature enough for large amounts of caffeine.

That’s why it’s so important to stay within the recommended guidelines of no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day if you are a pregnant or nursing mother.

In order to stay under the 200 mg limit, Arthurs recommends women do research on how much caffeine is in their food or beverages before consuming them.

“This includes all caffeinated drinks like coffee, teas or sodas,” said Dr. Arthurs. “And don’t forget that some items like chocolate, ice creams and even certain migraine medications also contain caffeine—so those should be taken into account when calculating daily caffeine intake as well.”

Most chain restaurants/shops have nutrition information available online that will disclaim caffeine amounts, and you should be able to find caffeine content on the labels of prepackaged drinks.

Stay hydrated.

Dr. Arthurs says to follow up any caffeine consumption with plenty of water. Caffeinated beverages, like coffee, are diuretics that can lead to dehydration—which can be dangerous for a pregnant or nursing mother.

“Aim for at least 10 8oz. cups of water per day—and more if you’re breastfeeding,” says Dr. Arthurs.

Limit caffeine in some cases.

ACOG states that some babies are more sensitive to caffeine than others. If breastfeeding mothers notice any changes in baby’s behavior or body such as increased gas or fussiness after caffeine intake, she may want to consider eliminating it from her diet.

Additionally, newborns and preterm infants tend to be most sensitive to the effects of caffeine, so you may want to lessen or eliminate intake shortly after birth.

Caffeine alternatives to boost energy

Still wary about caffeine use while pregnant or nursing? Arthurs says there are plenty of natural ways to improve energy levels throughout the day, including:

  • Getting more rest at night
  • Taking naps
  • Exercising daily
  • Eating plenty of complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Enjoying time outdoors (but don’t forget the sunscreen!)

If you’re concerned about caffeine use while pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to discuss options with your healthcare provider.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Arthurs.