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What effect does the mother's consumption of caffeine have on the breastfeeding infant?

THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, page 225, states that the amount of caffeine in five or fewer five-ounce cups of coffee (less than 750 ml) will not cause a problem for most mothers and babies. (It might be helpful to measure the number of ounces in a typical coffee mug, as many are 8 to 12 ounces or more.) The BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, page 98, reminds mothers that when figuring caffeine intake, remember all sources of caffeine such as colas, some pain relievers, some cold medicines, and other medicines. Chocolate contains theobromine which can act like caffeine in both the mother's and baby's systems. A baby who is being over-stimulated with caffeine will be wide-eyed, active, alert and perhaps fussy.

In Breastfeeding: A Guide For the Medical Profession (fifth edition), by Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D. and Robert M. Lawrence, M.D., page 369, the authors write:

"Caffeine ingestion has been singled out for discussion because it is a frequent concern, but the data provided in most reviews are misleading. With a given dose of caffeine that is comparable to that in a cup of coffee, the level in the milk is low, (1% of level in mother) and the level in the infant's plasma is also low. However, caffeine does accumulate in the infant."

In addition, the authors note that "Smoking has been observed to augment the caffeine effect." This resource also cites other studies which indicate that a baby's ability to metabolize caffeine develops by three to four months of age.

If a mother suspects her baby is reacting to caffeine, she may try avoiding caffeine from all sources (coffee, tea, soft drinks, medications, chocolate) for two to three weeks. Mothers should keep in mind, however, that abruptly discontinuing all caffeine may result in headaches or other symptoms of withdrawal for the mother. If caffeine stimulation is the cause of the baby's sleeplessness, he should begin settling down to more normal sleeping patterns between a few days and two weeks after his mother eliminates caffeine from her diet.

If you think that your newborn may be effected by caffeine, you might enjoy the article "Newborns Who Confuse Day and Night."

While not an allergen, the effects of caffeine are mentioned in the FAQ about allergies.

Resources for Additional Information

These items may be available from the LLLI Online Store or through your local Leader.

THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, published by La Leche League International, is the most complete resource available for the breastfeeding mother. (Softcover, 465 pages.)

La Leche League International BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, 3rd Revised Edition, by Nancy Mohrbacher and Julie Stock is the LLLI popular resource book that includes up-to-date references, expanded information, and three new chapters. This publication is an indispensable resource for all who counsel breastfeeding mothers. (Hardcover, Spiral-bound, 680 pages

Our FAQs present information from La Leche League International on topics of interest to parents of breastfed children. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise. If you have a serious breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to a La Leche League Leader. Please consult health care professionals on any medical issue, as La Leche League Leaders are not medical practitioners.

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