We hear lots of stories about caffeine – some positive but many negative. So what’s the story with caffeine and  enjoying tea or coffee when you are pregnant or breastfeeding?

Well caffeine is a chemical which occurs naturally in several plant foods. High amounts are found in tea leaves, coffee, cocoa beans and cola nuts. So it is found in foods and drinks made from these plants – the levels of caffeine varies greatly from one product to the next.

If you are pregnant you should take no more than 200mg of caffeine per day

It can improve alertness and energy levels (which you might feel you need with a new baby in the house) but too much can cause heart flutters or palpitations and may pass through the breastmilk and stimulate your baby.  The latest guidance states that if you are pregnant you should take no more than 200mg of caffeine per day and if breastfeeding you should continue to limit your consumption, as it may have a stimulating effect on you but also on your baby through your breastmilk. However, some studies reckon that only a tiny amount of the caffeine you drink ends up in your breastmilk (about 1%).

What are the main sources of caffeine?

The main sources are coffee, tea, cocoa, colas (and some other soft drinks), stimulant or energy drinks. Smaller amounts are found in chocolate and chocolate flavoured desserts. Certain tablets also contain caffeine (some cold and flu tablets, pain relief tablets anti-histamines) so always let the doctor or pharmacist know you are breastfeeding. Energy boosting supplements, sports drinks and weight loss aids can also contain quite large amounts of caffeine so avoid these while pregnant or breastfeeding.

How much is 200mg of caffeine?

caffeine and breastfeeding

  • Tea contains 44mg of caffeine per 200ml cup (range between 40-120mg depending on strength and size)
  • Instant coffee contains 78mg of caffeine per 200ml cup (range between 27-173mg)
  • Freshly brewed coffee contains 111mg per 200ml cup (range between 102-200mg)
  • Decaffeinated coffee contains 4mg of caffeine per 200ml cup (range between 3-12mg)
  • A 30ml shot of Espresso shot contains 40mg of caffeine (range between 30-90mg)
  • A 500ml bottle of a Cola drink contains 29mg-32mg
  • Hot cocoa contains 8mg per 200ml cup
  • A 45g bar of milk chocolate contains 11mg, whereas dark chocolate contains 31mg per bar

The exact amount of caffeine will vary according to cup size, brewing methods and brand of tea or coffee.

A few cups of tea or coffee each day will probably not cause you or your baby any problems.  However, if you suspect your baby is reacting to caffeine, you could try avoiding caffeine from all sources (coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) for two to three weeks. But remember, however, that stopping all caffeine may result in headaches or other symptoms for you.  If over stimulation from the caffeine is causing your baby’s sleeplessness, you should see a more normal sleeping pattern within two weeks of dropping the caffeine.

Now that you’re up to speed on Caffeine why not read our article 10 foods to avoid when you’re pregnant. If you would like some more ideas why not contact our Careline.