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Breast Feeding

Coffee and alcohol

09/08/2006

Question:

I have a four month old baby girl. I am breast feeding. I drink 3 cups of lavassa ground coffee each morning and then I breast feed. I drink 3/4 bottle of sparkling wine everyday.

Is this good. I notice after I breast feed her she tenses and stiffens up and groans and cries. What is the real cause of this.

Answer:

Both caffeine and alcohol cross over into breast milk and exert an effect on the infant's central nervous system.

Caffeine is a stimulant and metabolized more slowly by the infant than the adult, and may cause agitation, irritability and disturbed sleep. Peak levels in breast milk are at 1 to 2 hours after ingestion. The half life of caffeine in a 3-5 month-old is 14 hours. Chronic use may decrease the iron content of breast milk and result in accumulation in the infant with high plasma levels. Decreasing intake of caffeine gradually while continuing to breastfeed is advised. This approach should minimize withdrawal headaches in both mother and baby.

Alcohol is a depressant for adults, but may cause irritability in the infant. It enters freely into breast milk with a milk:plasma ratio of 1:1. Occasional use is without consequence as long as breastfeeding is postponed for 2 to 3 hours after ingestion. Daily or moderate intake can lead to infant irritability, sedation, deep sleep, week sucking, and psychomotor delay. In the mother it can cause decreased milk production and let down, altered milk taste, and milk odor. Chronic use is not recommended while breastfeeding.

For more information:

Go to the Breast Feeding health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jeanne L Ballard, MD, FAAP, FABM Jeanne L Ballard, MD, FAAP, FABM
Professor Emeritus, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati