We’re talking caffeine, mamas
You’ve just found out that you’re pregnant, and everyone’s telling you something different about caffeine. Drink it, don’t drink it! Here’s the truth about your morning cup of Joe.
Caffeine during pregnancy
When you’re pregnant you don’t have to stop drinking caffeine, but you will need to decrease the amount you drink. 200mg of caffeine is all you are allowed when pregnant, which means that you can have 2 cups of instant coffee or 3 cups of tea. If you are drinking the “real deal” then that will lower your intake to 1 cup.
If you regularly drink large amounts of caffeine, you increase your risk of having a low birth weight baby. Caffeine also crosses the placenta, and will affect your baby’s heart rate and metabolic rate in the same way that it affects you.
Often in pregnancy, mothers switch to decaffeinated coffee. But be careful! The methods of decaffeination involve the use of harsh chemicals. Only ‘The Swiss Water Method’ is safe – often used in organic products. Also, remember that decaffeinated coffee is not completely caffeine free.
Caffeine while breastfeeding
Caffeine is safe whilst breastfeeding but in moderation. There’s some evidence to suggest that chronic coffee drinking may decrease the iron content in breast milk. Irritability and sleeplessness in babies may also occur if you are drinking large amounts.
The peak levels of caffeine in breast milk are found 60-120 minutes post ingestion, so if you are concerned enjoy your caffeinated drink immediately following a feed so that by your next feed your levels will be lower.
What about energy and carbonated drinks? The sugar content should be reason enough to avoid them, but if not remember they do contain caffeine which will be adding to your daily intake. Energy drinks also contain taurine and guarana, which increase the effect the caffeine.
Can my child have caffeine?
Simply put, no. Caffeine is a stimulant, and will affect your child in the same way it affects you – increased heart rate and blood pressure, change in body temperature and gastric juice secretion.
It can also affect growth in children, as caffeine suppresses the appetite, and stunt height growth in early adolescence, as caffeine interferes with calcium absorption. Caffeinated drinks can start to replace food, as children get full from the drink and refuse food at meal times, which will affect your child’s growth.
If your child is drinking caffeine, they shouldn’t have more than 100mg/day.
Typical caffeine content (will vary):
- Instant coffee = 100mg
- Filter coffee = 140mg
- Black tea = 75mg
- Green tea = 50mg
- Coke or Coke Zero = 96mg
- Energy drinks = 80mg
- Hot chocolate = 10-70mg
- Chocolate bar = 43mg per 100g dark chocolate / 20mg per 100g milk chocolate
If you are having caffeinated drinks, remember it is a stimulant and often associated with higher sugar intakes, so use sparingly.