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Tea and Breastfeeding

Tea is growing in popularity every year. Part of its appeal is its many health benefits, but despite being a healthy beverage it is still a source of caffeine. Compared to coffee, however, the chemical makeup of tea is quite different and many people find it easier to tolerate.

Nevertheless anyone who is sensitive to caffeine should limit their tea intake. This applies especially to pregnant women and nursing mothers because excess amounts of caffeine may harm or irritate their babies.

Caffeine tolerance varies widely but most doctors advise pregnant women to cut back on caffeine. Studies have shown that caffeine passes through the placenta to the unborn child, and there is a possible link between high caffeine intake and miscarriage.

It is certain that high levels of caffeine (three cups of coffee a day or more) should be avoided during pregnancy, but an occasional cup of tea seems to be acceptable. Just be sure to avoid other sources of caffeine such as chocolate, soda, and over-the-counter medication.

After Birth

Nursing mothers who drink tea are giving their babies a dose of caffeine. The highest concentrations of caffeine in breast milk occur about an hour after consumption, so mothers who drink tea should wait until after baby has been fed.

Babies who have been exposed to caffeine during pregnancy appear to tolerate it better, but excess caffeine can make babies restless and irritable. Caffeine is metabolized much more slowly by babies than adults so mothers who drink a lot of tea may find their babies getting more restless as their caffeine levels increase.

Should the nursing mother eliminate tea? It's a personal choice, but it's wise to reduce caffeine intake until your baby is about 6 months.

Herbal Tea

Nursing mothers who are looking for a substitute for their regular tea may find that herbal tea fits the bill. Unlike green tea or black tea, most herbal tea is caffeine-free. It is safe to consume and may even help with milk production. Herbs such as nettle and thistle have traditionally been used to increase breast milk, and herbs like chamomile and motherwort are excellent for relieving stress.

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