Sleep Solutions

Does caffeine during or after pregnancy affect your baby’s sleep?

Does caffeine during or after pregnancy affect your baby’s sleep?

Results of a study of around 900 women in Brazil looks at the effect of caffeine on baby sleep.

My daughter is 7 this month. Predictably I am stunned at where that time has gone. I started thinking about how different pregnancy and childrearing was for my mum 30-40 years ago, which brought me to thinking about, actually, how different my pregnancies with my daughter, in 2005 and son in 2009 were.

In 2005 nuts were bad, caffeine was ok (not that I could consume it without being sick), soft eggs were out. In 2009nuts were suddenly good as they may prevent allergies, coffee was forbidden and eggs? I don’t know. To be honest I had become so conditioned during pregnancy number one that I struggled to drop the items that had been banned and were suddenly allowed but I did pick up the newest item on the forbidden list; caffeine. And boy did I miss it!

So is caffeine really the enemy? I mean, no one can say that it is GOOD for you, but in small doses is it really that bad during pregnancy? And does the odd cup of coffee whilst breastfeeding result in a baby that will keep you up partying all night?

Small studies over the years gave the mixed conclusions that had our healthcare providers swinging from one set of advice to another where caffeine is concerned. However, over the last couple of years there have been much bigger studies that showed caffeine in moderation (about 200mg or 1 -2 cups of coffee per day) didn’t pose a risk during pregnancy. So if you can hold it down there now appears to be no reason why you can’t have the odd latte whilst pregnant.

When I breastfed my children I never had caffeine before a feed, thinking that, like alcohol, it would go directly to the baby via my milk. But in actual fact no one has known whether caffeine intake while feeding affects a baby’s sleep, until this recent study by Dr Santos from Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil.

For the study, Dr Santos, questioned 885 mothers about their caffeine intake and baby’s sleep at the age of 3 months. 884 of the mums drank caffeine in some form during pregnancy, with 20% drinking over 300mg a day (2-4 cups of coffee) during pregnancy and 14% within 3 months of having their baby. Overall, researchers could find no link between the frequency of the baby’s waking and the mother’s caffeine intake.

14% of babies woke 3 or more times during the night, which was considered frequent but the study showed that the mums who consumed more caffeine were not more likely to wake than those who consumed little or no caffeine.

The study seems to show that limited caffeine intake of 200 mg or less (about 2 cups of instant coffee, 1 ½ of brewed coffee or 6 cups of tea) during pregnancy poses no risk to your baby, although there is not enough research to show the effects of heavy caffeine consumption on a baby’s development during pregnancy. As caffeine is a stimulant, heavy consumption will cause your baby’s heart rate to rise so it’s best to stick to moderate to low caffeine consumption during pregnancy, particularly the first months.

The study also concludes that drinking 300mg of caffeine or less whilst breastfeeding is fine, provided your baby is full-term and a good weight as premature babies are less able to metabolise the small caffeine residue that will be in your breast milk. Further studies indicate that very high caffeine intake (much higher than 300mg) can cause a baby to be jittery and fidgety and harder to settle (so stay away from the energy drinks!).

Although I tend to follow what the doctors, health visitors or midwives say to the letter, it is hard to completely believe in what I am doing or not doing for the benefit of my unborn child, simply because the rules tend to change slightly with each new bit of research. My philosophy in parenting tends to be ‘follow the rules because, if you don’t and something goes wrong, you’ll never forgive yourself’.

With this research in mind, I don’t know what I would do if I became pregnant with my third child. I would probably steer clear of high-caffeine coffeefor the higher risk first three months, and then have a cup or two a day.  And whilst breastfeeding I would probably do what I have always done; keep the less healthy, more indulgent aspects of my diet (that would be the cup of coffee and the glass of wine!) for after a feed, giving my body time to metabolise it before the next feed. If the baby seemed restless or uncomfortable when I consumed caffeine I would cut it out for a day or two to see if that helped, just as I cut out onions while feeding my son and strawberries while feeding my daughter.

And I will always be mindful of what millions of us say all over the world; “My Mum successfully reared 5 children in a time when people ate and drank what they wanted”. I reckon almost anything in moderation is fine. What do you think?