Could caffeine be causing night waking?

Can you discuss your thoughts on caffeine intake in breastfeeding moms as it relates to baby sleep? I have a 5 month old who is still up to nurse several times a night and I’m exhausted all the time so I’ve been very much enjoying my morning cup of coffee…and sometimes an afternoon cup as well. I’m wondering if this is limiting my son’s ability to do a long stretch at night. he naps fine during the day but hasn’t done more than 4 hours in a row at night in a long while. some nights his long stretch is only 3 hours. I’m not excited about the idea of giving up my coffee but at this point I’m willing to try just about anything to get some consecutive hours of sleep…

I really wish there was more good data on this. Caffeine does pass through breastmilk, but the actual effect on infants is not well studied. Caffeine has a 6-10 hour half life, which means it takes that long to clear your system. I would definitely limit your consumption to morning and early afternoon if you can in order to avoid the potential for caffeine causing a problem at night. I was very worried about this issue with my kids, because I definitely enjoy coffee and tea. I adopted the practice of pumping if I had a particularly caffeinated day and then marking my stored breastmilk with a “C” if I’d had a lot of caffeine that day. I would offer my babies a bottle of non-caffeinated milk that evening and then I’d save the caffeinated stuff for a bottle right after a nap. This may have been overly-cautious, but it definitely made me feel more comfortable with my personal caffeine choices.

All that said, your son’s pattern sounds totally consistent with the post-four month regression pattern of a baby with a sleep association and not something unusual that might be attributed directly to caffeine. You might want to consider working to teach him other ways to fall asleep, so that he isn’t solely dependent on nursing as his only way to fall asleep. Check out our other posts on sleep cycles to see why only having one way to fall asleep can be a problem. Good luck!


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