Women who are regular tea drinkers are often concerned about the effects of tea on their unborn and nursing children. As a source of caffeine, tea can cause problems for both the fetus and the newborn baby. Does this mean that new mothers have to give up drinking tea?
It may not be necessary to eliminate caffeine from the diet, but it is strongly advised to reduce caffeine intake during pregnancy. Studies have shown that caffeine passes through the placenta to the unborn child, and there is a possible link between caffeine intake and miscarriage.
It is certain that high levels of caffeine (four cups of strong tea a day or more) should be avoided during pregnancy, but an occasional cup of tea seems to be acceptable. When calculating total caffeine intake other sources of caffeine such as chocolate, soda, and over-the-counter medication must be taken into account.
Nursing mothers who drink tea are giving their babies a dose of caffeine. Caffeine passes from the blood stream into the breast milk with the highest concentrations of caffeine occurring about an hour after consumption. Mothers who drink tea are advised to 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 becoming more restless and unable to sleep as their caffeine levels increase.
High amounts of caffeine can make baby jittery, colicky, constipated and generally unsettled. High caffeine intake may also be associated with a poor milk supply and recurrent mastitis. It can also cause a reduction in the levels of iron, haemoglobin and haematocrit in breast milk.
A cup or two of tea a day is unlikely to affect your baby, but if you think that baby is affected by your caffeine intake you can try cutting it out for a week and observe the changes.
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 herbal teas like chamomile and motherwort are excellent for relieving stress.