Dear Dr. Mo: Is green tea safe during breast-feeding?
Dear reader: While drinking green tea is generally considered safe and beneficial to health, due to its polyphenol content, it is important to note that it also contains 2 – 4% of caffeine, which could affect some people more than others.
What this means is that 2 cups of green tea provide about 200 mg of caffeine.
In some people caffeine can cause side effects that may range from mild to severe and include restlessness and nervousness, headache, sleep problems, irregular heartbeat, heartburn, tremor, dizziness, confusion and so on. These side effects in most people would be possible if too much green tea is taken each day – more than 5 cups – but even this is very individual and responses vary.
If other sources of caffeine are consumed as well (coffee, energy drinks, some sodas, weight loss supplements etc.) the effects compound and could aggravate the symptoms of caffeine overdose.
Alcohol consumption can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine and increase its presence in the blood, adding to its (side)effects.
If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, green tea in small amounts is likely safe.
For pregnant women, I would advise restraint and high moderation or even abstinence from green tea as it has been shown to reduce folate activity and iron absorption from the intestine. Still, a cup per day is likely to be safe.
As to your question, caffeine passes into breast milk and possibly affects the nursing baby. This may cause a baby to be wakeful and alert, which can in turn make the baby nervous and upset the sleeping pattern – a problem for both a child and parents. If you do drink green tea while breast-feeding, do so in moderation – up to two cups per day.
There is a trick to decaffeinate your green tea and you may wish to read about it in my post on the health benefits of green tea.
With or without green tea, breast-milk reflects your diet so keep it balanced and healthy. This way you will provide your baby with the best start.
Yours in health,