It’s that wonderful time of the year—the holiday season. And we live in San Diego, where Starbucks reminds us of the season change with their peppermint hot chocolate, pumpkin spice latte, and other delicious seasonal drinks.
As a nursing mom, I was warned about peppermint coffee or hot chocolate. “Peppermint might decrease your milk supply, and consuming too many caffeinated drinks can harm your baby.” said my lactation consultant.
To be clear, it is actually safe to have caffeine while breastfeeding as long as the mother doesn’t overdo it. When caffeine enters the mother’s bloodstream, a small amount of it, usually less than 1 percent, ends up in her breast milk. The caffeine amount in her milk peaks a couple of hours after she consumes it.
Since a newborn’s body can’t easily break down and get rid of the caffeine, it may accumulate in his system. At about three months, the baby will begin to process caffeine more efficiently, and over time it will become easier and easier for him to excrete it.
Experts say that a moderate amount of caffeine, which means no more than 300 milligrams per day, or the amount in about 16 ounces of brewed coffee, is fine for nursing moms, and should cause no changes in most babies’ behavior. Only if a mother is drinking more than two cups of coffee a day could it cause the baby to become fuzzy.
Personally I can certainly live without coffee or hot chocolate. But peppermint! I love peppermint. The peppermint candy after a big meal tames my stomach trouble, the peppermint tea at the end of a hard day eases my headache, and putting peppermint oil on the temples boosts my concentration at work. Not to mention it is holiday season, and I smell peppermint lattes and peppermint hot chocolate everywhere!
So I did a little bit research and found a great resource from Kellymom.com about herbs that can and lower milk production.
According the website, consuming large amounts of peppermint and some other herbs and natural remedies should be avoided while nursing because they have been known to decrease milk supply. The amounts of these herbs normally used in cooking are unlikely to be of concern; it’s mainly the larger amounts that might be used therapeutically that could pose a problem. However, some moms have noticed a decrease in supply after eating things like dressing with lots of sage, sage tea (often recommended when moms are weaning), lots of strong peppermint candies or menthol cough drops, or other foods or teas with large amounts of the particular herb. These herbs, including Black Walnut, Chickweed, Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), Lemon Balm Oregano, Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), Peppermint (Mentha piperita)/Menthol, Periwinkle Herb (Vinca minor), Sage (Salvia officinalis), Sorrel (Rumex acetosa), Spearmint, Thyme, and Yarrow, are sometimes used by nursing mothers to treat oversupply, or when weaning.
I did have some decaf peppermint lattes during the past few days, but haven’t noticed any decrease in milk supply fall. I guess it is okay as long as I’m not consuming “large” amounts of the herbs. But, still, I decided to take that piece of advice and stopped consuming all those herbs.
Yeah, I know, this is the season of candy canes, Christmas barks, menthol cough drops, and sage filled stuffing…and I’ve sacrificed all of these. This is one of those not so fun phases of breastfeeding.
But I also know that I’ve got only one precious first year with my little one. Next holiday season, I’m sure I’ll be drinking peppermint lattes, eating sage filled stuffing, and missing these days of breastfeeding.
TO-WEN TSENG 曾多聞