I’m guilty of going out for a coffee just to get myself and the kids out of the house! Can you relate? Especially after a long night with minimal sleep. We have such a strong culture around coffee that many mothers don’t question the impact it might have on their babies. The problem with reaching for that cup of coffee after a sleepless night is that it may perpetuate the problem.
Caffeine and babies
The average half life of caffeine in an adult is somewhere between 7-8 hours. This means that one coffee a day will wear off pretty quick in your system. However, the average half life of caffeine in a baby is anywhere from 72-144 hours! Basically, it can take your baby 3 days of more to break down 50% of one caffeine hit.
There are some things to consider here. It’s likely that if you breastfeed your baby after a coffee, they are not going to receive a caffeine dose as large as yours. Our bodies filter our milk, but they cannot completely remove caffeine. However, if you look at their small dose, and compare it to the size of their small body (and immature detox systems), that tiny bit of caffeine can suddenly seem big again. It’s all relative! Their immature detox systems is why it takes them so long to break down caffeine in the first place.
Finally, imagine you’re having a coffee every day. And that it takes your baby 3 days to break down one coffee. So your baby is being exposed to more caffeine before they have gotten rid of the previous day’s dose, leading to an accumulation of caffeine in their system. If you’ve ever had one of those days where you’ve had too much caffeine and you feel wired, you can begin to understand how your baby might be feeling, and why they aren’t sleeping properly.
What can you do?
Caffeine does not appear to be an issue for all babies and their sleep patterns. However, if you have a sensitive baby who isn’t sleeping, a trial without caffeine might help your baby create some regular sleeping patterns.
Signs your baby might be affected by caffeine include taking a long time to settle, needing a large amount of cuddling/rocking/comfort to settle to sleep, waking up at the slightest movement or noise, waking up the moment they are put down in their cot, and having short sleeps of anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes.
Try switching to a hot chocolate (using cacao). It will give your system a nice little energy boost, and is less likely to upset your baby. If you do however notice your baby is unsettled with cacao, try switching to a nice herbal tea.
When doing a caffeine-free trial, it’s important to remember just how long it might take your baby to remove caffeine from their system. You may see an improvement in sleep after a 2 week trial (often not before).