Babies who are breastfed receive nutrients from their mother's milk. Sometimes, things included in the mother’s diet can be passed on to the baby. Such is the case with caffeine, which can lead to constipation in your baby. Caffeine is contained in many sodas, coffees, chocolates and teas.
Normal bowel movements in infants younger than 3 months of age often cause them to grunt, strain and turn red in the face. This can be confused with constipation. If your baby is becoming constipated, instead you may notice that your baby is passing firm stools, or less than one stool per day for a period of about two weeks. Breastfed babies normally pass almost three stools per day.
Caffeine taken in by the mother reaches its highest levels in the blood one to two hours after consumption and is transferred quickly to breast milk. The total level of caffeine secreted in breast milk is between 0.06 and 1.5 percent of the caffeine in the mother’s blood. When this caffeine is ingested by the newborn, the liver is still immature and is unable to break caffeine down for adequate digestion. As a result, it can stay in the baby’s system for up to 100 hours and affect the rate of bowel movements.
Treating the Problem
Avoidance of caffeine before breastfeeding or pumping breast milk is optimal. To address the constipation your baby may have as a result of caffeine in your diet, consider adding apple, prune or pear juice to your baby’s diet. Talk to your baby's doctor about a glycerin suppository if adding juice has no effect.
Asking for Help
If your breastfed baby is constipated and decreasing the amount and altering the times of feeding or pumping breast milk don't help, see your baby’s doctor for an examination and possibly for simple tests, such as an abdominal x-ray.
- "Biopharm Drug Dispos."; Pharmacokinetics of Caffeine in Breast Milk and Plasma after Single Oral Administration of Caffeine to Lactating Mother; Stavchansky S, et al.; May 1988
- "Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition"; The Constipation Guideline Committee...; North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition; September 2006