Around Mother’s Day, here at Mais Saúde our thoughts turn even more to caring for women’s health needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding. One piece of common advice given to pregnant and lactating women is to reduce the consumption of coffee to avoid insomnia in their infants. However, a recent study at the Federal University of Pelotas in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, showed that caffeine consumption during pregnancy and breastfeeding does not affect the sleep of babies.
The research, coordinated by Dr. Iná da Silva dos Santos, and published in the journal Pediatrics, studied babies born during 2004 in Pelotas, Brazil. The researchers interviewed the mothers of 4231 babies delivered in local hospitals regarding their beverage consumption, including those containing caffeine (like coffee, cola and mate) during each of the three trimesters of pregnancy. The researchers succeeded in contacting 885 of the mothers when their babies were three months old, and asked about the behavior of their infants. In order to measure the babies’ sleep quality, the mothers reported the number of times that their children woke up (and woke the parents up) during the night in the 15 days preceding the interview. The study found no significant relationship between caffeine consumption and reports of sleep problems in the infants. Further, consumption of caffeine, in small up to even larger amounts, did not seem to be tied to more episodes of crying or colic.
In the study design the researchers considered the biological, behavioral, and socioeconomic status of the mothers to make sure that the caffeine-consuming mothers homes’ did not have a significantly different sleeping environment than the non-caffeine users. They also controlled for any difference in maternal age, race, education, family income, number of previous deliveries, alcohol consumption, and gender of the baby.
Beyond the conclusion that maternal caffeine consumption does not seem to affect babies’ sleep, scientists believe that a safe amount of caffeine consumption for pregnant women is 200 mg of caffeine daily – about 1 ½ cups of coffee. In 2010, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement that daily intake of caffeine, in moderation, does not increase the chances of miscarriage or premature birth. It is important however to remember that this is true for normal, healthy pregnancies and births, as premature babies, for example, may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine consumed by breastfeeding mothers. Furthermore, the Academy emphasizes the importance of a balanced diet and physical exercise, along with appropriate pre- and post-natal care to minimize risks. Clearly other habits, such as smoking, are prohibited during pregnancy to help assure a healthy birth and baby.
Before making any significant change in your diet during pregnancy, or for any questions regarding your pregnancy diet, consult your obstetrician. See these other related articles in Mais Saúde (in Portuguese): * Maternal nutrition and children’s development * Conditions affecting childhood obesity