Energy Drinks and Breastfeeding: Are They Safe to Drink?
The first year of motherhood is a magical time but also an exhausting one. Many new moms consider drinking energy drinks for a quick pick-me-up, but what if you’re breastfeeding?
This complete guide to energy drinks and breastfeeding includes all the info you need to keep your baby safe and healthy.
Is It Safe to Take Energy Drinks While Breastfeeding?
Yes, energy drinks are safe to consume while breastfeeding, as long as you drink them moderately and pay attention to timing issues.
As a new mom, you want to watch all the food or drink you consume, as vitamins, nutrients, and other elements can potentially pass on to your baby when breastfeeding. When drinking an energy drink, the most significant potential issue is typically its caffeine content.
About one percent of the total caffeine you consume is passed to your baby via breast milk. Although it’s a relatively small amount, it can still affect your baby, as their bodies don’t absorb it as quickly as adults.
Caffeine stays in the system of an average adult for about three to seven hours. However, newborn infants take anywhere from 65 to 130 hours to eliminate caffeine because their kidneys and liver aren’t fully developed.
Waiting three hours after consuming a caffeinated drink is typically safe. However, the absolute best time to drink a caffeinated beverage is immediately after breastfeeding because it may be out of your system completely before the next feeding.
Breastfeeding and Energy Drinks Common Ingredients
While caffeine plays an outsized role, it’s important to consider every ingredient when looking at how energy drinks affect breast milk. Here’s a breakdown of key ingredients found in energy drinks, plus how each one affects both adults and newborns.
Not every energy drink contains all of the ingredients listed below. Instead, they’re commonly found in a wide range of popular brands.
Caffeine is typically the most plentiful ingredient in any energy drink. It provides the main source of energy, with the other ingredients typically used as additional boosters.
For healthy adults, caffeine is safe in mild to moderate amounts. The FDA recommends consuming no more than 400mg of caffeine daily. Symptoms of excessive caffeine consumption include increased heart rate, insomnia, a jittery feeling, stomach upset, and anxiety.
(Note that 400mg is the recommended maximum. Many doctors and health professionals suggest sticking closer to 300mg to minimize potential negative side effects.)
Caffeine levels in energy drinks vary from similar to one or two cups of coffee to amounts that push right up against the recommended daily allowance. Here’s a look at the amount of caffeine in popular brands:
- 5-Hour Energy Decaf – 6 mg
- Rockstar Double Strength – 80 mg
- Monster Energy Drink – 92 mg
- Stacker 2 – 149 mg
- Starbucks Doubleshot – 162 mg
- 5-Hour Energy – 215
- NOS – 224
- Rockstar Energy Shot – 229
- 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength - 242
If you’re a breastfeeding mom who wants an energy drink, the safest options are the more moderate brands with caffeine levels below 100 mg. You’ll want to stay away from extra strength options, as well as any “shot” variation, which usually contains the highest caffeine levels.
Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid found throughout the brain, heart, retina, and platelets. It supports healthy heart function and nerve growth while also helping calm the nervous system.
Interestingly, not much research exists regarding taurine’s ability to boost energy levels. A few studies show a potential correlation, but more evidence is needed before anyone can draw a solid conclusion.
Most adults manufacture taurine naturally. If not, they’ll need to get taurine from their diet (meat, fish, and eggs) or supplements. Infants can’t manufacture their own taurine, getting it instead from breast milk. It’s also added to infant formula.
When pregnant, you should avoid taurine supplements. However, the low levels of taurine found in most energy drinks are typically considered safe, although they don't provide any prenatal benefits.
Many energy drinks have a fairly substantial amount of sugar, which is often the second or third most prominent energy source in the product. Of course, excessive sugar consumption isn’t good for anyone. However, pregnant and nursing women face a unique risk, as recent research suggests high sugar consumption by the mom during pregnancy and shortly after can lower the child’s cognitive skills.
Fortunately, many top energy drink brands offer sugar-free versions. Most sugar-free options use artificial sweeteners. Fortunately, most common artificial sweeteners are considered safe to consume during pregnancy, including:
Most pregnant women are better off sticking to sugar-free energy drinks, as artificial sweeteners’ potential side effects are reasonably uncommon, but drinking large amounts of sugar should be avoided.
Ginseng is a plant root used in a variety of supplements. In energy drinks, it promotes the idea of improved concentration and reaction time. While more research is needed, many health experts believe ginseng is at least somewhat effective.
Ginseng doesn’t have any specific benefits touted for lactation. Possible side effects include headaches, rashes, and diarrhea. While the FDA generally considers ginseng safe, there’s also no particular reason to add it to your diet while breastfeeding. It’s best to avoid energy drinks that contain high amounts.
Guarana is a plant found throughout the Amazon basin and Brazil. Its reported medical benefits make it a popular ingredient in a wide variety of supplements and consumables. Many users say it helps improve mental clarity, energy levels, and athletic performance (but medical studies are needed to substantiate these claims).
Guarana contains caffeine, but only a small amount, similar to the levels found in foods such as chocolate. Generally, consuming Guarana isn't considered harmful when breastfeeding, but it doesn't have any proven benefits, either. Don't choose any energy drinks that contain excessive quantities of this ingredient, just to stay safe.
Many energy drinks contain a wide variety of B vitamins. They have various benefits:
- B2 (Riboflavin) – Helps maintain energy storage in the body while also converting carbohydrates into energy
- B3 (Niacin) – It’s an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. It also helps repair DNA.
- B12 – Helps maintain healthy blood and nerve cells
Generally, the B vitamins in an energy drink don’t pose any particular risks or benefits while breastfeeding. Of course, you’ll always want to check with your doctor first, especially if you’re already taking preterm B vitamins.
Creatine is a dietary supplement commonly associated with bodybuilding and athletics. It helps boost muscle mass and can increase energy levels and performance. Generally, creatine is sold as a supplement, but it’s also found naturally in human milk.
No significant research exists regarding the effects of additional creatine intake during breastfeeding. Some researchers theorize it could help with creatine deficiency syndrome, but most health professionals advise against taking creatine supplements during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Not all energy drink brands contain creatine, so if you have a choice, go with a creatine-free option. However, the small amounts of creatine found in an energy drink are unlikely to affect breast milk significantly, as long as you limit your energy drink consumption to one a day.
Key Takeaways about Energy Drinks and Breastfeeding
You don’t have to completely give up energy drinks while breastfeeding. However, you’ll need to pay attention to the amount and frequency you drink them. While small amounts of caffeine are unlikely to cause long-term harm to your baby, it can still result in fussiness, insomnia, and other temporary discomforts.
Four hundred milligrams of caffeine is the FDA’s recommended limit, and 300 mg is the limit many medical professionals suggest for healthy adults, but as a breastfeeding mother, you’ll likely want to go even lower. Choose energy drinks with low to moderate levels of caffeine, ideally under 100 mg, instead of the super-shot brands with 200 mg and more.
Also, pay attention to when you drink caffeine while breastfeeding. Caffeine metabolizes fairly quickly in most adults, so you’re typically okay to breastfeed three hours after consuming a caffeinated drink. Keep in mind infants process caffeine slowly, so you’re better off drinking caffeine just once or twice a day instead of continually.
Consider the age of the child. Starting around four to five months of age, babies typically begin to tolerate caffeine better. Your own caffeine sensitivities can also play a role in how your little one reacts.
Finally, always consult with your doctor about how your diet will affect your baby, and don’t be shy about mentioning energy drinks specifically. He or she will provide the best information on how energy drinks could affect any health conditions you or your baby may have.
FAQs about Energy Drinks While Nursing
Here are quick answers to common questions about drinking energy drinks while breastfeeding.
Can You Drink Red Bull While Breastfeeding?
Yes, but you want to wait at least three hours after drinking it before breastfeeding. An 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains 80 mg of caffeine, which puts it on the low end compared to many other popular energy drinks.
The best option may be to only drink one Red Bull each day. While guidelines allow you to drink more than 80 mg of caffeine daily, caffeine does stay in an infant’s system for a long time. Limiting yourself to only one energy drink per day allows extra time for any potentially transferred caffeine to run through the baby’s system.
How Long Does It Take for Caffeine to Leave Your Breastmilk?
Caffeine won’t appear in breast milk if you wait about three to four hours between drinking a caffeinated drink and feeding your baby. Additionally, you’ll want to limit your total caffeine intake to less than 300 mg per day.
During pregnancy, caffeine stays in a woman’s system much longer, sometimes up to eight hours. However, within about a week following birth, the body’s ability to process the effects of caffeine returns to normal.
Interestingly, how you drink your caffeine can affect how long it stays in your system. If the drink contains milk, you’ll want to wait about six hours before breastfeeding.
What Can I Take for Energy While Breastfeeding?
If you want to avoid energy drinks while breastfeeding, several other options are available. You can drink coffee, which typically has much lower levels of caffeine than energy drinks.
Non-caffeine options exist, too, such as teas with herbal ingredients. Also, increase your water intake and sunlight exposure, as hydration and Vitamin D can both help boost your energy levels naturally.