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Is It Safe To Take Birth Control Pills During Breastfeeding?

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You have just given birth. We are sure the thought of another pregnancy is the farthest thing from your mind right now. But many babies are conceived when you least expect it. And if you think breastfeeding will keep pregnancy at bay, you are taking a huge risk.

So, how can you prevent a pregnancy? Birth control pills are a favorite among women around the world. But many are apprehensive about using these pills while breastfeeding. How credible are these fears?

If you have questions regarding birth control pills and breastfeeding, we have the answers, right here!

How Effective Are Birth Control Pills During Breastfeeding?

Birth control pills are one of the most effective birth control methods you can use. When used correctly, these pills provide 99% protection against accidental pregnancies (1).

Is It Safe To Take Birth Control Pills While Breastfeeding?

This is a common question. Most women worry about hormones from the pills reaching their babies via breast milk.

To find the answer to this question, you need to understand the ins and outs of birth control pills.

There are two kinds of hormonal contraceptive pills:

  • Progestin-Only Contraceptive (POC)
  • Combined Contraceptive

Both of these contraceptive pills work efficiently to prevent a pregnancy. But when it comes to birth control pills for breastfeeding moms, POC is a better option. This is because combined contraceptives contain both progesterone and estrogen. These hormones will not harm your baby. But estrogen is known to bring down breast milk volume by as much as 41.9 % (2). If you are planning to use a combination pill, wait for at least the first six months of your baby’s life. This is the time when your little one needs breast milk the most. Once she starts solids, a little drop in breast milk supply won’t have much of an impact. Till then, you should stick with POC.

Progestin-only pill is also called the ‘Mini Pill’. These pills contain only a small amount of progesterone. In tandem with breastfeeding, mini pills are almost 100% effective in preventing accidental pregnancies. But you need to be careful with its use. You’ll need to take the pill at the same time every day for it to work effectively. A delay of even three-four hours can cause problems.

How Do Progestin-Only Contraceptives (POC) Work?

A progestin-only contraceptive thickens the cervical mucus and stops the sperm from reaching the egg. Some POC can also stop ovulation.

Are There Other Progestin-Only Contraceptive Options?

If a pill is not your cup of tea, you can try other forms of Progestin-Only Contraceptives. Some options you can try include:

  • Birth control injection (Depo-Provera)
  • Progesterone-releasing IUD (Mirena, Skyla)
  • Birth control implant (Implanon, Nexplanon)

These options are perfect for women looking for longer protection from accidental pregnancies. If you tend to forget, mini pills might not work for you. You can try these alternatives instead.

What About The Morning After Pill?

Morning after pills are called emergency contraceptive for a reason. You should only use them in case of an emergency. The morning after pill should never be your first option to prevent a pregnancy.

But if you ever need one, go for a progestin-only emergency pill. These pills, when used sparsely, are not known to harm a newborn baby (3).

Are There Any Side Effects?

Yes, there are side effects that you may encounter. Here’s a look at the ways how taking birth control pills while breastfeeding might affect:

1. Milk Supply:

This is the most important side effect that comes with hormonal contraceptive. As mentioned before, combination birth control pills can reduce milk supply in nursing mothers to quite an extent.

2. Fussiness:

All kind hormonal contraceptive can lead to a fussy baby. Though there is a lack of scientific studies in this regard, many mothers have reported this problem.

3. Diabetes:

If you had gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, using POC raises the risk of developing type II diabetes within a year (4). So, do talk to your doctor before you start on birth control pills.

Points To Remember:

If you are all set to start taking birth control pills, keep the following points in mind:

  • Talk to your doctor. He’ll be the right person to guide you regarding the best possible birth control option.
  • Be wary of combination birth control pills if you want to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months.
  • Use a low dose pill. Ask your doctor for the best option.
  • If your milk supply drops or if your baby has trouble gaining weight, consult your doctor. It may be time to use some other form of birth control.
  • Motherhood can be tough. If you think sleep deprivation and exhaustion may prevent you from using the mini pill properly, use other POC options.
  • Remember that hormonal contraceptives do not prevent STDs. So, use condoms as a backup.

If you have always used birth control pills, you don’t need to stop now. In fact, the right birth control pill is a great way to get a little peace of mind. And when you have a little one at home, peace of mind is a costly commodity!

So, what is your preferred form of birth control while breastfeeding? Do you depend on breastfeeding to prevent pregnancy? Tell us!

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Baby Breastfeeding

Is It Safe To Take Caffeine While Breastfeeding?

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Giving in to all your food cravings can be an issue when you are breastfeeding because what goes into your diet goes into your breast milk too. Not all foods that you have may end up in the breast milk, but most do. Caffeine is one such food that is craved for by a lot of women. It is a part of many day-to-day foods that is debated upon for its safety and consumption when you are breastfeeding.

As per the guidelines from Medications and Mother’s Milk, caffeine falls under the Lactation Risk Category L2 (safer) category. It was classified as a ‘Maternal Medication Usually Compatible with Breastfeeding’ by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In fact, caffeine has been directly given as treatment for breathing problems in premature babies for years, that too in much higher amounts compared to what is found in the breastmilk! MomJunction helps you understand all about caffeine and breastfeeding, how much to take and when to avoid.

Does Caffeine Affect Breast Milk?

Yes, caffeine gets into breast milk! Once you drink a cup of coffee, the caffeine is rapidly absorbed into your blood, and diffuses passively across the epithelial layers of the mammary glands. But, very low levels (less than 1% of what is consumed) may end up in the breast milk and clinically significant amount of caffeine is not found. Caffeine appears in the milk within 15 minutes of intake, while the concentration levels would be at its peak after an hour (1).

Dr. SK Gambhir of Paras Bliss hospital in Delhi says that the effect on breast milk stays for a maximum of 120 minutes.

Are Babies Sensitive To Caffeine Intake Of Nursing Mother?

Some babies, especially those under six months of age, may be sensitive to mother’s caffeine intake. More reactions can be observed in nursing infants whose mothers entirely avoided caffeine during pregnancy (2).

Caffeine may get accumulated in breastfeeding babies if their mothers consume high amounts and can cause irritability, insomnia, and constipation. The accumulation is due to the inability of the baby’s body to break down and eliminate caffeine.

Newborns take more time to metabolize caffeine compared to older infants because of their immature liver and kidneys. Preterm or sick infants may also have problems because of their inability to metabolize caffeine.

Age Group Half Life (Hours)
Premature neonates (3-32 days) 102.9
Term neonates (0-4 days) 80.0
Young Infants
1-2 1/2 Months 26.3
3-4 1/2 Months 14.2
5-6 Months 2.6
Adults
Non Smokers 6.0
Smokers 3.5

 

*Half-Life is the time taken for a substance to become half inside a human body.

Even though babies show sensitivity to caffeine, it may disappear as they grow older. Babies will begin to process caffeine more efficiently at about three months of age (3), and it would become much easier over time. By the time the baby is nine months old, he would develop the ability to eliminate caffeine at the same rate as you do!

How Much Caffeine Can You Have While Breastfeeding?

According to Dr. SK Gambhir, a breastfeeding mother needs to limit her caffeine intake to less than 300mg a day.

An acceptable amount of caffeine while breastfeeding varies based on factors like baby’s health, age, and tolerance levels. Moreover, caffeine is diuretic and causes dehydration, and it is important to be hydrated particularly while nursing. Thus, it is advisable to limit caffeine consumption while breastfeeding with not more than two or three cups of tea, coffee, or caffeine beverage each day (4).

In the US, not more than 200mg caffeine a day is recommended for breastfeeding mothers. It comes to about two mugs of tea or one mug of filter coffee or two mugs of instant coffee, a day. NHS recommends that you have caffeine drinks occasionally, rather than every day, if your baby is young.

As per the Breastfeeding Answer Book, caffeine consumption of over 750 mg per day by nursing mothers may result in babies showing signs of caffeine stimulation, such as:

  • wakefulness
  • fussiness
  • activeness
  • alertness
  • wide-eyed
  • less sleep hours
  • colic

Ways To Decrease Caffeine Stimulation

If you observe signs of caffeine stimulation in your baby, avoid caffeine for two to three weeks and check the difference. Reintroduce to observe if the baby shows irritability.

Few ways to decrease caffeine stimulation are:

  • Limiting the consumption of caffeine while nursing
  • Spreading the coffee intake over the course of the day
  • Breastfeeding before or after an hour of caffeine ingestion or pumping breast milk
  • Monitoring the baby’s reaction when exposed or withdrawn from caffeine consumption
  • Taking few glasses of water after caffeine consumption to dilute its effect in the body

**If you consider caffeine withdrawal as a way to soothe your fussy baby, make it happen gradually. Abrupt withdrawal may give you a headache, anxiety, fatigue, and depression.

Does Caffeine Decrease Breast Milk Supply?

No research or evidence supports the myth that caffeine decreases milk supply in nursing mothers. In fact, a study indicated that caffeine does not change breast milk composition, and rather, stimulates milk production (5). Even if the decreased milk supply is observed in few cases, it could be due to the decreased nursing of fussy babies, rather than the caffeine intake.

However, few studies suggests that the chronic caffeine ingestion could lessen the iron content in milk, which may lead to mild iron deficiency or anemia in some breastfed infants.

When Should Nursing Mothers Completely Avoid Caffeine?

If you are a nursing mother having a Raynaud’s phenomenon, a circulatory disorder, avoid caffeine. The condition is due to the constriction of blood vessels, which leads to lesser blood flow. It even affects your nipples and the constriction worsens with caffeine, ending up in painful breastfeeding.

Caffeine consumption may affect a nursing mother’s let-down reflex (the milk ejection reflex from the breasts), in case of nipple vasospasm.

What Are Different Caffeine Sources?

Caffeine can be found in:

  • coffee
  • soft drinks
  • tea
  • sports, energy drinks
  • chocolate
  • few prescription medicines
  • over-the-counter medications for cold, headache, and allergy remedies
  • coffee ice cream
  • herbal products containing kola nut/cola nitida, guarana/paullinea cupana, yerba mate, or green tea

Caffeine Content In Common Drinks

Drinks Caffeine Level (mg)
Coffee, Brewed(8 oz) >80-135
Coffee, Instant(8 oz) >65-100
Tea, iced(8 oz) 47
Tea, brewed, imported brands (avg.)(8 oz) 60
Tea, green(8 oz) 15
Hot cocoa(8 oz) >14
Dark chocolate (1 oz) >20 mg
Diet Coke(12 oz) 45.6
Red Bull (8.2 oz) >80.0

Source:

A nursing mother can enjoy caffeinated drinks and foods without any concern, as long as it is within a limit. In case the baby shows discomfort, it is better to seek a doctor’s advice and chalk out the caffeine consumption plans.

FAQs

Q. What Can I Have Instead Of Caffeine Drinks?

A. A great option would be to have decaffeinated products like coffee free from caffeine, decaffeinated green tea, or herbal tea. You could also have flavored water with a slice of lime or lemon, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, no-added-sugar squashes. Instead of cocoa or hot chocolate rich in caffeine, go for a hot malt drink.

Q. How Many Cups Of Coffee Are Okay Each Day?

A. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not more than three cups daily, while La Leche League considers five cups of coffee while breastfeeding each day to be safe.

Q. How To Limit Caffeine Intake Through Coffee Or Tea?

A. Opting for espresso drinks like lattes or instant coffee, which have less caffeine than the regular brewed coffee would be better. Take a tea that is brewed for less time or tea bag steeped in water for a lesser time.

Q. Are Energy Drinks Containing Caffeine, Safer During Breastfeeding?

A. It is advisable to cut down on energy drinks altogether as they are loaded with caffeine.

Q. Is Coffee Bean Extract Safe For Nursing Mothers?

A. Green coffee bean extract is a herbal, homeopathic product helpful in lowering the blood pressure and body weight. Even though no study talks about the safety of the product for a breastfeeding mother, it is important to note few points before going ahead.

Green coffee bean extract contains caffeine if it comes in dosages of 43 mg, 93 mg, or 185 mg.  The higher the dosage, the more the caffeine. Opt for low dosage product or avoid caffeine if your baby shows reactions against it.

Moms share your experiences about consuming caffeine during breastfeeding here. How addicted or not were you?

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4 Amazingly Different Ways You Can Use Fenugreek During Your Lactation Period

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Mommies, who are concerned about how to increase breast milk, need not worry, as Fenugreek can rescue you. Fenugreek has been used popularly as a spice of an herb for ages. It is known to induce labor and also assist in childbirth.

Fenugreek seeds can be a safe answer for you as well as your baby for increasing breast milk. How?

Fenugreek For Breast Milk Production:

When it comes to increasing your milk supply, it is always better to try the non-pharmaceutical measures first. The herbal medicines will have lesser side effects compared to the prescribed medicines to increase breast milk supply. Here we shall explore the link between fenugreek and breast milk production:

  • Mothers should have noted that they find increase in milk production after 24-72 hours of taking fenugreek.
    • You need to take around 3,500 mg of fenugreek in the form of pills, seeds or herb to see the effect. With regular intake, you can slowly find increase in your milk production. After some time, you can see your urine and sweat beginning to smell like maple syrup. You must try alternative methods, if in case you face any discomforts.
  • Per Kathleen Huggins says, “Most mothers have found that the herb can be discontinued once milk production is stimulated to an appropriate level. Adequate production is usually maintained as long as sufficient breast stimulation and emptying continues.”

Different Ways You Can Use Fenugreek For Increasing Breast Milk:

Fenugreek can be taken in different ways during your lactation period. Here are some possibilities:

1. Tea: You can add around 3 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds in a cup of water and bring it to boil to make the tea. You can have this around three times a day.

2. Capsules: The seeds are available in the form of capsules as well. You need to consult your lactating doctor about the doses. You can begin with three capsules a day, and then increase it slowly till your urine smells like maple syrup.

3. Sprout The Seeds: This is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to take fenugreeks. Soak the seeds in a clean glass of water and do not disturb them for around 5 days. You can see the sprouts after few days. You can add them to your salad.

4. Fenugreek Powder: Fenugreek can be taken in the form of powder. You can mix a teaspoon of it with fruit juice and take them daily. Discontinue its use if you experience muscle cramps.

Be Careful Of The Side Effects:

You must consult with your herbal specialist or lactation doctor to know if your baby is exposed to any sorts of dangers when you take fenugreek daily. Here is a list of side effects that you should be careful while taking fenugreek for breast milk supply:

  • Fenugreek seeds induce labor, and thus it is suggested that you avoid them in pregnancy.
  • If you notice any allergic reactions, inform it to the doctor. You may be allergic to fenugreek if you have allergies from peanuts or soy.
  • If you begin with heavy doses of fenugreek, it might lead to diarrhea. The herb also passes through your breast milk and your baby might develop diarrhea as well. Thus, it is important that you start with the small dose and then increase the intake slowly.
  • See if your urine, sweat and breast milk smells like maple syrup. You must inform your baby’s doctor about your fenugreek intake.

Remember:

  • You must consult your doctor in case you feel you are not producing enough milk, despite trying different measures.
  • Your lactating consultant may suggest you to take fenugreek to augment your milk supply.
  • Make sure you are starting with a small dose to keep away the side effects.
  • You must follow the advice of your doctor at every step. This will free your mind from all concerns like if you are harming your baby in any way.

Let us know if fenugreek helped you to augment your breast milk production in the comment section below.

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