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Meeting Your Water Needs Postpartum: Part 2 – Coffee, Tea, and Wine?

Author: Julina Halim

Water is vital to life. We know that we are, on average, 60% water with different water content in various body parts. We also know that it is essential for healing for postpartum mothers.

While it is exciting having a new member in the family, the stress from lack of sleep, irregular timetable, and new demands in life is real; almost any mom would tell you that she would love to have a bit of her old self back, even if just for a moment!

“How much coffee can I have?” “Can I have a glass of wine?” 

For breastfeeding mothers, this is an additional concern. 

Breast Milk is 90% water. Breastfeeding mothers have a greater need to compensate for the water loss in milk production and meet their own needs. 

To understand this, let’s first take a look at how breastmilk is made, and it is not from the food that the mother consumes, not directly, at least. 

Breastmilk is produced at the breast within the alveoli from the mother’s blood. When the mother eats, foods (drinks and even medication) are digested, substances and nutrients are absorbed into the blood. As substances come close towards the breast tissues, they move into alveoli as the alveoli make milk. This is also how other substances, such as medication that the mother takes, can potentially enter breastmilk.

Alcohol

As you might have guessed, not consuming alcohol is the safest option for you and your baby. 

The alcohol concentration in blood is highest about 30-60 min after consumption, and alcohol can still be detected in breast milk 2-3 hours later after one drink*. 

If you decide to have a drink, up to one drink a day may be safe after your baby is at least three months old. Since your body will require a few hours to rid the alcohol from your system, it is recommended that you wait at least 3-4 hours before you feed your baby. 

In some cultures, alcohol tonic is traditionally used in postpartum meals. For example, in some regions in Asia, chicken soup cooked in rice wine with sesame oil and old ginger is a must-have for many new mums. Many also add DOM Benedictine to dishes to help “nourish” the mother. Even though most of the alcohol may have evaporated during cooking, many doctors in Asia will recommend reducing the alcohol amount in the recipe and waiting for a few hours before feeding. 

* Based on Dietary Guidelines for Americans, one drink is: 12oz (355 ml) of 5% beer, 8oz (236ml) of 7% malt liquor, 5oz (148ml) of 12% wine, 1.5oz (45ml) of 40% liquor. Noted that one 12oz service of 9% beer would be considered as two drinks. 

Coffee

You might be happy to know that a moderate coffee intake should not affect your baby. 

The US CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and The European Food Safety Authority have slightly different recommendations. CDC states that 2-3cups of coffee with less than 300mg of caffeine a day would not affect the baby. The latter considers 2 cups of coffee with less than 200mg caffeine to be the safe amount. 

That said, caffeine does show up in breast milk quite quickly after consumption. A study published in the Journal of Analytic Toxicology in 2016 found that caffeine in breast milk peaked at 2 hours after consuming espresso and was not detectable after 24 hours.

Pre-term babies may have less tolerance to caffeine and are more likely to react than full-term babies. Caffeine also stays longer in a newborn’s system than in an older baby, of say, six months of age.

One way to enjoy your cup of joe is to breastfeed before your coffee break!

Do keep in mind that a coffee intake of more than 450 ml a day may reduce iron content in breastmilk. Also, caffeine is found in many other beverages such as coke, tea, and energy drinks. 

Since both alcohol and coffee are dehydrating, you will need extra glasses of water!

What about herbal teas?

Non-caffeinated herbal teas are lovely ways to bring some variation to your fluid intake! 

Many ancient cultures worldwide observe specific postpartum practices for the mothers’ healing and prevention of future illness. For example, traditional Maya midwives believe that tea made of pepper, cloves, and ginger helps to reduce bleeding and to warm the uterus.

Malaysia is another culture that offers a beautiful and rich postpartum ritual for mothers. Here is a simple recipe from a Malay confinement specialist that you can make with what you already have in your kitchen. This Cinnamon Ginger Tea is to help with digestion, boost mood and immunity, and relieve flatulence.

Cinnamon Ginger Tea Recipe

Ingredients

1 stick of cinnamon, 

5 slices of young ginger, 

3 cups of water

Optional: honey, to taste

What you need to do:

Wash all ingredients, bring everything to boil and reduce until about 2 cups of water

Your tea is ready; add honey if you like!

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