An ode to tea

Back in the days when I frequented Facebook I was a member of a group called “A Cup of Tea Solves Everything”. While I don’t take this literally (pause to imagine how it would be though..) I do believe in the uplifting, healing and general delicious properties of tea.

When I say “tea”, note that I mean the English Breakfast/Earl Grey variety. I love a spot of herbal tea, but it is less interesting to me at the moment because it is not restricted when you are pregnant or breastfeeding!

I have already mentioned how tea was one of my main lifesavers during the first few days at home with Pip – coming third in the list behind only Mr Cath and my Mum. I would say it definitely solved the overwhelming tiredness – not bad for a bag of dried leaves, some hot water and a bit of milk.


The effect of tea on my life is in fact so fantastically positive that like all good addicts, I want more! However, according to breastfeeding guidelines as given to us at the NCT breastfeeding class, we’re supposed to consume only 200mg of caffeine a day, I assume because a gram more might cause the baby to never sleep again…or something like that. That’s equivalent to about two or three cups of tea along with chocolate (an average bar is 50mg!) I have always just vaguely accepted this as the way of the world without really thinking much about it. It’s easy to remember as these match the recommended intake while pregnant: when you’ve already been doing something for nine months it’s pretty easy to carry on!

The NHS decrees:

“Drinks containing caffeine can affect your baby and may keep them awake. While your baby is young, drink caffeinated drinks occasionally rather than every day. Caffeine occurs naturally in many foods and drinks, including coffee, tea and chocolate. It’s also added to some soft drinks and energy drinks, and to some cold and flu remedies. It’s important not to have too much caffeine. Try decaffeinated tea and coffee, herbal teas, 100% fruit juice or mineral water. Limit your intake of energy drinks, which may be high in caffeine.”

Apart from being rather distracted by the fact they recommend mineral water over good old tap, suggesting one should only consume caffeine occasionally is bad news.

In fact, there is a quite a lot of conflicting medical advice out there about how much caffeine really does come through the breast milk.

Research published in February 2012 appears to confirm that yes, caffeine can negatively affect a breastfed baby – this according to the editor of the journal Breastfeeding Medicine. However, the article then goes on to say that “as a general practice mothers are advised not to have more than 300mg of caffeine – equivalent to three cups of coffee – a day.” Advised by whom? Not the NHS!

Then in September 2012, a study published in the American medical journal Pediatrics found no connection between caffeine intake during pregnancy/breastfeeding and baby sleep – and they looked at 885 babies!

For the moment, I think that a balance is working for us: one cup of really strong “normal” tea in the morning (or early afternoon, depending on when I wake up!) and for the rest of the day I content myself with the next best thing, decaf. Yorkshire is delicious and I also love Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference decaf coffee. It’s not quite the same, but I’m not prepared to risk messing up Pip’s night sleeps… come to think of it, one thing IS more important to me than tea and that is sleep!

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