TUESDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- Caffeine consumption among
expectant or new mothers does not appear to affect the nighttime
sleeping habits of their newborns, new Brazilian research
The conclusion is based on an analysis of sleeping patterns
among more than 4,200 infants until the age of 3 months, in light
of the caffeine-consumption habits of their mothers both before and
Researchers looked at two beverages: coffee and mate, a hot
tea-like beverage popular in their area.
The team, led by study author Dr. Ina Santos of the postgraduate
program in epidemiology at the Federal University of Pelotas in
Brazil, reports its observations online and in the May print issue
The authors note that it is very common for newborns to
experience nighttime awakenings, and that caffeine consumption has
long been linked to sleep disruption and insomnia among adult
To see whether caffeine consumption among pregnant women and
nursing mothers affects their child's sleep, Santos' team tracked
more than 4,200 infants who were born in 2004 in the city of
Pelotas, with a specific focus on 885 infants within that
All the new mothers were interviewed at the hospital immediately
after delivery and then three months later to gauge their
caffeine-drinking habits. Heavy coffee drinkers were defined as
those who consumed 300 milligrams or more of caffeine per day,
either via coffee or some other caffeinated beverage.
According to the Mayo Clinic, two to four cups of brewed coffee
contain between 200 and 300 milligrams of caffeine.
All the newborns were examined at birth, with follow-up exams
conducted at three months. At that point, the mothers provided
details on their child's sleep habits during the prior 15 days,
including total day and night sleep hours and bed-sharing
Defining night awakenings as being any time parents were
awakened by a child's arousal, the researchers also asked parents
to tally the frequency of their child's nighttime waking episodes
and indicate any apparent causes for such awakenings. Frequent
awakening was defined as a child waking up three or more times per
Mothers also made an overall assessment of the quality of their
baby's sleep habits.
All but one of the mothers regularly consumed some caffeine.
About one in five was considered a heavy caffeine drinker during
pregnancy, and more than 14 percent continued to drink caffeine
heavily as their newborns reached 3 months of age.
As for the babies, nearly 14 percent were frequent nighttime
Although there was some indication that nighttime wakening was
more prevalent among babies whose mothers were heavy caffeine
consumers during pregnancy and nursing, the connection was not
The researchers concluded that there was no evidence that
caffeine consumption, at any particular level, could be linked to
sleep-pattern disruptions among the infants.
Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of
clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern in
Dallas, said although caffeine consumption among pregnant women and
new mothers has long been a concern among pediatricians, it has
certainly never risen to the level of alarm over alcohol
consumption or cigarette use.
"Coffee drinking in that situation has never been perceived as evil or bad," she said. "But, depending on the pediatrician, oftentimes mothers are encouraged to limit caffeine intake during pregnancy, often to just one cup of coffee a day -- or to stop drinking it altogether. And that's because it's a central nervous system stimulant that can increase the baby's heart rate in utero, and can cause some distress. And then, after delivery, the baby might be getting the caffeine through the breast milk."
"But it should be pointed out that the 300 milligrams of coffee they're talking about here is really not such an outlandish amount," Sandon said. "It's really about three cups of a standard six- to eight-ounce cup of coffee. And that's just one grande Starbucks, really."
"At that amount, it could be that coffee drinking is more likely a problem for the mother than for the infant," she added. "The child's sleep patterns might not be disrupted. But it could actually be disrupting the mother's sleep patterns at a time when it's already difficult for the mother to get adequate rest."
Dr. Aparajitha Verma, medical director of the Methodist Hospital
Sleep Disorder Center in Houston and an assistant professor in the
neurology department at Methodist Neurological Institute, cautioned
that nailing down maternal caffeine consumption's specific impact
on newborns is an extremely tricky endeavor.
"Nighttime wakening among babies that age can be due to so many different things," she said. "So to tease out caffeine's role is going to be very difficult. I think it's a valid concern, and there certainly might be a connection. Caffeine's half-life is typically five to seven hours, and it's well known to cause sleep disruption among adults. But whether that translates into trouble among these women's infants is something that clearly we just don't know yet."
For more about caffeine's impact on sleep, visit the
National Sleep Foundation.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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