Can I Drink Kombucha While Breastfeeding?

kombucha

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Kombucha is a popular fermented tea touted for its many health benefits. It's generally contraindicated for people who are pregnant, primarily due to its alcohol content.

If you had to give up kombucha during pregnancy, you might be wondering if you are allowed to drink it after your baby is born and whether it's safe to do so while you are breastfeeding. You may not be sure if the alcohol or caffeine content in kombucha is acceptable during breastfeeding.

As Heather Johnson, MD, OB/GYN at Advantia Health, explains, there unfortunately isn’t a lot of data out there on the safety of kombucha while breastfeeding. Dr. Johnson says it’s likely okay to drink while breastfeeding, but that it should be drunk in moderation, with some precautions in place.

“Generally, the amounts of caffeine and alcohol in kombucha are low, and occasional imbibing is likely not harmful,” says Dr. Johnson. “But there are potential risks to breastfeeding parents, especially those who consume a lot of it.”

Drinking Kombucha While Breastfeeding

Kombucha isn’t new—its origins go back to about 220 B.C. in China—but it’s only become popularized in America over the past decade or so.

There are claims that drinking kombucha offers multiple health benefits, including protection from inflammation, reduction in cholesterol, and improvement of liver function. Kombucha is also considered a good source of probiotics, which are thought to be beneficial for gut and immune health.

Kombucha is usually brewed with black, green, or oolong tea. Sugar is then added and the tea is fermented using a bacterial/yeast culture called SCOBY. The fermentation process lasts about 7-10 days.

Because kombucha is fermented, it naturally has some alcohol content, explains Sherry Ross, MD, OBGYN at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. The teas that are used to make it are usually caffeinated.

For a breastfeeding parent, the main issues with drinking kombucha are the fact that it contains alcohol and caffeine, says Dr. Ross. According to Lactmed, neither alcohol nor caffeine are fully contraindicated for breastfeeding but should be consumed in moderation, and with certain precautions.

The fact that kombucha is usually not pasteurized is also a concern. "Kombucha may contain harmful bacteria which could be dangerous during breastfeeding even though both these risks are minimal," says Dr. Ross.

For the most part, the amount of caffeine and alcohol in kombucha is minimal, Dr. Johnson notes. But the concern is that there is no standard for alcohol and caffeine content for kombucha. There is also a small risk of contamination from unpasteurized kombucha.

“The levels of caffeine, alcohol, along with potential bacteria in raw foods, varies across each brand of kombucha,” says Dr. Johnson. “Too much can pose a risk, and it’s hard to say how much is too much.”

Her advice is to limit any drink that has caffeine and alcohol content while breastfeeding and to delay breastfeeding your baby for a few hours after consuming it.

Ashley Georgakopoulos, lactation consultant and lactation director at Motif Lactation, agrees that the alcohol content and caffeine content in kombucha are the main concerns for breastfeeding parents. But she says that kombucha should be safe to drink if you are mindful of these considerations.

“As a rule of thumb, alcohol should only be consumed after a feeding or pumping session if [you are] planning to have it,” Georgakopoulos advises. As for caffeine, very little passes into breast milk, says Georgakopoulos, and the main concern would be if the breastfeeding parent was sensitive to caffeine.

Every breastfeeding journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about drinking kombucha while breastfeeding.

Is It Safe for Baby?

The FDA estimates that kombucha has anywhere between 0.7% to 1.3%. alcohol content. Georgakopoulos says that any product that contains any amount of alcohol can’t be considered completely safe for breastfeeding babies.

Frequent and heavy consumption of alcohol can cause issues with infant growth and motor function; it can also make babies fatigued, cause fluid retention, and hormone imbalances.

On the other hand, with precautions in place, alcohol is usually considered safe or very low risk for breastfed babies, says Georgakopoulos.

Dr. Johnson agrees. “An occasional drink of alcohol can also be safe in moderation,” she explains. “Alcohol does present in breastmilk, but will leave as it leaves a woman’s bloodstream.”

As for caffeine, some parents report that their babies are extra wakeful or fussy when they consume caffeine. However, this is usually when very large amounts of caffeine is consumed. Kombucha is made of tea, which does not have as much caffeine as coffee or other popular caffeinated beverages.

Benefits of Drinking Kombucha While Breastfeeding

There is limited data on the benefits of drinking kombucha in general, and no published data on drinking it while breastfeeding, says Dr. Ross. Drinking kombucha isn’t likely to increase your milk supply or have any particular nutritional benefits for your baby. 

Still, Georgakopoulos says that drinking kombucha may offer a boost for the breastfeeding parent’s immune system, and in turn, benefit the baby. 

“It’s a wonderful source of probiotics, which do boost the immune system in the [breastfeeding parent],” she says. Some of these immune factors may be passed through breast milk from the breastfeeding parent to their baby, Georgakopoulos explains.

Safety Precautions

The key to drinking kombucha safely while breastfeeding is doing so in moderation and with safety precautions in mind. Many breastfeeding parents enjoy caffeinated beverages and beverages with alcohol by understanding what the parameters for usage are.

Of course, you should also talk to a healthcare provider about what particular precautions you need to take, as all breastfeeding parents and their babies are different.

Delay Breastfeeding After Consumption to Limit Alcohol Exposure

Because alcohol is present in breastmilk after consumption, and the amount of alcohol in kombucha isn’t regulated, Dr. Johnson recommends waiting two hours after consuming alcohol to breastfeed.

Georgakopoulos agrees that caution is warranted, but points out that kombucha has small amounts of alcohol in it, as compared to a normal serving size of an alcoholic beverage.

“Like anything with any level of alcohol, keep to one serving and wait until after feeding or pumping,” she advises.

Reduce Caffeine By Limiting Intake

Caffeine consumption in moderate amounts is safe while breastfeeding, says Dr. Johnson. But you should limit that amount to about 200 milligrams a day, she says. “Caffeine does transfer to breast milk, but not in very high amounts and is highest 1-2 hours after breastfeeding,” she explains.

Most caffeinated teas contain less than 60 milligrams of caffeine per serving, including black and oolong teas, which are often used to make kombucha. Green tea usually has less caffeine than either of those, so you may want to select a kombucha made of green tea.

You can also consider limiting how much of it you drink and limiting other caffeinated beverages during the day if you plan to drink kombucha.

Drink Pasteurized Kombucha

Dr. Johnson says that bacterial contamination is a concern for breastfeeding parents who drink kombucha. For this reason, you may want to consider drinking kombucha that has been pasteurized. You may also want to abstain from drinking homemade kombucha, which is unlikely to be pasteurized.

Breastfeeding Safe Alternatives

Again, in general, with precautions and modifications, kombucha can be drunk while you are breastfeeding. But if you are limiting its consumption or have decided there are too many risks, you may want to know what similar foods and drinks you can consume instead.

The good news is that there are several foods that offer some of the same health benefits as kombucha and have fewer risk factors when it comes to breastfeeding.

Yogurt/Kefir

If you are looking for a food that is high in probiotics, but that doesn’t have alcohol or caffeine, yogurt or kefir are great options, says Georgakopoulos. Dr. Johnson agrees and says that yogurt is perfectly safe to eat while breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding parents usually need an extra 450-500 extra calories a day. Yogurt is high in protein and is a healthy way to get those extra calories and nutrition.

Fermented Foods

Georgakopoulos says that fermented foods, like sauerkraut, are a great way to get your probiotics, and are safe for breastfeeding parents to consume. Other popular fermented foods include kimchi and pickled vegetables.

Georgakopoulos also recommends adding some prebiotic foods into your diet and says that mushrooms are a good choice for that.

Probiotics

Taking probiotic supplements is also another possible option for breastfeeding parents who want to add some probiotics into their diets. You can take probiotics in pill or powder form.

Dr. Johnson does caution that the research about probiotic safety and breastfeeding is limited at this time. She recommends that you discuss the benefits and safety of taking probiotics while breastfeeding with a healthcare provider or midwife.

A Word From Verywell

If you were looking forward to drinking kombucha after your baby was born, you may feel disappointed to learn that there are some precautions you need to take if you want to drink it while breastfeeding. Keep in mind that kombucha doesn’t need to be entirely off-limits if you are a breastfeeding parent. You just need to time your consumption of it, and limit the amount you drink.

Because data is limited on drinking kombucha while breastfeeding, it’s best to discuss it with a healthcare provider. They may tell you that less caution is warranted, or that more caution is needed, depending on your particular circumstances.

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9 Sources
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