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Teas to Avoid While Breastfeeding (and Why They’re Harmful)

Nursing mothers need to make smart dietary choices and avoid certain teas while breastfeeding to ensure the health of their babies. Tea is a common healthy drink choice for its cancer-fighting properties and positive effect on weight loss. Nursing mothers will even find breastfeeding tea options that stimulate milk production and herbal teas that boast remedies for ailments such as the common cold. Despite the benefits of drinking tea, there are teas to avoid while breastfeeding because of ingredients that are incompatible with a nursing mother’s diet.

What teas are harmful while nursing?

Breastfeeding and tea consumption require consideration because there are quite a few teas you should avoid. For example, certain herbal teas can decrease your milk supply and should be avoided while breastfeeding because they can harm your baby. Furthermore, many teas contain high levels of caffeine that can keep iron from transferring through breast milk. We’ll review everything you need to know about teas to avoid while breastfeeding, including why you should avoid them and which teas decrease your milk supply.

Which teas should I avoid while breastfeeding?

You should avoid teas while breastfeeding that are either proven unsafe, or for which there is evidence to suggest that further study is required. As a result, it is difficult to provide a definitive list of teas that are harmful for breastfeeding. The reason for this lack of certainty comes from the way the FDA labels herbs as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). The FDA does not require manufacturers to provide definitive proof that an herbal tea is explicitly safe for breastfeeding. Instead, GRAS teas simply lack peer-reviewed evidence of harm. Thus, it is recommended that breastfeeding mothers err on the side of caution and avoid herbs and teas which entail known biochemical properties associated with anything less than the best health outcomes for nursing infants.

Nursing mothers should avoid teas that contain the following herbs.

  • Borage: Breastfeeding moms should avoid borage due to the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA). Traditional medicine has seen borage tea used as a galactagogue, but due to the risks of liver and lung damage posed by PA, modern medical advice contraindicates borage while breastfeeding.
  • Comfrey: Teas containing comfrey are potentially dangerous while breastfeeding. Similar to borage, comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are known to cause liver and lung damage. Infants are particularly sensitive to pyrrolizidine alkaloids, and venoocclusive disease has been observed in infants drinking milk contaminated with these compounds.
  • Wormwood: Wormwood has potential for toxicity while breastfeeding due to the presence of the chemical thujone, although there is a lack of formal study analyzing just how much thujone transmits through breastmilk. However, thujone is well known as an abortifacient, and wormwood has long been used in traditional medicine to induce labor and miscarriages. Wormwood is thus contraindicated for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Mugwort: Mugwort is related to wormwood, and carries a similar risk to breastfeeding mothers. Mugwort’s contraindication for breastfeeding is primarily due to the presence of the chemical compound thujone. Mugwort is a traditional abortifacient alongside wormwood, and should be avoided by breastfeeding mothers.
  • Feverfew: Feverfew is a traditional migraine remedy, but it is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers. There is evidence correlating ingestion of feverfew’s active ingredient parthenolide with gastric distress and rebound headaches upon discontinuation in adults. However, no studies have been conducted establishing the susceptibility of infants to parthenolide, nor its transmissibility through breastmilk. 
  • St. John’s Wort: St. John’s Wort contains hypericin, which according to Franklin and Cowen’s 2001 study decreases prolactin (the compound which stimulates milk production in the mammary alveoli). Although St. John’s Wort has not been observed to transmit through breastmilk in significant quantities, it is not recommended for mothers struggling with low milk supply. 
  • Hibiscus: Hibiscus tea has the GRAS label from the FDA, and as such there are no studies proving its hard for breastfeeding mothers or babies. However, a 2013 study by Enwerem and Azuine uncovered evidence that hibiscus was associated with increased BMI and delayed puberty in rats. Further study is required to determine what amounts (if any) are represent the safe threshold for breastfeeding.
  • Licorice root: Licorice is GRAS by the FDA, but taking high amounts of licorice can lead to lowered potassium levels, hypertension, and adrenal hormone imbalances. There is a lack of evidence to suggest that licorice is directly harmful to breastfed infants, but breastfeeding mothers should err on the side of caution and avoid licorice in significant quantities.
  • Lavender: The FDA has not recognized any studies proving the harm of lavender while breastfeeding, and thus this herb carries a GRAS label. However, lavender is known to have estrogenic and testosterone-inhibiting properties. The effects of lavender on breastfed infants have not been studied further, so nursing mothers should only ingest lavender in vigilant moderation.
  • Senna: Traditional wisdom says that senna will transmit through the breastmilk and cause diarrhea in breastfed babies. According to the NIH, however, standard amounts of senna (under two teaspoons) had no observed effect on nursing infants. Breastfeeding mothers are best advised to drink teas containing senna in moderation.
  • Lemongrass: Lemongrass has properties of a galactagogue, but should nevertheless be taken sparingly while breastfeeding. WebMD lists lemongrass as “likely unsafe” for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers due to higher risks of miscarriage. There is also the possibility of delayed development and lowered BMIs in breastfed babies exposed to lemongrass. As with many herbal teas, lemongrass requires further study before it can be deemed safe for breastfeeding.
  • Ginseng: True ginsengs (including Chinese, Korean, and North American ginseng) contain panaxtriol, a compound observed to correlate with pediatric tachycardia and hypertension. Although ginseng is lauded for its stress-reducing properties, Jay Gordon MD recommends against prolong usage of true ginsengs by breastfeeding women until further studies are conducted.

Breastfeeding teas to avoid chart

In addition to the herbs above, some herbs like elderberry are harmful to breastfed babies in their raw form. However, processed elderberry becomes safe while breastfeeding because the cyanide precursors are removed, leaving only the beneficial compounds behind. Pay special attention to the ingredients list of any herbal tea you drink to determine whether raw or processed ingredients are included.

Should I avoid spearmint tea while breastfeeding?

Yes, you should avoid spearmint tea while breastfeeding because it’s known to decrease your milk supply. The amount of spearmint it takes to have a negative effect varies from mother to mother. One mother might see a decrease in supply after 1-2 cups of spearmint tea, while another will need to drink quarts of tea to see a reduction in milk supply. More studies are necessary to determine how much peppermint transfers to breast milk. For example, according to a study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, small amounts of menthol are excreted in breast milk. However, there aren’t currently any other studies to help us determine whether you should avoid spearmint tea while breastfeeding due to safety reasons. Avoid drinking spearmint unless told otherwise by a medical professional. Alternatively, mothers who produce an excess of milk may find spearmint tea useful to reduce milk supply.

Is lemongrass tea okay while breastfeeding?

No, lemongrass tea is not okay while breastfeeding and should be avoided. Concentrated forms of lemongrass found in tea can cause a drastic drop in blood pressure which can make you feel dizzy and lightheaded and possibly land you at the doctor’s office. Low blood pressure is directly linked to a decrease in milk supply, which is another reason to avoid this tea while nursing. Thus, it’s best to avoid lemongrass tea until you’re no longer breastfeeding. The lack of scientific evidence regarding whether lemongrass tea is excreted in breastmilk is reason enough to stay away from it. Lemongrass tea and extracts can harm a developing fetus and stunt growth, so there’s a chance it could make its way into your breast milk. Lemongrass is a natural diuretic that helps you lose weight, making you feel full, so you eat less, lowering blood sugar and blood pressure. There are plenty of adult benefits from lemongrass tea, but you don’t want to see them in your baby.

Can drinking hibiscus tea while breastfeeding be dangerous?

Yes, drinking hibiscus tea can be dangerous for breastfeeding women. Drinking hibiscus tea while breastfeeding can drastically alter hormone levels and can cause fluctuating menstruation. Hibiscus tea is thought to increase your milk supply if you drink it, hence there is confusion as to if a breastfeeding mother should include it in her diet. However, there is almost no research to back up the argument that hibiscus tea increases milk production. Hibiscus tea’s negative impact on prenatal health is enough to cause pause and urge mothers to abstain until no longer nursing.

Is earl grey tea okay for breastfeeding?

No, earl grey tea is not okay for breastfeeding. Most lactation experts caution against drinking earl grey tea while breastfeeding. Earl grey tea is known for having a medium caffeine content. However, the caffeine content can also be in the higher range. The amount of caffeine in the tea depends on the producer and how long you let it steep before drinking it. One eight-ounce cup of earl grey tea can have as little as 40 mg of caffeine or as much as around 120 mg. Because of that variation and the possibility that it can go over 120 mg of caffeine, it’s best to avoid earl grey tea while breastfeeding.

Does lactation tea help with milk supply?

Yes, lactation teas do help your milk supply. Lactation teas are packed with herbs that are known for increasing your milk supply, such as fennel. There is not a lot of scientific research to support this claim. Still, plenty of online reviews and testimonies from real breastfeeding mothers have seen excellent results to convince us that lactation tea is effective.

Can I drink lactation tea while pregnant?

No, you should not drink lactation tea while you’re pregnant. Some herbs in lactation teas, such as fennel, are not recommended while pregnant. Instead, wait until you have your baby to start drinking lactation tea.

What teas reduce milk supply?

The best teas for reducing your milk supply are peppermint and spearmint tea. You’ll need to drink 2-3 cups per day to start to see a reduction in your milk supply, a single cup a day isn’t enough to reduce your milk supply. Aside from peppermint and spearmint, sage tea is a natural way to help slow down your milk production. Soak 1 tablespoon of sage leaves in boiling water. Let it steep for 10 minutes. Then, strain out the leaves and enjoy your homemade sage tea. Additionally, parsley is an herb that can help reduce the milk supply. Although you won’t come across parsley tea very often, you can make your own by steeping parsley in boiling water. Remember that parsley doesn’t taste as good as peppermint tea, so you may want to add some honey for a sweeter flavor.

Does caffeine decrease milk supply?

No, caffeine does not decrease milk supply. Contrary to popular opinion, caffeine is known to stimulate milk supply. However, breastfeeding women need to be cautious when drinking caffeine. Approximately 1.5% of the caffeine content in your drinks will make it into your breast milk. It’s safe for nursing mothers to consume 200-300 mg of caffeine daily. That’s equivalent to five eight-ounce cups of coffee.

However, it’s important to remember that different tea types have different caffeine levels. The level of caffeine in your cup of tea depends on which category it falls into. Below are three essential caffeine facts to remember.

  • Black tea has the highest caffeine content. An average cup has 40-90 mg of caffeine.
  • Green tea has a medium-level caffeine content. Each eight-ounce cup has 20-45 mg of caffeine.
  • White tea often has the least amount of caffeine. Each eight-ounce cup has 6-60 mg of caffeine.

The numbers vary because it often depends on how long you steep your tea. The longer you steep the tea bag before you drink it, the higher the caffeine content will be.

Does tea cause colic in breastfed babies?

No, tea will not cause colic in breastfed babies if you avoid caffeine. The caffeine content in teas can worsen colic symptoms. Nursing mothers might notice that their little one is fussier or has difficulty sleeping after nursing. This is because of the caffeine that has made its way into breast milk. Moms are encouraged not to drink more than 200-300 mg of caffeine while breastfeeding. That’s the equivalent of approximately 3 cups of earl grey tea. However, some babies will be more sensitive to caffeine than others. If your little one is more sensitive to caffeine, they may be fussy if you only drink one cup of tea. Keep an eye on how your little one acts after you drink tea with caffeine, and discontinue use if you notice colic-like symptoms.

Can tea cause gas in breastfed babies?

Yes, tea can cause gas in breastfed babies. Tea has caffeine, which causes gas in mothers and babies. A small amount of caffeine is transferred to the baby via breastmilk, which can interfere with protein absorption and cause an irritable stomach. If you notice your baby is gassy or fussy after drinking caffeinated tea, cut back on how much tea you drink.

Can I drink black tea while breastfeeding?

Yes, black tea is considered safe to drink in moderation while breastfeeding. However, there are a few things to remember before picking up a box of breakfast tea bags. Firstly, black tea is packed with antioxidants, but they aren’t going to benefit your baby directly. According to a 2012 study from the American Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey, black tea had no impact on the level of antioxidants in breast milk. Secondly, eight ounces of black tea have almost 50 grams of caffeine. It’s safe for nursing moms to drink 200-300 mg of caffeine daily, but keep an eye on how much black tea you consume to stay within your caffeine limit. Thirdly, black tea may lower blood pressure, but the effect is minimal. You would have to drink a few cups of black tea daily to see a drastic decrease in blood pressure.

Overall, you’re safe to enjoy black tea while breastfeeding. Be mindful of the caffeine content and its ability to lower blood pressure, and make sure you practice moderation. One cup a day is fine.

Is green tea okay while breastfeeding?

Yes, green tea is okay while breastfeeding in limited amounds. Green tea is packed with powerful antioxidants to help your body fight diseases like cancer. Green tea promotes healthy weight loss, making it a great choice if you’re still trying to lose the baby weight. The only thing you need to watch out for with green tea is the caffeine content. Green tea has about 28 mg of caffeine per 8-ounce cup, so limit your green tea intake to two cups per day while breastfeeding.

Does green tea dry up milk supply?

No, green tea does not reduce or dry up your milk supply. According to a 2022 study by researchers Fadime Üstüner Top and Hasan Hüseyin Çam, galactagogues like green tea can do the opposite. Green tea and caffeine can naturally increase your milk supply. This is a common home remedy to increase supply in various countries, including Turkey. However, if you don’t want to produce more milk, it’s essential to stick to one cup of green tea a day while nursing.

Can I drink chai tea while breastfeeding?

Yes, you can drink chai tea while breastfeeding. Chai tea is considered safe for breastfeeding mothers. The average amount of caffeine in Chai tea is only 26 mg, so you’re safe to drink 1-2 eight-ounce cups daily. Not only is Chai tea safe for nursing mothers, but it’s packed with benefits. Chai tea has a unique blend of herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, fennel, and ginger, that are known for increasing the milk supply.

Can I drink honey and cinnamon tea while breastfeeding

Yes, you can drink honey and cinnamon tea while breastfeeding. Honey and cinnamon are the perfect additions to tea to make it taste delicious, and thankfully you can enjoy drinking honey and cinnamon tea while breastfeeding. There are no reports of adverse reactions in infants when mothers consume honey. Cinnamon is known for delaying periods after you have a baby and can help increase milk production. However, it’s critical to avoid consuming too much cinnamon while breastfeeding. It is passed through breast milk and can be dangerous for your baby. Cinnamon speeds up the metabolism and causes a drop in blood sugar. That’s why too much cinnamon can be complex for your little one. Cinnamon changes the taste of your breastmilk, and there’s a chance that your baby won’t like it. If you notice that your little one refuses to nurse or is fussy during feeding after you drink or eat cinnamon, you may use too much for their liking. Only use a pinch of cinnamon per cup of tea to stay safe. This will ensure that you don’t drink enough to drastically alter the flavor of your breastmilk or put your baby in danger.

Can you drink ginger tea while breastfeeding

Yes, you can safely enjoy ginger tea while breastfeeding. There are limited studies to support whether or not breastfeeding moms can enjoy or avoid ginger tea. However, ginger has long been used to increase milk production in lactating mothers in Turkey and parts of Asia, according to this 2022 study from the Drugs and Lactation Database. There are no reports of severe side effects when ginger is taken in moderation.

Is chamomile tea okay to drink while nursing?

Yes, chamomile tea is okay to drink while nursing. Chamomile is a galactagogue, which helps increase milk supply in breastfeeding mothers. Additionally, chamomile reduces stress and may help alleviate symptoms of postpartum in mothers and colic in babies. However, be careful of teas like Sleepytime tea, which mixes chamomile with harmful herbs like lemongrass.

What tea is beneficial while breastfeeding?

It’s important to know which teas are safe and beneficial to drink while breastfeeding as you work to rid your diet of teas to avoid. Below provides a list of the safest teas you can enjoy while your little one is nursing.

  • Ginger tea: Ginger tea offers a wide range of benefits for breastfeeding mothers. It can help reduce stomach upset, promotes weight loss, and can be a natural remedy for pain due to inflammation. Gingerol and Shangaol are compounds in ginger tea that can help fight cancer, keep your brain healthy and promote heart health.
  • Orange tea: Orange tea is rich in Vitamin C and packed with polyphenols. Polyphenols are just like antioxidants. They help protect cells from free radical damage. You’re less likely to get sick when the environment doesn’t damage your cells. You’ll also enjoy a feeling of overall wellness.
  • Peppermint tea: Peppermint tea treats sore throats, colds, and the flu. The menthol in it helps clear up nasal congestion, too. Menthol and limonene are both found in peppermint tea and can help ease unpleasant digestive symptoms, such as nausea.
  • Lemon tea: Lemon tea is packed with quercetin, a powerful compound that helps inhibit cancer growth, including breast and kidney cancer. Another compound called hesperidin can lower your blood sugar.
  • Raspberry tea: Raspberry tea is packed with vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy. You’ll get a healthy dose of Vitamins E, C, and B vitamins. These tea leaves also have zinc and calcium.
  • Chai tea: Chai tea has flavonoids, which can help reduce the amount of plaque buildup in arteries, promoting heart health. Twelve ounces also gives you 3 grams of protein and a gram of fiber.