I recently had a love affair with kombucha. As someone who works in the health and wellness field, I had often heard about all the amazing benefits of this fermented tea, including increased immunity, more energy, and better digestion. And so about a month ago I started drinking it daily — and became obsessed.
I'd walk to my local organic store every afternoon to get my daily fix. And I soon began to personally witness all the health benefits I had heard about. I felt better overall and had more energy. As a breastfeeding mother of a 3-month-old baby girl, I also couldn't help but think that the drink would benefit my baby, too.
However, a few weeks after drinking kombucha every day, my baby started acting extra irritable and had terrible bouts of bad constipation. When I jogged my memory on what had changed in my diet to try to pinpoint the cause of her strange behavior, I realized that kombucha was the single change.
Once I made this connection, I decided to look up whether it was considered okay to drink kombucha while breastfeeding — and what I found was shocking and disturbing.
According to Dr. Thomas Hale's Medications and Mother's Milk: 14th Edition, a popular reference for breastfeeding mothers, kombucha tea is considered "L5," or contraindicated, the highest risk for breastfeeding mothers. While there has yet to be large-scale studies on the effect of kombucha while pregnant or breastfeeding, the drink actually contains small amounts of alcohol since it's fermented — something I was unaware of as a consumer.
After further research, I found that the FDA does not require a label for alcohol if the product contains 0.5 percent alcohol or less. I'm now questioning the safety of this rule for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. After all, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, alcohol consumption while breastfeeding should be avoided, and even with an occasional small intake, women should wait two hours before nursing.
Others also advise steering clear of kombucha while pregnant or nursing since it could contain harmful bacteria, although the risk is likely small. Overall, WebMD cautions that "kombucha tea is possibly unsafe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use."
Again, extensive research on this subject is limited, and I recommend discussing this with your doctor first. But personally, after reading all of this information, I immediately stopped drinking kombucha and found that my baby's symptoms subsided. Of course, I’ll never be certain if her symptoms were related to my kombucha consumption — but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
With all the publicity around the benefits of kombucha, I'm shocked that this hasn't been broadcast more in the wellness field. As a mother, yoga guide, and someone who works with pregnant women on a regular basis, I believe that this information should be brought to the attention of pregnant women and nursing moms everywhere.