Yerba Mate and the Breast Feeding Mom

I discovered Yerba Mate (Yair-ba Mah-tay), a tea that hails from the rainforest in South America in January. It was love at first sip. Yerba Mate is made from the stems and leaves of the Yerba Mate tree. This beverage provides both energy and nutrition. It also contains caffeine.

And yes, I am a breastfeeding mom! After preliminary research online, I've discovered many sites (mainly medical) that advised against breastfeeding and pregnant moms drinking this tea, as it "affects" the baby., for example, has excessive warnings against breastfeeding and pregnant moms drinking this beverage:

"When a woman drinks yerba mate during pregnancy, her baby may be negatively affected. Potential risks include birth defects, low birth weight and premature birth. Women who drank yerba mate during pregnancy also have given birth to babies who have showed symptoms of neonatal withdrawal syndrome, including excessive crying, irritability and hypertonia in the limbs. Drinking large amounts of yerba mate over time can also increase the risk for throat, esophageal or mouth cancer, even in individuals who are not pregnant, according to the Cleveland Clinic."

Birth defects? Premature birth? Yikes! Those are pretty darn serious risks from drinking a tea that grows naturally in a Rainforest! LiveStrong also goes on to say this...

"Women should also not drink yerba mate if they are breastfeeding. The yerba mate can pass through breast milk and may negatively affect a nursing baby. You should wait until your baby has completely weaned before resuming drinking yerba mate."

All of LiveStrong's references are based on medical research and "clinical" trials. However, I wasn't too quick to jump on the research bandwagon for several reasons of my own:
  • Doctors/Medical researchers are generally not versed in nutrition. Yerba Mate is a (naturally) nutritious drink.
  • Yerba Mate is the South American drink. Just about everyone drinks it and a LOT of it. says they have a 92% household consumption rate!
  • Personal testimony from South American moms who drank Yerba Mate while pregnant/breastfeeding with NO ill effects to show for it.
I can personally say that I've been drinking Yerba Mate for months with NO ill effects as well. My health/energy has actually improved and again, no negative effects to show of at all. As a matter, I've experienced more negative effects from one cup of brewed Chicory (The one time I didn't do research!) than all the months I've been drinking Yerba Mate. I ended up with a horrible tummy ache and baby girl had a rash. That was the last time I've ever had Chicory!

I found this article by VERY interesting...

Yerba Mate is packed with naturally-occurring nutrients and anti-oxidants and there are 196 volatile (or active) chemical compounds found in the Yerba Mate plant. Of those, 144 are also found in green tea. Yerba Mate contains 11 polyphenols. Polyphenols are a group of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals (phyto- meaning plant) are recently-discovered compounds that act as powerful antioxidants and are considered to exhibit anti-cancer effects in mammals by strengthening an organism`s natural defenses and protecting it against cellular destruction (i.e. lycopene in tomatoes, flavonoids in blueberries, and isoflavones in soy)

In 2005, researchers at the University of Illinois studied 25 different types of mate. They found the tea to contain "higher levels of antioxidants than green tea"... and, based on cell studies, "may help prevent oral cancer." Read More
Hmmm...conflicting information indeed.

Natural News goes on to share the nutritional content of Yerba Mate...

* Vitamins - A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B5, B Complex
* Minerals - Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus
* Additional Compounds - Fatty Acids, Chlorophyll, Flavonols, Polyphenols, Trace Minerals, Antioxidants, Pantothenic Acid and 15 Amino Acids.

According to Dr. Mowrey, Director of Mountainwest Institute of Herbal Sciences, one group of investigators from the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society concluded that Yerba Mate contains "practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life". They focused especially on Pantothenic Acid, remarking that it is "rare to find a plant with so much of this significant and vital nutrient... It is indeed difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to Mate in nutritional value."
In addition, results from a study done by researchers at the University of Madrid assert a high content of mineral elements, especially K, Mg, and Mn, in Mate. They considered those findings "to be of great relevance" to the nutritional value of Mate infusions.
Could this be why many medical sites are so gung-ho against it? Even in the face of real-time, cultural (South America) evidence? Do these medical researchers have connections to pharma companies, who would much rather you buy their drugs than seek health given freely by the earth? Live Strong even advises against consistent consumption of the beverage by individuals who are NOT pregnant or nursing, citing throat and esophageal cancer risk. Hmmm....I wonder about South America's rate of throat cancer...

So the question becomes, how can something contain "practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life", yet be so risky as to result in birth defects? It's too contradictory for both "facts" to be true. You know, I would have a lot more respect for medical research if doctors were just as diligent about informing moms about the very real and documented risks that come with birth drugs and labor/pregnancy interventions. In addition to exercising a good amount of ethical behavior when it comes to their relationships with for-profit pharmaceutical companies. Our healthcare system and its practices are questionable at best, and unethical at worst, so you'll forgive me if I second-guess medical research and look for second opinions. You know how the saying goes, knowledge is power. So, I'm powering myself up to a nice cup of Yerba Mate, breastfeeding and all.

UPDATE: Yerba Mate` and the Breast Feeding Mom Update - October 2012

Recommended Reading:
Breastfeeding & Weight Loss: The Missed Connection
The Role of Probiotics in Pregnancy, Childbirth & Breastfeeding


*Disclaimer ~ This post is an opinion piece, and not designed to diagnose, cure or treat in any manner. The reader is advised to follow up any decisions with research. 


  1. So Delicious! Especially with a dab of virgin coconut oil! :)

  2. Hey! awesome article. I drink yerba mate combined with green tea every morning, love the stuff. I use my French press to make it and sweeten it with stevia. I am highly sensitive to caffeine,but the natural ceffeine in this tea does not make me hyper at all.

    Nicole Weaver
    Trilingual Children's Author

  3. Yes! The caffeine in Yerba Mate is natural and does not make me jittery! I drink several cups a day w/o the negative side effects. I honestly believe that the negative side effects of caffeine is due the fact that it may be attributed to synthetic caffeine.

  4. I have heard so much more about this recently! I just may have to give it a try. How do you drink it? Do you use a special straw?

  5. Nope, the American way. I brewed tea bags until I tried another brand! Now I brew it loose in a tea ball. So delicious! You can read my review here:

    By the way, virgin coconut oil is very good with it! Healthy too :)

  6. I read the same article from Live Strong and freaked out! My mom, who is a mother of six, told me she has drank mate through ALL of her pregnancys. All six of us were born perfectly normal, and very healthy!!! I dropped coffee as soon as I found out I was pregnant, and didn't want to give up my mate!!! I've been drinking it since I was a little girl!!! My mom assured me it's okay to drink it... and well, she is a mom of six, so I do trust her :)
    Ready to go grab my mate straw, mate, and turn on the stovetop! gulp gulp!!

  7. I love Mate. I like to make it in a coffee pot. Have you ever tried the roasted Mate. It has more herbs in it . I think it has the Chickory in it. Was wondering if you have tried that and have done so while breastfeeding? If so, did you have same reaction you had when you drank the chikory?

    1. Hi Lisa! I'm still breastfeeding Baby Girl who is now 3 (36 months) AND drinking Yerba Mate! We are both fine! With none of the dire warnings to show for it :)

      That said, yes I do drink the roasted Mate (My fave!) with Chicory and have not experienced the symptoms I did when drinking a full cup of Chicory. What I've discovered is Chicory in single, large amounts definitely does not bode well with us, but small amounts with Yerba Mate has not been a problem at all. :) I can't speak to what Chicory will do for you specifically. My husband does drink cups of Chicory with no problems at all, that tells me everyone reacts to Chicory differently. Thanks for stopping past!

  8. Love your post! Thanks for providing a voice for my long time opinions on the institutionalization of birth. I could agree more on the lack of education on drugs during labor/birth. Fantastic read and info, bravo!

    1. You're so welcome Kelly! Thanks for stopping past!

  9. Great article! I am a breastfeeding mom, but am looking to reap the benefits of this tea! Where do you recommend getting it?!

    1. I LOVE Mate Factor's Dark Roast. So YUMMY! (certified organic). However Trader Joe's brand of Yerba Mate is just as delicious (certified organic and fair traded). My third choice is Guayaki - (certified organic, fair trade, non-GMO and B Corp certified). My preference is listed in order of flavor. However, if you want to support a B Corp company Guayaki is a good one.

      Mate Factor claims they participate in fair trade, but I don't believe they are certified. They have the least certifications, but the best flavor. Honestly, It was a while ago, but here is my review for them...

      My Guayaki review is here

      Hope that helps!

  10. Woo! Higher spirit knowledge article(: You go mamma.
    I had zero medical intervention through my whole pregnancy and a completely natural birth in our home in South America with a local midwife.
    My whole pregnancy I did the research I needed to do to know what the baby was developing and to know which nutrients I needed from which foods to promote the growth baby was experiencing each and every week.
    Obviously through my whole pregnancy I had people telling me it wasnt safe, what I was doing but I stayed strong in my own intuition and will and I thrived through my whole 9 months with zero complications during the pregnancy and birth.
    I had a healthy 6 month old baby girl who has never had any health issues to speak of.
    The mind is powerful! Knowledge and will are powerful. More women need to take back their power and believe in themselves and the natural cycle of pregnancy and birth.
    I drank yerba mate through my pregnancy and I am drinking it as I breastfeed.
    My little girl has never had any negative effects, nor have I.
    The pharmaceutical companies are indeed strong but we are stronger.

    Take your power back ladies! Gain your knowledge and sharpen up your intution with healthy food and self connection.

    I am 6 years with zero pills. I use herbs for everything.
    Anything is possible.

    1. That's so awesome! Congrats to you for sticking to it! The rewards are blessings! Thank you for your empowering & encouraging words!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Hello. Interesting article. I am also a lover of yerba mate, currently breastfeeding. I drank it off and on during pregnancy and am drinking it now. Thankfully, no negative effects. I did want to address some of your points in the article that bothered me a bit. Just keep in mind I mean well as I address some of these points. You mentioned that because some studies have found that there are so many health benefits to drinking yerba mate that it doesn't make sense for other studies to claim it is harmful to a fetus or nursing child. First, there probably hasn't been enough credible studies performed regarding pregnant or nursing yerba mate drinkers. Second, because a beverage is safe for an adult, does not mean it is safe for a small baby or fetus who isn't as developed as an adult. It's possible there are nutrients in too high of a concentration for a baby within the herb, that is perfectly safe for an adult. I mean maybe not, but this possibility still exists. There needs to be more research done. You said the studies showed low birth rates and possible withdrawal syndromes. I don't know what type of studies these were or how much bias or inconsistencies there are within the studies, so that is to be taken into consideration. Until more research is done, which might hot be for a while as yerba mate isn't as big in the US, you just gotta be careful with it and know it is possible it can cause harm. It's a risk. With that said, I'm still drinking it while I nurse, and baby seems to be fine.

    1. I appreciate the time you took to comment, but if you're going to "quote" me, please do it accurately. No where in the article do I state...

      "some studies have found that there are so many health benefits to drinking yerba mate that it doesn't make sense for other studies to claim it is harmful to a fetus or nursing child."

      Here's exactly what I said and you'll find it in the article...

      "So the question becomes, how can something contain "practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life", yet be so risky as to result in birth defects? It's too contradictory for both "facts" to be true. "

      When you read that concluding statement in context of what I wrote - your points become moot.

      Just before I stated my concluding opinion via critical thinking I say this...

      "Could this be why many medical sites are so gung-ho against it? Even in the face of real-time, cultural (South America) evidence? Do these medical researches have connections to pharma companies, who would much rather you buy their drugs, than seek health given freely by the earth? Live Strong even advises against consistent consumption of the beverage by individuals who are NOT pregnant or nursing, citing throat and esophageal cancer risk. Hmmm....I wonder about South America's rate of throat cancer..."

      This article is a opinion piece also stated above, based on weighing the research information I found while weighing the option of drinking yerba mate. There may not be enough studies, but as I share in the article above, I question the research that is in existence. I'm also not holding my breath for companies or research facilities who benefits when customers DO NOT buy yerba mate to do some good, honest and ethical research work. Here's where we, as responsible citizens of the world need to evaluate and apply critical thinking skills. Way too often, America has forgone what "works" or what makes "sense" for the opportunity to earn a few bucks.

      That said, enjoy your yerba mate and your nursing phase!

  12. Has anyone noticed a drop in supply while breastfeeding and drinking yerba mate? How much caffeine can you have before it affects your supply?

    1. I have not noticed this personally. I can't say if caffeine affects supply, I've not heard that caffeine affects milk supply, but do pay attention and listen to your own body's cues. I would recommend that you contact a lactation consultant for their professional opinion.

      Good luck!

  13. I actually wondering if mate increases milk production as I have just begun drinking it. I have beem trying to actually wean my toddler but since drinking yerba mate it seems like my supply is going way up. I will keep drinking it and taking note of my supply. I wish my milk would dry up tbh but increase of supply could very well be a result of high nutrient content, which seems to outweigh caffeine effects from everything I have read.

    1. Everyone's body chemistry is unique. One mom may have certain experiences while another may not have the same. Always listen to your body's cues and consult with a lactation specialist when needed.

  14. My mother recommended yerba mate to boost breastmilk supply and she's a mother of 9 ... soooooooooooo totally going to trust her.

  15. Hi!
    I am pregnant with my first and unfortunately I don’t have a mom to guide me.
    I’m reaching out for guidance.
    I need my caffeine and since I can’t have this is my alternative. What’s the max dosage I should have?
    Somewhere either in the article or comments it was mentioned that each week diet was different depending on baby’s growth etc; where should I find what I should eat depending on the week?
    Do you have other links to share with me? What I should know, eat and do?

  16. Hi, Kimberly!


    I wish you the healthiest and enjoyable journey!

    I'm not a nutritionist, so I can't advise you on your diet, but as a mom who has given birth several times, I'm pretty sure the pregnancy diet doesn't change from week to week.

    From personal experience, I did not change my diet from week to week. My focus was eating clean, whole and healthy. It is still my focus!

    What I can do is consult with you on ingredient labels, recommend supplements/products and support your transition to a more holistic lifestyle if that is what you're interested in doing.

    Visit my shop here:

    If you're interested, fill out the contact form below and I'll be in touch!


Post a Comment

Comment Moderation is enabled.
1. Speak respectfully.
2. No spam links.
3. No spam comments.
4. Enable email notifications if you're awaiting a response.

I Use Florihana in My DIYs!