Earlier this year, I made a decision to quit caffeine. I’ve been a caffeine addict for almost as long as I can remember. I grew up drinking Diet Pepsi, then switched to Diet Coke, then later started using caffeine pills to get me through grad school and law school. For a period of time, I also drank coffee on a constant drip. Needless to say, I was very caffeine addicted.
I made many attempts to quit over the years. When I was pregnant with my babies, I went down to 200 mg of caffeine/day, which is the max okay’ed by my doctors. I just couldn’t get lower than that without going crazy.
But I often felt very guilty about consuming caffeine because my kids were born caffeine addicted, and I had to bring caffeine with me to the hospital to take the morning after they were born. Since I breastfed all my kids, they got caffeine through breastmilk, and they were often agitated and restless as newborns…horrible sleepers.
When I found out I was pregnant last September, I knew I wanted to quit caffeine for good. I didn’t want my baby to go through withdrawal this time, and honestly – I was DONE with being addicted to it. I had severe morning sickness during my pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum) – and I was basically miserable for the first two trimesters. I figured – I’m already so miserable, I might as well quit caffeine for good!
This time I had a plan – and I knew that this would be the LAST time I ever quit caffeine. I quit in February, so it’s been SIX months now. I feel confident that I’ll never go back to it. It was hard, though. Really hard.
Here is an accounting of how I did it, as well as the symptoms I went through as I experienced caffeine withdrawal. I’ve had a lot of friends ask me how I quit caffeine, and instead of writing it all out in text messages to them each time they ask, I want to have it here so hopefully it can help more people. This is going to be a long post – so get comfy. 🙂
The first thing you need to determine is your WHY. Why do you want to quit caffeine?
For me, I hated being dependent on it. I would wake up in the morning feeling groggy, and if I didn’t have caffeine in the first hour, I would get a massive headache. If I went a whole day without caffeine, my headache would turn into a migraine, and I’d feel nauseous to the point of vomiting.
I’ve read that caffeine affects different people differently, based on how their bodies metabolize caffeine. Well, it really affected me. All the times I’d tried to quit in the past were MISERABLE. I often went cold turkey, which was in hindsight really cruel to myself.
I recommend weaning yourself off caffeine slowly. I took a scientific approach to it, which worked great for me.
The second thing is to determine your current caffeine intake. You want to include all forms of caffeine when calculating your daily caffeine intake.
Here is a helpful website that lists the caffeine content of many common foods and beverages.
Here is another helpful website that lists the caffeine content of many foods and beverages.
Now, add up the caffeine content of all the caffeinated products that you usually consume in a day. Write the number of milligrams of caffeine down on a piece of paper. That’s your baseline for weaning.
This is how I did it – and you might not want to do it this way. Remember: I am not a doctor, and I don’t even play one on the internet. You should talk to your doctor about weaning down from caffeine if you have any concerns (and even if you don’t have concerns). Having a doctor on your side is really helpful. I spoke with my OB/GYN since I was pregnant when I did this, in order to get the all clear.
My baseline was about 200 mg/day of caffeine. I took one caffeine pill every morning (as I had done for the past twelve years since law school) – and cut out my afternoon soda and chocolate addiction. So, I knew I was having exactly 200 mg/day since that’s how many milligrams were in my morning caffeine pill.
This is the caffeine pill I used – I had taken this particular brand daily for over ten years, so I trusted it. It’s also about $6 for a bottle, so it doesn’t break the bank.
The next thing you need is a pill cutter and a weaning schedule.
This is the pill cutter I recommend. It’s pricey, but it is so accurate and you’ll never need to buy another pill cutter ever again. I use this for my dog’s meds, so it was worth it to me. Read the reviews and you’ll be convinced. LOL 🙂
For me, I decided to go down by 50 mg/each week. This meant that the first week, I cut the pill into fourths, and took 3/4 of one pill.
From 200mg, I went down to 175mg/day.
The next week, I went down to 150mg.
The next week, I went down to 100mg…
And so on, until I got to 0mg.
It took me a about five weeks to wean down completely. The first few days of each week were HARD. I had headaches, and I felt terrible.
By day 5 of each week, my body acclimated to the new dose. Then, I had a day or two of feeling normal before I weaned down again.
The last week – going from 50mg to 0mg was the hardest of all. I actually started eating Lindt Chocolate balls, because they have a little caffeine and sugar (about 10mg per ball) so that helped take the edge off.
After weaning down using the caffeine pills, I was caffeine-free!
I needed to make sure I didn’t fall back into my old habits, though. One thing I did was change out my soda addiction for water. I brought a tumbler of water with me everywhere. That way, even if I ended up at a fast food restaurant, I had something to drink that wasn’t soda.
This is the tumbler I use, since I wanted the experience of using a straw, the way I used to when I drank fountain soda.
You can go on Amazon and find a ton of tumblers with straws, or any other kind of water bottle. I just wanted something that approximated the experience of drinking soda from fountain.
I’m happy to say that it’s been six months since I had any caffeine!
What was my withdrawal like?
I’m sure you’re wondering what my withdrawal was like. Once I quit caffeine completely, I still did not feel like myself for months. I was pregnant at the time, so that may have had something to do with it. But overall, I felt tired, moody, and depressed for especially the first month after I quit.
I had to keep telling myself that it was temporary, and that eventually I’d be glad that I quit.
In the past, I always gave up when I got the horrible mood swings and depression from caffeine withdrawal. This time I knew I wasn’t going to go back to caffeine NO MATTER WHAT.
I’m now six months without caffeine, and I can honestly say I feel as good (or better) than I did when I was taking caffeine daily. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t need to have any caffeine to wake up – and I don’t get a headache if I miss my morning caffeine. It’s wonderful!
Also – my baby who was born about four months after I quit caffeine is the easiest, most mellow baby ever. He’s not fussy at all and he’s a great sleeper. I don’t have any proof that the lack of caffeine is why he’s calmer, but part of me feels that it must have something to do with it!
I have read online that some people experience withdrawal for months. I would say I didn’t feel great for about two months after I quit. I wanted caffeine daily those two months, but I didn’t give in.
Now, six months later, I don’t even think about caffeine and it’s not an option for me. If I’m tired, I try to get some sleep instead of staying up caffeinated. But I find that I’m not as tired as I used to be, because I’m not on a constant roller coaster. I have five young kids at home, so I definitely have to make sleep a priority, especially with a newborn!
But I feel less tired than I did when I was taking caffeine every day, and I also feel so much healthier!
That’s my story about how I quit caffeine for good! I hope it was helpful to you – and if you have any questions, please ask in the comments. I’m here for you. 🙂
All the best and good luck!