Caffeine And Breastfeeding – Everything You Need To Know

Caffeine And Breastfeeding - Everything You Need To Know

Many of us enjoy a morning cup (or cups) of tea or coffee.

Some of us need caffeine to feel like we can start the day and function properly.

Enter newborn baby.

Enter sleep deprivation.

Enter increased need for caffeine!

But what about for breastfeeding mothers? Can they safely continue to enjoy their daily caffeine fix?

Caffeine and Breastfeeding

You might get conflicting advice from your friends and even healthcare providers. Some might say everything you consume, baby consumes so you need to be very cautious. While that’s true in part, what you consume can get into your breastmilk, things don’t go in your mouth then straight to your milk.

How Much Caffeine Gets Into Breastmilk?

The amount of caffeine that gets into your breastmilk varies a lot depending on how your own body absorbs and gets rid of it.

Generally, about 1% of the caffeine you take in gets into your breastmilk. You might not want to run out and guzzle energy drinks, but for some mothers, knowing this makes them comfortable having a cup or two of coffee or tea per day.

When Does The Amount Of Caffeine In Breastmilk Peak?

Caffeine levels peak in your breastmilk about one hour after you’ve consumed it.

Regardless of if or when you empty the breast, caffeine will work its way out of your system and your breastmilk.

How Long Does It Take For Babies To Get Rid Of Caffeine?

For non-smoking adults, it takes an average of about 12 hours to get rid the caffeine they consume.

It takes an average of 160 hours for a newborn to get rid of caffeine (even longer for a premature baby). For this reason, it is possible for caffeine to build up to significant amounts in a newborn’s body.

By 3 to 4 months of age however, most babies are able to get rid of caffeine as quickly as adults do.

All this means is that it might be a good idea to go easy on the caffeine in the early months.

Is Maternal Caffeine Consumption Dangerous For Breastfed Babies?

There is no research to demonstrate that maternal caffeine consumption is dangerous for breastfed babies. In fact, research has shown that in breastfed babies, there was no observed effect on sleeping patterns or heart rate.

Anecdotally however, some breastfeeding mothers report that if they consume a lot of caffeine (e.g. more than 300mg a day) they notice various signs in their baby. For example, irritability, jitters, colic, constipation and poor sleeping patterns.

Watching your own baby for any signs of him potentially being affected by your caffeine consumption is one way to help you decide if the amount of caffeine you consume might be affecting him.

The Amount Of Caffeine In Drinks

The following table may help you keep track of your caffeine consumption:

Milligrams of caffeine in a 150mL cup
Brewed or filtered coffee 90mg
Soluble instant coffee 63mg
Decaffeinated coffee 3mg
Tea 32-42mg
Cola 16mg

Other Things To Be Aware Of

Some people are more sensitive to caffeine consumption than others.

For example, caffeine consumption can worsen insomnia, heart arrhythmias, gastro-oesophageal reflux and type 2 diabetes.

If a breastfeeding mother has a nipple vasospasm, caffeine consumption could make it worse.

If you are in the early days and weeks of caring for a newborn, you might want to consider how caffeine could impact your ability to rest. If you are trying to rest when the baby rests at varying times during the day, having too much caffeine might make it more difficult for you to settle for a nap.

In conclusion, it may be a good idea to be more conservative if your baby is less than a few months old or is premature, but moderate maternal caffeine consumption (e.g. up to 300mg a day or approximately 3 cups of tea/coffee) is unlikely to cause any problem for most breastfed babies.

While many things change with the addition of a new baby, your daily cup of coffee or tea may not have to – relief to many tired breastfeeding mothers.

 
Last Updated: August 1, 2015

CONTRIBUTOR

Renee Kam is mother to Jessica and Lara, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


3 comments

  1. I am currently TTC and have quit caffeine. I found this article quite interesting. Personally I prefer to give it up then chance it. With drying up my milk with my first child I drank Coke and it worked.

    1. I’m not sure if there is any research to back up drinking Coke to dry up milk, I haven’t heard of that before, and it can definitely make you more prone to type 2 diabetes! But there are other methods that do work well.

  2. Hi Renee! Thank you for sharing this information. I am a breastfeeding mother and I too would often feel guilty if I have coffee regularly. I will generally order decaf when I am out in a cafe or restaurant, but I dont have decaf at home as the supermarkets dont have a variety of decaf whatsoever after searching the shelves. I wouldnt consume anymore than one or two a day. And some days I will choose not to have any.
    However for 4 months at the beginning of my pregnancy I was completely turned off it. Didnt have a drop just had herbal tea, or normal tea. Then through the 5th & 6th month I started getting the yearn for it again and I was having 3 (cafe) coffees a day! I was working full time through my whole pregnancy, and the 5th month I was just soo tired I needed the caffeine! Then one day I had 4! the next day I didnt have any and was having withdrawals headaches and tiredness. So I snapped out of it and for the remainder of the pregnancy I virtually had no more! Cold turkey because if I was having withdrawals then baby could have been too. Glad I did that. I have average 1 a day, my baby is almost 10 weeks old and she is wondeful. Sleeps 6 hours through the night! sleeps through the day feeds well and is just a joy.

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