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Caffeine and Breastfeeding

You might be concerned that your morning cup of coffee or tea may have an effect on your baby or that chocolate will keep your baby up. The news is good: while caffeine does pass into breastmilk, breastfed babies generally do not suffer ill effects from moderate caffeine consumption through breastmilk. According to InfantRisk, “Medical studies have so far failed to provide strong evidence that caffeine increases the risk for adverse pregnancy or breastfeeding outcomes in otherwise healthy mothers and babies.” However, you may want to take the following into consideration:

Is my baby more likely to react to caffeine?

Babies who are under six months or have other health issues may be more likely to react to caffeine because they aren’t able to process it as quickly or efficiently. Caffeine does pass into breastmilk, however baby gets about 1.5% of the amount of caffeine that the nursing parent gets (Berlin, Denson, Daniel & Ward 1984). The half-life of caffeine is about 97.5 hours in a newborn, 14 hours in a 3-5-month-old baby and 2.6 hours in a baby older than 6 months. In comparison, the half-life of caffeine in an adult is 4.9 hours (Hale, Medications and Mother’s Milk 2017). Peak levels of caffeine in breastmilk are found 60-120 minutes after intake.

What are the possible symptoms? 

A baby who is showing signs of caffeine intake may be unusually irritable, fussy, or wakeful. They may also have a harder time staying asleep.

What foods and beverages might have caffeine? 

Caffeine can be found in many foods and beverages besides coffee and tea. Some sources include:

  • Foods/beverages:
    • Cocoa/chocolate
    • Coffee
    • Tea- Black tea, green tea, chai, and other herbal teas. Matcha green tea contains much more caffeine than other green teas. Some teas are caffeine-free.
    • Energy drinks
    • Carbonated beverages, including many sodas
    • Sports drinks
    • Flavored water
    • Diet shakes, including some Shakeology and Plexus products
  • Medications (over-the-counter and prescription):
    • Pain relievers
    • Menstrual relief tablets including Midol
    • Weight-loss supplements

Caffeine may not be labeled if it occurs naturally in the food or beverage. Other sources of caffeine which may appear on a label include:

  • Guarana
  • Yerba Mate
  • Kola nuts/Cola

If you aren’t sure if a product has caffeine, check the label if available. Some beverages like coffee, tea, and soda/pop do have caffeine by default unless otherwise labelled.

How much caffeine is safe? 

The American Academy of Pediatrics considers it safe to consume small amounts of caffeine while breastfeeding.  However, it is recommended for nursing parents to limit their daily consumption to less than three cups of coffee per day (or up to 300 mg of caffeine). You can check this article for the amount of caffeine in some popular drinks.

Because caffeine takes much longer to clear out of a young baby’s system it is possible that high caffeine intake by the nursing parent can make a baby irritable and wakeful. Two studies found that most nursing parents need to drink more than five cups of coffee before their breastfeeding baby is affected (Nehlig & Derby 1994, Ryu 1985).”

What can I try if I think my baby is reacting to caffeine in my milk?

If you suspect your baby might have an effect from your caffeine intake, you could try going without it or cutting back to see if there is a change. Be aware that suddenly stopping caffeine may lead to headaches.

 

RESOURCES

Breastfeeding and Caffeine, La Leche League Canada

Caffeine Intake in Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women, InfantRisk

High Energy Drinks and Breastfeeding, InfantRisk

Maternal Diet, American Academy of Pediatrics

Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more, Mayo Clinic

Caffeine, LactMed

Breastfeeding and Caffeine, KellyMom

 

IS YOUR CONCERN OR QUESTION NOT COVERED HERE?

Please contact a local LLL Leader with your specific questions.

Medical questions and legal questions should be directed to appropriate health care and legal professionals.

 

Page updated January 2020