Do you love coffee as much as I do? Or maybe tea or soda is more your style? You might be wondering if breastfeeding mothers can continue to have caffeinated beverages throughout their breastfeeding journey. After all, we all know that these babies don’t allow us to get much sleep, and sometimes, a little caffeine boost feels really great!
But is it safe to consume caffeine during lactation? We recently posted a Fact or Fiction about this topic on instagram and many of you had a lot to say!
The Fact or Fiction statement was,
“Caffeine should be avoided while breastfeeding.”
Here’s a few comments from you guys.
Elizabeth said, “If I can’t have caffeine after being up all night nursing, then no one is going to get fed, dressed, or loved!”
Bethany said, “I have heard up to 5 cups regular coffee a day is okay…am I doing that? NO! But if I need a second cup in the afternoon to get over the afternoon slump I will!”
Addison said, “I don’t know the answer but I do know every time I drink soda, that same night is sooooo hard on my little one! I’ve stopped all caffeine now. Not worth it!”
My answer to the statement: Fiction. Moderate amounts of caffeine are okay!
How much caffeine consumption is safe?
Based on research studies, very little caffeine (about 1% of what you eat or drink) actually passes into mother’s milk (1). The general recommendation is to keep caffeine intake to about 300 mg per day (2). For reference, that is about two or three 8 oz cups of coffee!
What are the effects of caffeine on a breastfeeding baby?
The small amounts of caffeine found in breast milk usually do not affect the breastfed baby (2). However, each baby is different, and some babies may be more sensitive to caffeine than others! Keep in mind that babies process caffeine more slowly than adults do, and younger babies process it more slowly than older babies. The half-life of caffeine for adults, or the amount of time that it takes for an adult to process have of the caffeine in their body, is 3-7 hours. For a newborn or preterm baby, the half-life can be up to 120 hours (3).
It’s important to have a general idea of how many mg of caffeine you are consuming throughout the day so you can cut back or remove them if needed. Some sources of caffeine are caffeinated drinks (like coffee, green tea, black tea, soda, and energy drinks), medications and supplements, and even chocolate!
While the general recommendation is to keep your caffeine intake to 300 mg per day or less, “studies in mothers taking 5 cups of coffee daily found no stimulation in breastfed infants 3 weeks of age and older” and other studies have only found that the babies were affected by the caffeine when the mother had “very high caffeine intakes equivalent to about 10 or more cups of coffee daily” (4).
Again, we know that every baby is different! It may take a smaller amount to affect some infants. Here are some symptoms to watch for that might be indicating that your baby is experiencing some adverse effects due to your caffeine intake.
- sleep disturbances
If you are noticing these symptoms, try avoiding caffeine and substituting caffeine-free beverages instead. Keep a close eye on your baby and watch for improvement. If the symptoms were due to too much caffeine, your infant should improve within a few days to a week.
Of course, things like fussiness or trouble sleeping can be hard to quantify, and your baby might be fussy or have trouble sleeping for other reasons! You should rule out reasons other than caffeine, too, while working to figure out what is going on.
Will caffeine affect my breastmilk?
There is no evidence that caffeine has a negative affect on milk supply. It also has not been found to affect the composition of our breastmilk (6). As moms, we are often quick to think that something we are eating or drinking is the cause of our breastfeeding struggles! But rest assured that if you are having an issue with breastmilk supply, your caffeine consumption is likely not the cause. My best advice would be to get in touch with a lactation consultant who can review your health history and work with you to get to the bottom of what might be going on.
So enjoy that cup of coffee while it’s still warm, mama! And as always, book a consult with one of our IBCLCs if you are in need of some breastfeeding support.
Lindsey Shipley, RN, IBCLC
- Hale TW. Medications and Mother’s Milk 2021. 19th ed. Springer Publishing Co, LLC; 2020.
- CDC. Breastfeeding: Maternal Diet, Caffeine. Accessed March, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html#:~:text=Caffeine%3A,to%203%20cups%20of%20coffee
- Nehlig A, Alexander SP. Variation in caffeine metabolism. Pharmacological Reviews. 2018;70(2):384-411. doi:https://doi.org/10.1124/pr.117.014407
- LactMed. Caffeine. Accessed March, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501467/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501467/
- Infant Rist. Breastfeeding, Caffeine, and Energy Drinks. Accessed March, 2022. https://www.infantrisk.com/content/breastfeeding-caffeine-energy-drinks
- Nehlig A, Debry G. Consequences on the newborn of chronic maternal consumption of coffee during gestation and lactation: a review. J Am Coll Nutr. 1994 Feb;13(1):6-21. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1994.10718366. PMID: 8157856.