Breastfeeding & Caffeine
Ah, coffee. We love you so. Many new moms wonder if they can finally indulge in their favorite caffeinated beverage once baby arrives if they're breastfeeding. We are big believers that breastfeeding should not come with unnecessary restrictions so let's talk about the facts surrounding breastfeeding (hint: feel free to drink that cup of jo while you read this).
DOES CAFFEINE GET IN MY MILK?
Yes. However, what actually gets absorbed by your baby is negligible depending on how much you consume.
Because caffeine can have a long half-life (aka the time it takes to start metabolizing or leaving your body), small traces can be found in breast milk (7). However, what actually gets into your breast milk is less than 1% of what is absorbed in your body (8).
Research suggests that caffeine reaches its peak levels in your body about 60 to 120 minutes after consumption but this can vary widely for women depending on factors within your body and how fast you metabolize the caffeine (6,7). A small study showed peak caffeine in breast milk about an hour after mother's consumed at least 100 mg of caffeine (this is about one cup of coffee) with traces in breast milk as soon as 15 minutes after ingesting caffeine (1). This same study found that by 12 hours after consuming the caffeine, there was no trace of caffeine in the breast milk.
This is useful information because if baby is sensitive to caffeine, they will likely show signs around an hour after you consume caffeine and within 12 hours behavior should be back to normal.
CAN I DRINK COFFEE?
YES. Mamas, caffeine is considered safe to consume while nursing (6). For most women, about 300 mg/day (2-3 cups of coffee) should be completely fine to enjoy without affecting your baby's behavior (2,3,6).
A few things to be mindful of:
- Not all caffeine is equal! A caffeinated drink like coffee will have a different amount of caffeine from an energy drink or tea so always check the labels to see how much caffeine you're consuming in each serving. Reading the labels closely will also allow you to see if there are any other ingredients such as certain herbs found in teas and energy drinks that you may want to avoid while breastfeeding. (We will be sharing a post soon on herbs so stay tuned!).
- Watch the serving size. One cup of coffee may take on different meanings depending on what your usual "cup" of coffee looks like. A Starbucks tall cup of pike place roast coffee has about 235 mg of caffeine compared to the venti blonde roast which has about 475, so make sure you know how much caffeine is in your serving size (9). Here is a handy chart of some popular brands!
- Be aware that caffeine doesn't just mean coffee. There is caffeine in tea, some sodas, certain medications and foods like chocolate. These types of non-coffee caffeine should be included in your daily intake total.
WILL CAFFEINE MAKE MY BABY FUSSY?
The short answer, most likely no.
For a healthy, term baby, small amounts of caffeine (<300mg = about 3 cups/day) that crosses into your milk should be easily processed by baby's body (2,3).
If you have a preterm baby or newborn, their digestive systems take a little more time to process caffeine out of their bodies (approx 120 hours versus 14 hours of a 3-5 month old) so they may be more sensitive to traces of caffeine in breast milk (5). Many mothers are very effective at processing out the caffeine before it even gets into breast milk and so oftentimes moms of newborns and preemies can still happily enjoy coffee without affecting baby's behavior (2). Our advice is to try a bit at a time and see how your baby does with it. If you notice even small amounts of caffeine cause your baby to be especially fussy or have trouble napping, then dial it back and try again as they get older and their digestive systems get more efficient.
- Yes, you can drink coffee. About 300 mg/day is considered safe, which equals approximately 2-3 cups of coffee. Not too bad!
- Be aware of how much caffeine your consuming whether its from coffee or other sources like chocolate, teas, energy drinks, or medications. All forms of caffeine should be included in that 300 mg/day recommendation.
- Most babies will not have a change in behavior when you consume moderate amounts (<300 mg/day) of caffeine but some might, especially newborns and preterm babies because their digestive systems are still developing. Be aware of your baby's behavior when you have caffeine and consider scaling your caffeine consumption back if you notice your baby is excessively fussy, crying or not sleeping.
- If baby seems sensitive to it now, decrease consumption and try again in another month or two. As their digestive systems get more effective at metabolizing the caffeine out, you may find you can enjoy a cup here and there without any issues.
(1) Berlin et al. (1984). Disposition of Dietary Caffeine in Milk, Saliva, and Plasma of Lactating Women. Pediatrics, 73, 59-63.
(2) Lauwers, J. & Swisher, A. (2015). Counseling the Nursing Mother: A Lactation Consultants Guide. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
(3) American Academy of Pediatrics. (2001). The Transfer of Drugs and Other Chemicals Into Human Milk. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/108/3/776.full.pdf
(4) Martin et al. (2007). Neonatal withdrawal syndrome after chronic maternal drinking of mate. Ther Drug Monit, 29( 1), 127-129.
(5) Infant Risk Center. (n.d.). High Energy Drinks and Breastfeeding. Retrieved from https://www.infantrisk.com/content/high-energy-drinks-and-breastfeeding
(6) Hale, T.W., & Rowe, H. E. (2014). Medications & mother’s milk (16th ed.). Amarillo,TX: Hale Publishing.
(7) Seifert et al. (2011). Health effects of energy drinks on children, adolescents, and young adults. Pediatrics, 127(3), 511-528. doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3592
(8) Budzynska et al. (2013). Complementary, holistic, and integrative medicine: Advice for clinicians on herbs and breastfeeding. Pediatrics Review, 34(8), 343-353. doi:10.1542/pir.34-8-343
(9) Center for Science in the Public Interest. (n.d.). Caffeine Chart. Retrieved from https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/ingredients-of-concern/caffeine-chart