Does Caffeine Consumption Affect Breastfeeding?

Does Caffeine Consumption Affect Breastfeeding?

Most breastfeeding women are able to consume caffeine moderately. Intake of caffeine is more sensitive to some babies, especially those under the age of 6 months. Babies whose mothers had completely avoided caffeine during pregnancy appear to have a greater reaction to caffeine in their mothers' diet. Even if your baby is sensitive to caffeine, they may not be once they grow older — so if you need to stop your consumption, or restrict it, you could still try it again when baby is older.

Caffeine is in Lactation Risk Category L2 (safer) per medication and mum's milk (Hale 2017, pp 139-140); milk levels are quite low (0.06-1.5% of maternal dose) and usually peak for 1-2 hours following intake. In one study, chronic consumption of coffee may decrease the amount of iron in breast milk (Nehlig & Debry, 1994). Caffeine has been classified as "maternal medication, usually compatible with breastfeeding," by the American Academy of Paediatrics. Caffeine is given directly to premature infants (as a treatment for respiratory problems) in much higher concentrations than in mothers who ingest caffeine.

If your baby is sensitive to caffeine, then this will typically be less problematic as your baby gets older. Newborns have a significantly harder time metabolising caffeine than older infants.

Half-Life of Caffeine




up to 97.5 hours

3 – 5 months

approx. 14 hours

6+ months

2.6 hours


4.9 hours

References: Hale 2017


Is my baby sensitive to my intake of caffeine?

According to Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple (Hale Publishing 2010, p. 521), a mother's excessive consumption of caffeine (more than 750 mg per day) can lead to a baby showing signs of stimulation of caffeine. If a mother consumes 750 mg or more of caffeine a day, and her baby seems irritable, fussy, and will not sleep for long, she can try substituting caffeine-free drinks for a week or two.

If your baby seems especially wakeful or fussy and your diet contains a considerable amount of caffeine, you may want to cut down or stop the caffeine for 2-3 weeks to see whether it makes a difference. If you choose to remove caffeine from your diet, consider gradually decreasing it as stopping caffeine abruptly can lead to headaches or other symptoms.

If caffeine stimulation is a problem for the baby, it may take a few days to a week for the baby to become less fussy after mum eliminates caffeine.


Will the consumption of caffeine diminish my milk supply?

There is a widespread myth that caffeine will decrease the supply of milk. Several mums consume caffeine, and any adverse effects of caffeine on the supply of milk should be easy to document. However, despite several studies of caffeine intake in breastfeeding mothers and years of clinical observations, no such effect has been observed. Even so, one study (Nehlig & Debry, 1994) shows that caffeine can stimulate the production of milk. However, a baby that is fussy and jittery from caffeine stimulation may not nurse well, which may result in a reduced supply of milk over time (due to decreased nursing, rather than the mother's intake of caffeine).


Which drinks contain caffeine?

Caffeine may be found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, sports / energy drinks (along with "sports water" products), many over - the-counter and prescription drugs, and coffee or chocolate-containing foods. There is also caffeine in herbal products that contain guarana / paullinea cupana, kola nut / cola nitida, yerba maté, or green tea.

Caffeine and breastfeeding

How much is too much caffeine?

Looking at your baby is the only way to answer this question individually. As mentioned above, the quantity of caffeine that may affect the baby varies greatly depending on the baby's age and health. We often hear an estimate of "less than five 5 oz coffee" or 500 mg / day. Different sources indicate a top limit of 300-750 mg / day for caffeine intakes.

During pregnancy: most sources suggest that caffeine for pregnant moms should be limited to 300 mg / day. One source (Motherisk) however recommends a maximum of 150 mg of caffeine a day during pregnancy.

The table below shows different suggested upper limits for coffee, tea, soda, etc. It should be noted that energy drinks generally also contain vitamins, and vitamin toxicity could also be a problem in combination with other supplements.





Thorlton J, Ahmed A, Colby D. Energy Drinks: Implications for the Breastfeeding MotherMCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing. 2016;41(3):179-185. doi:10.1097/nmc.0000000000000228.

Santos IS, et al. Maternal Caffeine Consumption and Infant Nighttime Waking: Prospective Cohort Study. Pediatrics. Published online April 2, 2012 (10.1542/peds.2011-1773)

Nawrot P, et al. Effects of caffeine on human health. Food Addit Contam. 2003 Jan;20(1):1-30. This review article suggest that reproductive-aged women should limit thei caffeine intake to no more than 300 mg per day.

Koren G. Caffeine during pregnancy? In moderation. Can Fam Physician. 2000 Apr;46(4):801-3.

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. “We conclude in this review that maternal caffeine consumption in moderate amounts during gestation and lactation has no measurable consequences on the fetus and newborn infant. Pregnant mothers, however, should be advised to consume coffee and caffeinated beverages in moderation [300 mg caffeine/day], especially because of the prolonged half-life of caffeine both during the last trimester of pregnancy and in the newborn infant.”

Stavchansky S, Combs A, Sagraves R, Delgado M, Joshi A. Pharmacokinetics of caffeine in breast milk and plasma after single oral administration of caffeine to lactating mothers. Biopharm Drug Dispos. 1988 May-Jun;9(3):285-99.

Ryu JE. Effect of maternal caffeine consumption on heart rate and sleep time of breast-fed infants. Dev Pharmacol Ther. 1985;8(6):355-63. This small study showed no significant changes in breastfed baby’s heart rates and sleep time when the mothers ingested 500 mg/day of caffeine. This is the “5 cups of coffee” study.

Berlin CM Jr, Denson HM, Daniel CH, Ward RM. Disposition of dietary caffeine in milk, saliva, and plasma of lactating women. Pediatrics. 1984 Jan;73(1):59-63.

Hildebrandt R, Gundert-Remy U. Lack of pharmacological active saliva levels of caffeine in breast-fed infants. Pediatr Pharmacol (New York). 1983;3(3-4):237-44.



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