- Is baby sensitive to my caffeine intake?
- Does caffeine decrease milk supply?
- Caffeine Sources
- How much caffeine is too much?
- More information
Most breastfeeding mothers can drink caffeine in moderation. Some babies, particularly those under 6 months, may be more sensitive to mom’s caffeine intake. Babies whose mothers avoided caffeine completely during pregnancy seem to react more to caffeine in mom’s diet. Even if baby is sensitive to the caffeine now, he may not be when he’s a little older — so if you do have to stop or limit your caffeine intake, you can try again when baby is older.
Per Medications and Mother’s Milk (Hale 2017, p. 139-140) caffeine is in Lactation Risk Category L2 (safer); milk levels are quite low (0.06-1.5% of maternal dose) and usually peak 1-2 hours after ingestion. One study has indicated that chronic coffee drinking might decrease iron content of breastmilk (Nehlig & Debry, 1994). The American Academy of Pediatrics has classified caffeine as a “Maternal Medication Usually Compatible with Breastfeeding.” Caffeine is given directly to premature babies (as a treatment for breathing problems) in much higher levels than than those generally found in the breastmilk of mothers who consume caffeine.
If your baby is sensitive to caffeine, it will typically become less of an issue as baby gets older. Newborns have a much harder time metabolizing caffeine than older infants. Preterm or ill infants might also have more problems with mom’s caffeine intake.
|Half-Life of Caffeine|
|Newborn||up to 97.5 hours|
|3 – 5 months||approx. 14 hours|
|6+ months||2.6 hours|
|References: Hale 2017|
According to Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple (Hale Publishing 2010, p. 521), excessive caffeine consumption by the mother (more than 750 mg per day) can result in a baby who shows signs of caffeine stimulation. “If a mother consumes daily 750 mg of caffeine or more – the amount of caffeine in five 5-oz cups of coffee – and her baby seems irritable, fussy, and doesn’t sleep long” she can try substituting caffeine-free beverages for a week or two.
If your baby seems particularly wakeful or fussy and there is a significant amount of caffeine in your diet, you might want to cut back or stop the caffeine for 2-3 weeks to see if it makes a difference. If you cut out caffeine, consider decreasing it slowly since abruptly stopping caffeine can result in headaches or other symptoms.
If caffeine stimulation is a problem for baby, it may take a few days to a week after mom eliminates caffeine for baby to become less fussy.
There is no evidence that caffeine decreases milk supply.
The myth that caffeine will decrease milk supply is widespread. Many moms consume caffeine, and it ought to be easy to document any adverse effects of caffeine on milk supply. No such effect has been observed, however, despite a number of studies of caffeine intake in breastfeeding mothers and years of clinical observations. In fact, one study (Nehlig & Debry, 1994) indicates that caffeine can stimulate milk production. A baby who is fussy and jittery from caffeine stimulation may not nurse well, however, which could lead to a decreased milk supply over time (due to decreased nursing, rather than the mother’s caffeine intake).
Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, sports/energy drinks (including the “sports water” products), some over-the-counter and prescription medications, and foods containing coffee or chocolate. Herbal products containing guarana/paullinea cupana, kola nut/cola nitida, yerba maté, or green tea also contain caffeine. Following is information on caffeine content of various foods.
|Typical caffeine content of various foods
(Caffeine in tea & coffee will vary widely depending on brewing, etc)
|Starbucks Coffee, short||8||250||7-Eleven Big Gulp cola||64||190|
|Starbucks Coffee, tall||12||375||Mountain Dew||12||55|
|Starbucks Coffee, grande||16||500||Diet Coke||12||46|
|Starbucks Caffe Latte or Cappuccino, grande||16||70||Coke Classic||12||36|
|Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino||9.5||98||Vanilla Coke||12||32|
|Starbucks Espresso, double||2||150||Dr. Pepper, regular or diet||12||42|
|Maxwell House Cappuccino (various)||8||45-65||Pepsi-Cola||12||40|
|Coffee, brewed (non-gourmet)||8||120-180||Sunkist Orange Soda||12||34|
|Coffee, instant||8||80||Barq’s Root Beer||12||22|
|Coffee, decaffeinated||8||3||Caffeine-free versions of Coke, Diet Coke, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Barq’s, etc.||12||0|
|Minute Maid Orange, Slice, Sprite, 7-Up, A&W Root Beer, Mug Root Beer||12||0|
|Tea||Ice cream, yogurt, candy|
|Tea, leaf or bag||8||48||Starbucks Coffee Java Chip Ice Cream||4||28|
|Tea, green||8||30-35||Häagen-Dazs Coffee Ice Cream||4||24|
|Arizona Iced Tea, assorted varieties||16||15-30||Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream||8||6|
|Snapple Iced Tea||16||42||Dannon Coffee Yogurt||6||36|
|Other drinks||Stonyfield Farm Cappuccino Yogurt||8||0|
|Cocoa or Hot Chocolate||8||2-5||Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar||1.55||10|
|Herbal iced tea, lemonade, fruit juice, milk, tap water, plain bottled water||12||0||Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate bar||1.45||31|
|Compiled from various sources.|
Watching your baby is the only way to get an individual answer to this question. As stated above, the amount of caffeine that might affect baby will vary widely depending upon the specific baby and the baby’s age and health. The estimate we often hear is “less than five 5-oz cups of coffee” or 500 mg/day. Various sources suggest an upper limit for caffeine intake ranging from 300-750 mg/day.
During pregnancy: Most sources suggest a 300 mg/day upper limit on caffeine for pregnant moms. However, one source (Motherisk) recommends an upper of limit 150 mg caffeine per day during pregnancy.
The table below shows various suggested upper limits for caffeine in terms of amounts of coffee, tea, soda, etc. It should be noted that energy drinks generally have added vitamins as well, and vitamin toxicity could also be an issue especially when combined with other supplements.
|Equivalent caffeinated products for various daily caffeine intakes|
|150 mg||300 mg||500 mg|
|Starbucks Coffee||250 mg/8 oz (short)
375 mg/12 oz (tall)
500 mg/16 oz (grande)
|1/2 cup (short)||1 cup (short)||2 cups (short)
1.5 cups (tall)
1 cup (grande)
|100 mg/5 oz
160 mg/8 oz
|1.5 cups (5-oz)
1 cup (8-oz)
|3 cups (5-oz)
2 cups (8-oz)
|5 cups (5-oz)
3 cups (8-oz)
|Starbucks Frappuccino||98 mg/9.5 oz bottle||1.5 bottles||3 bottles||5 bottles|
|Diet Coke||46 mg/12 oz can
77 mg/20 oz bottle
|3 cans (12-oz)
2 bottles (20-oz)
|6.5 cans (12-oz)
4 bottles (20-oz)
|11 cans (12-oz)
6.5 bottles (20-oz)
|Pepsi-Cola||40 mg/12 oz can
67 mg/20 oz bottle
|3.5 cans (12-oz)
2 bottles (20-oz)
|7.5 cans (12-oz)
4.5 bottles (20-oz)
|12.5 cans (12-oz)
7.5 bottles (20-oz)
|Tea, leaf or bag||48 mg/8 oz||3 cups (8-oz)||6 cups (8-oz)||10 cups (8-oz)|
|Häagen-Dazs Coffee Ice Cream||24 mg/4 oz serving||6 servings (4-oz)||12.5 servings (4-oz)||20 servings (4-oz)|
|Dannon Coffee Yogurt||36 mg/6 oz serving||4 servings (6-oz)||8 servings (6-oz)||13 servings (6-oz)|
|Monster Energy||160 mg/16 oz can||1 can (16-oz)||2 cans (16-oz)||3.5 cans (16-oz)|
- Social Drugs and Breastfeeding: Handling an issue that isn’t black and white by Denise Fisher, BN, RN, RM, IBCLC. Discusses nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, heroin, and methadone.
- Caffeine content of foods and drugs from the Center for Science in the Public Interest
- Caffeinated kids from Consumer Reports July 2003
Thorlton J, Ahmed A, Colby D. Energy Drinks: Implications for the Breastfeeding Mother. MCN, 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.
Tyrala EE, Dodson WE. Caffeine secretion into breast milk. Arch Dis Child. 1979 Oct;54(10):787-800.