Coffee/Caffeine and Breastfeeding: The Complete Guide

Having a new baby join the family is tough, even though it is one of the most enriching experiences of your life.

From the frequent feedings to waking multiple times every night, it quickly turns out to be exhausting.

If coffee was your go-to source for energy before you gave birth, it’s only logical your next question would be "do coffee and breastfeeding mix?"

You'll learn everything you need to know about coffee/caffeine consumption after reading this guide, so let’s dive right in!

Is It Safe To Drink Coffee While Breastfeeding?

coffee and breastfeeding - safe or not

Absolutely yes.​

In fact, most mothers that drink coffee or consume other caffeinated foods or beverages while breastfeeding their baby will never experience an issue.

This, of course, depends on many variables, one of which is the relative amount of caffeine consumed at any one time and throughout the day.

Does The Caffeine Found In Coffee Enter Breastmilk?

The short answer to this is, yes, it does [1]. However, the amount that actually enters breast milk is very small, and usually not enough to cause an issue. It is estimated that just about 1% [2] of consumed caffeine content passes into breast milk, which typically does not cause an issue in the newborn.

While the amount of caffeine that enters breast milk remains constant as your child grows, the good news is that their tolerance improves significantly as they get older, making this worry over coffee a transient one at best.

How Much Caffeine Can I Safely Consume While Breastfeeding?

According to the National Healthcare Service (NHS) of the UK, a breastfeeding woman should limit her total daily caffeine consumption to 300mg [3].

Though this may seem like a lot at first glance, it can easily add up if you consume coffee or other stimulant beverages more than once a day.

Most women that consume 1 cup of coffee in the mornings will likely never achieve this level of caffeine, but there is more good news on the horizon:

You only need to actively restrict your total to 1 cup per day when your baby is under 3 months old. By the time your baby is 10-12 months old, you can get away with having up to 4 cups of coffee per day [4] just fine and experience no negative effects.

Will My Baby Be Affected By Coffee?

is breastfed baby affected by coffee

For most mothers, coffee and breastfeeding pose no threat to the newborn at all.

In a small number of babies, however, caffeine-containing beverages may have stimulating properties, which manifest in different ways.

For example:

  • Your baby may appear more fussy than normal.
  • Your newborn may have difficulty getting to sleep or suffer from insomnia. (the effect is markedly reduced in infants 3 months of age and older) [5]
  • Colic may occur more frequently, characterized by crying and discomfort [6]. Acid reflux is very common in newborn babies and may include vomiting and poor feeding habits.

The appearance or lack thereof of these symptoms depends a lot on genetic traits [7] passed down to the baby, as a subset of the population metabolize caffeine and stimulants very fast, and do not experience much in terms of negative stimulant intolerances.

On the other hand are individuals that experience unwanted effects from the smallest amounts of stimulants consumed, normally experiencing anxiety and palpitations to name a few.

Will Coffee Affect Milk Production?

To date, there is no evidence to support the claim that regular coffee consumption will have a negative effect on breast milk production [8].

However, it is understandable how this belief first started, as caffeine has a mild diuretic property on the body, which results in increased urination. But the effect on breast milk production is small to none.

Rather than causing a decrease in milk production, an isolated study conducted on rodents (yes, we know it doesn't always carry over to humans) found that caffeine could instead stimulate increased milk production [9].

How Long Does Caffeine Last In The Mother's System?

how long does caffeine last in mothers system

In an adult, following consumption of coffee or tea, caffeine hits the bloodstream kicking in within 15-45 minutes after.

 Its effects remain noticeable for another 2 hours on average (up to 4 hours in some persons) and start to disappear completely about 5 hours (its half-life) [10] after consumption.

What this means is that at about 5 hours post-consumption, clearance of caffeine from the body is the same as the amount active, and its effects fade significantly.

A great plan of action if to breastfeed just before having your morning beverage (or immediately following), so that the next time a feed session comes around (usually 2-3 hours) the caffeine in your system will have already hit its peak and be on the verge of elimination.

How Long Does Caffeine Last In My Baby?

how long does caffeine last in baby

Depending on how old your baby is, caffeine's half-life varies significantly. As a general rule, the younger your baby is, the longer it takes to metabolize and clear from the body [11]:

  • In newborns (from birth to 2 months of age) caffeine takes a whopping 97.5 hours to reach its half-life equilibrium stage.
  • Babies 3-5 months old possess a caffeine half-life of about 14 hours.
  • Babies 6 months of age and older take about 2.5 hours for its half-life to be achieved.

This translates to far greater sensitivity to caffeine the younger the baby is, making it important to monitor if you have a fussy baby on hand.

The good news from this?​

Older babies handle caffeine in breast milk much better than newborns.

What If I Don't Drink Coffee?

dark chocolate caffeine

Unknown to many women, caffeine is still found in a bevy of other beverages, even if you've never had coffee in your life.

Even drinks as innocuous as some types of sodas may contain caffeine, as do many other over the counter herbal supplements [12].

Popular ones to keep an eye out for include:

  • Green Tea – 30-50mg caffeine per 8oz. cup.
  • Soda: Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew - 40-55mg per 12oz. can/ bottle.
  • Dark chocolate - 70mg per bar.
  • Hot cocoa - 8mg per 8oz serving.
  • Energy drinks - 80mg per can. Energy drinks should be the last beverage you reach for, as they are typically composed of low-quality carbohydrates and artificial flavorings.
  • Iced teas & coffee - a cup of iced tea has on average about 26mg of caffeine, while the same sized serving of iced coffee has about 95mg. Iced beverages are not lower in caffeine than their hot counterparts.

When Should I Drink Coffee?

morning cup coffee

If you used to consume coffee or caffeinated beverages throughout the day prior to your pregnancy, it is time to change that.

Caffeine consumption too late at night/ too close to bedtime can make it so that you are in for a long evening of fussing from your newborn, due to the much longer time it takes to clear their bodies.

Consume all caffeine in the morning or at least early noon, so that any amount that crosses into breast milk should be eliminated by the time night falls.

Consuming Black Tea While Breastfeeding

black tea and breastfeeding

Black tea, like most other tea varieties, contains some amount of caffeine in them.

An 8oz sized cup of black tea contains approximately 48mg of caffeine [13], which can creep up on you if you think you are making a better choice.

Yes, tea comes with a host of unique anti-oxidants that coffee may not possess, but when it comes to consuming black tea, the same rules apply as for coffee; keep consumption patterns infrequent and earlier in the day to minimize the likelihood of fussiness occurring at night.

What About Decaf Coffee While Breastfeeding?

decaf coffee and breastfeeding

While decaffeinated coffee is an excellent option to drink while breastfeeding, it is important to realize that no coffee is truly 100% caffeine free.

In fact, the USDA requires that for a coffee product to be labeled as decaffeinated, just 97% of the total caffeine content needs to be removed from it. This, in turn, means that your choice of decaf coffee still retains some amount of caffeine, usually in the vicinity of 4-12mg per cup [14].

While this amount may seem small and is a better option than full strength coffee, it is important to realize that the small amount present should still be kept in mind.

What If I Pump And Store Breast Milk?

breastfeeding bottle

This is an often overlooked aspect of feeding, that many moms are guilty of doing at least once.

Caffeine, even though it has a fixed half-life in adults, only acts that way while in the body.

Owing to the fact that many mothers pump milk during the early morning hours, chances are that the stored milk will contain caffeine if you drink a cup of coffee to get going.

Alternately, there is a practice known as "pump and dump", which strives to reduce the caffeine load in breastmilk during the next feed/ pumping session. For this to be effective you would need to wait about 2 hours before attempting to pump again.

Caffeine is not broken down outside the body, which means that at each feeding interval your baby will be getting a little caffeine.

Your best bet?

Pump milk before having your morning cup of Joe [15], or at a minimum, carefully monitor stored milk to be given at night is pumped at a time when caffeine is out of your system.

What Should I Avoid Drinking With Coffee?

grapefruit and breastfeeding

While most babies will tolerate that morning cup of coffee just fine, as a mother, it is very important that you do not consume certain other foods around the same time.

One such food is the grapefruit [16], which you may be tempted to consume to lose some of that extra weight gained during pregnancy. However, grapefruit has a way of extending the half-life of caffeine significantly, which may then pose a problem to your baby.

Does Drinking Coffee/ Caffeinated Beverages Affect The Quality Of My Breast Milk?

Besides the obvious passing along of caffeine to the baby, coffee itself only has a mild effect on the nutritive value of breast milk.​

In particular, there is reduced absorption of calcium and iron [17], with the latter possibly experience reduced absorption of up to 80% if you use an iron supplement.

If you find that you must have your coffee or tea, and have been prescribed dietary nutrients to fight or prevent a deficiency, it is best to separate them several hours apart.

How To Get Rid Of Caffeine In Breast Milk

There is no reliable way to get rid of caffeine from breast milk, except waiting it out for the half-life to be achieved, after which elimination ensues.

However, mild cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise may assist a little with speeding up the metabolism of caffeine, as the enhanced blood flow means that more caffeine passes through the liver in a shorter period of time.​

This is still considered an unreliable way of boosting elimination, as it is not easily replicable.

How To Get More Out Of Less Coffee

how to get more out of less coffee

Sometimes that morning cup of coffee is all that separates you from passing out from fatigue and having a successful day, placing you between a rock and a hard place​

What many mothers are not taking advantage of, however, is making less coffee do more.

Adding about half of a teaspoon grass-fed butter or coconut oil can help improve the absorption of caffeine, making the same or an even smaller amount work harder for you.

There is no added burden of caffeine metabolism or passing into breast milk, as the net amount is the same or even less.

The added butter supplies good fat and other nutrients which then translate into higher quality breast milk [18].

Can I Use Green Coffee Bean Extract While Breastfeeding?

green coffee and breastfeeding

Green coffee bean, for all intents and purposes, should still be viewed as a coffee supplement, since it possesses caffeine in it [19].​

However, what you may also be getting in addition to the caffeine and coffee are other additives that may make it less than ideal for your baby.

That being said, the safety of green coffee extract has not been proven while breastfeeding, making a coffee beverage a better option for you.

Wrapping It All Up

As a parent that loves that morning cup of Joe, it was important that I made the best-informed choices I could, and of course, share what I learned from my endless research on the topic.

Did you enjoy this post?

I sincerely hope you learned something from reading this so that now you can strike the best balance between enjoying your favorite caffeinated drink and safe breastfeeding for your baby.

Tell me what you think in the comments below, or if you have any tips not mentioned in the list.​

And last, but certainly not least, share this article with another mom that could put her worries to rest by reading this.

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