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  • Writer's pictureChardá Bell, IBCLC, CBE, CD

Caffeine and Breastfeeding – Sip or Skip?



Here's a little funny true storytime for y'all and a word of advice on coffee and breastmilk.


I had a friend who had a new baby and his wife was a super big coffee lover but had stopped having it while pregnant. He asked if it was safe for his wife to consume coffee while breastfeeding and I told him, it is generally considered safe, let your wife live friend!


So, a few days later, he told me why he asked me about this...




I asked him if his wife has changed anything with her diet and he said no, but she did start drinking her coffee again. So I texted his wife and she told me she has an espresso and a cup of coffee in the morning usually about 20 - 30 mins or so before she pumps. (she's a kinder teacher, don't judge!). The milk she brings home from that morning is usually the milk that dad feeds the baby at night.


I had a quick A-ha! moment and texted, "The baby is getting a little "shot" of caffeine! That's what probably has been creating this little issue."


Caffeine peaks in the bloodstream anywhere from 15 - 45 mins after ingestion, so it would be at it's highest level of concentration when she pumps. The half-life or elimination rate of it leaving the body, takes between 1.5 - 9.5 hours and on average 5 hours.


So, the solution was this...Mom pumps first THEN has her coffee, if she has coffee before she pumps, she just needs to label that bag "coffee milk" this way they know that milk might have caffeine and avoid giving it at night or in the evening. They changed this routine and immediately noticed a change in baby's behavior, dad was able to feed and put baby to bed and mom was able to keep enjoying her coffee, everyone wins!




Can you have coffee and caffeinated products while you are making milk? Yes! It's generally considered safe, BUT, there are some safety rules you may want to follow.


That magical and addicitive molecule found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks. As parents navigating the sleep-deprived seas of parenthood, many of us have leaned on caffeine's energizing embrace at some point. But what about when you're nursing a tiny human? Is it a green light to hit up your local barista for your favorite caramel macchiato light ice, not heavy, if it's heavy I'm not gonna drink it, with a little bit of soy, three whips to the top of the lip so I can take a sip or should you ask about the daily decaf specials?




Approximately 1% of the total amount of caffeine you consume passes through to your breast milk. 


Caffeine, a compound present in select plants, serves as a stimulant for the central nervous system, enhancing alertness and energy levels. Consequently, many sleep-deprived parents turn to it to manage the demanding responsibilities of parenthood.


In adults, caffeine typically remains in the system for three to seven hours. However, due to underdeveloped liver and kidney functions, infants can retain caffeine for 65–130 hours. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), premature and newborn infants metabolize or break down caffeine at a slower rate compared to older infants.


This means even small quantities passing through breast milk can accumulate or build up in a newborn's body over time. It's generally safe for breastfeeding parents to consume up to 300 mg of caffeine daily — roughly equivalent to two to three cups (470–710 ml) of coffee.


Current research indicates that staying within this limit while breastfeeding doesn't pose harm to infants. Nevertheless, infants of breastfeeding parents exceeding the 300 mg daily caffeine intake might experience sleeping difficulties, although research in this area remains limited.





But what about those tantalizing energy drinks? Here's where things get a bit more complicated. It's not just the caffeine content you need to worry about; it's the added herbs and mysterious potions lurking in those neon-colored cans. While caffeine itself might not be the culprit, the extra ingredients could pose a risk to your precious bundle of joy. So, it might be best to give those energy drinks a full stop and stick to your trusty cup of java or tea.




Time to spill the tea on tea...certain teas contain caffeine, although not all of them do. For instance, Black and Chai teas generally have higher caffeine levels compared to Green tea. A standard cup of Black tea contains approximately half the amount of caffeine found in a typical cup of coffee.


Additional sources of caffeine include: chocolate, sweets, certain medications, supplements, and beverages or edibles reported to enhance alertness.


Approximate amount of caffeine in these beverages:

Type of Drink

Serving Size

Caffeine

Energy drinks

8 ounces (240 ml)

50–160 mg

Coffee, brewed

8 ounces (240 ml)

60–200 mg

Tea, brewed

8 ounces (240 ml)

20–110 mg

Tea, iced

8 ounces (240 ml)

9–50 mg

Soda

12 ounces (355 ml)

30–60 mg

Hot chocolate

8 ounces (240 ml)

3–32 mg

Decaf coffee

8 ounces (240 ml)

2–4 mg

Avoid giving caffeinated milk to a premature baby or medically fragile baby. Their digestive systems may not be mature enough yet to handle it. It doesn't mean you can never have coffee again, it just means waiting a little longer until baby is older or finding an alternative to feed your baby during the times you would like to enjoy caffeine.


Symptoms to watch for that may indicate a negative reaction: infant sleeping issues, restlessness or excessive fussiness, digestive upset


In the end, it's all about finding that delicate balance between indulging in your caffeine cravings and keeping your little one safe and sound. So go ahead, savor that morning latte or quick afternoon coffee pick me up – just remember to keep it in range and you'll be in your happy space balancing your coffee and your baby like the amazing parent you are!




Sources:



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