For new mothers, it is important to know how long caffeine stays in breastmilk. This will help you make decisions about what drinks, how many cups of coffee and even what foods to consume while you are breastfeeding. In this blog post, we will discuss the research on how long caffeine stays in breastmilk, the caffeine content in certain drinks, and give you some tips on how to reduce the amount of caffeine that your baby consumes.
One of the most common questions I hear from breastfeeding moms is, “Can I drink caffeine while breastfeeding?
Caffeine is in so many products – from coffee and tea to pre-workouts and even chocolate – it’s an understandable question!
After learning the answer to this, the next question is, “How long does caffeine stay in my milk for?” In this article, we’ll answer all these questions to help you make the best decision for your baby!
Table Of Contents
- Can you drink caffeine while breastfeeding?
- How long does caffeine stay in breastmilk?
- How much caffeine can you drink while breastfeeding?
- Can too much caffeine decrease iron in breast milk?
- What is caffeine?
- How can caffeine affect your breastfeeding baby?
- How to Limit Caffeine Exposure While Breastfeeding
- Does caffeine stay in pumped milk?
- Do I need to pump and dump after caffeine?
- How much does caffeine affect breast milk?
- Does caffeine in breast milk keep the baby awake?
- What can you find caffeine in?
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Can you drink caffeine while breastfeeding?
The good news is, YES, you can safely drink some caffeine in most situations. A morning cup of coffee should be fine for a new mom and her new baby.
It is generally acceptable to drink between 200-300 milligrams of caffeine in 24 hours. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- If your baby is a preemie or medically fragile, it might be a good idea to still avoid caffeine
- Some babies – especially newborns – are more sensitive to caffeine to others. You should monitor your baby when you drink caffeine to see how your baby reacts.
Moderate caffeine intake, though, should be acceptable.
How long does caffeine stay in breastmilk?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a hard and fast rule to this – alcohol levels in breast milk are a little more well-studied. It can depend on how much you drank if you ate anything, your weight, how old your baby is, etc. For some babies, it can take upwards of 120 hours to completely rid caffeine from the body of the breastfeeding mother.
There was one study done back in 1984 that studied this topic. They studied a group of moms who ingested various amounts of caffeine, and these were the primary findings:
- Caffeine was detectable within 15 minutes of consumption in both breast milk and saliva
- Peak caffeine levels were found about one hour after drinking
- The half-life of caffeine (the amount of time it takes for half the caffeine to be eliminated from the body) was between 1.5 to 14.5 hours, with an average of six hours. This means it could take up to 28 hours for caffeine to be totally eliminated, though that would be with large amounts. 12 hours is likely the average.
- The caffeine was NOT present in the infant’s urine five hours after the first nursing session.
According to Infant Risk on this, which is one of the leading sources of breastfeeding safety:
“The half-life is up to 120 hours for the newborn or preterm baby.3 This is because newborns lack the necessary enzymes to metabolize caffeine until several days after birth.4 The half-life for caffeine metabolism reduces to about 14 hours once the baby has reached 3-5 months of age.4 Given these differences in the amount of time it takes for babies to metabolize caffeine, special consideration must be given to newborns and preterm infants who may be more susceptible to the effects of caffeine due to these differences in the amount of time it takes for babies to metabolize caffeine. Extreme caution must be given to the use of caffeine during lactation if the newborn has any known heart conditions or has gastro-esophageal reflux disease, as caffeine may affect these conditions.”
Smaller amounts of caffeine will likely have less impact on your breast milk. For smaller amounts of caffeine, it may be out of your system within 2-6 hours.
It is also thought that caffeine stays in a newborn’s system longer than that of an older baby. So if you find your newborn is sensitive, that doesn’t mean it will always be the case!
However, if you consume a large amount of caffeine, or if you drink caffeinated beverages often, the caffeine can build up in your system and stay in your breastmilk for longer periods of time.
How much caffeine can you drink while breastfeeding?
There are varying answers to this, and sometimes, it might just come down to your baby. However, the general recommendation is that 200-300mg of coffee in 24 hours is acceptable.
This research says that 300-500 mg is probably okay, though it’s best to start on the lower side of things.
What Professionals Say
Here is what professionals say about caffeine consumption while breastfeeding:
“Caffeine passes from the mother to infant in small amounts through breast milk, but usually does not adversely affect the infant when the mother consumes low to moderate amounts (about 300 milligrams or less per day, which is about 2 to 3 cups of coffee). Irritability, poor sleeping patterns, fussiness, and jitteriness have been reported in infants of mothers with very high intakes of caffeine, about 10 cups of coffee or more per day.”
For most breastfeeding mothers, consuming <300 mg of caffeine (equal to three 8oz cups of coffee) is considered safe.1 However, this might be too much for some infants due to genetic differences in caffeine effects and metabolism.
“it is recommended for nursing parents to limit their daily consumption to less than three cups of coffee per day (or up to 300 mg of caffeine)”
Can too much caffeine decrease iron in breast milk?
This is one risks of overdoing it on the caffeine while breastfeeding. This study showed that a maternal intake of over 450mg per day “may decrease breastmilk iron concentrations and result in mild iron deficiency anemia in some breastfed infants.”
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant that is found in many beverages, including coffee, tea, and soda. It is also found in some foods, such as chocolate. Caffeine can cross into breastmilk and can have effects on your baby. Babies metabolize caffeine differently than adults do, and they can be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
How can caffeine affect your breastfeeding baby?
There are some adverse effects o drinking caffeine that you should monitor your baby for, especially when you start to drink caffeine:
- Caffeine can cause your baby to be more irritable and fussy
- Sleep issues – either falling asleep or staying asleep
These are similar to the side effects you may experience with consuming a lot of caffeine. If you notice these and it seems directly tied to when you drink caffeine, it might be a good idea to cut back or eliminate it together.
How to Limit Caffeine Exposure While Breastfeeding
If you are concerned about the amount of caffeine in your breastmilk, there are a few things that you can do to reduce the amount of caffeine that your baby consumes.
- First, try to limit the number of caffeinated beverages that you consume.
- If you do drink caffeinated beverages, drink them after you breastfeed your baby so that they have time to clear out of your system before you breastfeed your baby again.
- Choose decaffeinated items, such as decaf coffee (though keep in mind that it still does have a small amount of caffeine)
- Be cautious about consuming “hidden” sources of caffeine – such as foods and medications
Does caffeine stay in pumped milk?
Yes, breast milk that is pumped while you have caffeine in your system will more than likely remain in the breast milk. There isn’t much (if any) research done to support that it might disappear with freezing or refrigeration.
Do I need to pump and dump after caffeine?
Despite what some may say, pumping your breast milk does not appear to speed up the process of removing caffeine from your system. Unless your baby has a reaction to caffeine, there is no reason to dump milk that you pump when you have caffeine in your system.
How much does caffeine affect breast milk?
It is known that caffeine does pass through breast milk, therefore, it can have a negative impact on breast milk. However, as mentioned, most babies are okay with their mother drinking small amounts.
How much caffeine is passed through to breast milk?
“It is estimated that between 0.06% and 1.5% of maternal caffeine consumed is transferred to the infant via breastmilk.6 This means for a mother who consumes 300 mg of caffeine in a day, the dose to the infant would be between 0.18 mg and 4.5 mg of caffeine. For comparison, neonates in the intensive care unit often receive around 5 mg/kg of caffeine as a treatment for breathing issues.”
Does caffeine in breast milk keep the baby awake?
Caffeine in breast milk has been linked to sleep issues in some infants, which often is the most common negative effect of caffeine consumption while breastfeeding. This doesn’t mean it is always the cause of sleep trouble in a baby, but if you notice your baby really struggles to sleep – and it seems associated with when you drink caffeine, it may be the culprit.
If this is the case for you, you may want to consider completely eliminating caffeine or limiting it to just the morning hours.
What can you find caffeine in?
There are MANY sources of caffeine – and not just in caffeinated drinks. If your baby is particularly sensitive, you may want to pay special attention to labels to ensure you don’t go over moderate amounts of caffeine in your day-to-day diet.
- Many soft drinks, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or Mountain Dew
- Non-herbal teas (green tea, black tea, etc).
- Energy drinks
- Pre-workout drinks
- Certain medications, including certain pain medications and migraine/headache relief
- Weight loss supplements
- Sports drink
- Kola Nuts
Here is a chart of some of the most common forms of caffeine and their associated caffeine.
|Black Tea (12 oz)
|Coca-Cola (12 oz)
|Diet Coca-Cola (12 oz)
|Red Bull (8.4 oz)
|Starbucks Drip Coffee (12 oz)
|Starbucks Latte (12 oz)
|Green Tea (8 oz)
|Dunkin Donuts Coffee (14 oz)
|Starbucks Cold Brew (16 oz)
|Milk Chocolate (1 oz)
|Dark Chocolate (1 oz)
|K Cup Coffee (1 pod)
The bottom line is, most new moms can enjoy a moderate amount of caffeine, especially with older babies. If you are concerned about the effects of caffeine on your baby or your child seems to be having a harder time, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you make decisions about whether or not you should limit your caffeine intake while you are breastfeeding.
More Posts You Might Enjoy:
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- The Best Free Macro + Calorie Calculator for Breastfeeding Moms
- Free Breast Milk Calculator – How Much Expressed Milk Does Your Baby Need?
- Two Simple Ways to Scald Breast Milk to Fix High Lipase
- High Lipase Breast Milk: Why Your Breast Milk Tastes Gross (and What You Can Do)
- How to Night Wean, Your Child Without Losing Your Mind
- How Much Alcohol Gets into Breast Milk?
Katie Clark is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.