Breastfeeding and Caffeine

By LLLC Blog, 29 September, 2021

International Coffee Day

Does breastfeeding mean the end of a warm cup of coffee, iced coffee, lattes, black tea and other caffeinated drinks?

Caffeine is in Lactation Risk Category L2 (safer) according to Medications and Mother’s Milk (Hale 2017, p. 139-140); milk levels are quite low (0.06-1.5% of maternal dose) and usually peak 1-2 hours after ingestion. Caffeine does pass into breastmilk however baby gets about 1.5% of the amount of caffeine that was ingested by the lactating parent (Berlin, Denson, Daniel & Ward 1984). The half-life* of caffeine is about 97.5 hours in a newborn, 14 hours in a 3-5 month old baby and 2.6 hours in a baby older than 6 months. In comparison, the half-life of caffeine in an adult is 4.9 hours. (Hale 2008 pg. 139) Peak levels of caffeine in breastmilk are found 60 -120 minutes after intake.

Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple (Hale Publishing 2010, p. 521) states that  excessive caffeine consumption (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.

A small cup of brewed drip coffee contains about 130 mg of caffeine, decaffeinated coffee contains about 3 mg of caffeine and 1 oz of chocolate milk has about 6 mg theobromine which has similar effects in the body to caffeine. The amount of caffeine in five 5 oz. (150 ml) cups of coffee is about 750 mg.

Your caffeine intake is something to consider adjusting if your baby seems to be extremely fussy and has a hard time settling even if you aren’t drinking five or more cups of caffeinated beverages in a day. Every baby’s caffeine tolerance is different. Try substituting caffeine free beverages for a week or two to see if it makes any difference. If caffeine is affecting your baby you should notice a difference within 3-7 days.

*Half-Life means the time required for the concentration of a substance in the body to decrease by half.

If you found this information helpful, please consider donating the cost of a cup of coffee to La Leche League Canada.