Thursday Tip: Breastfeeding and Caffeine

Many mothers wonder if breastfeeding means the end of lattes, black tea and caffeinated soft drinks.

Caffeine does pass into breastmilk however baby gets about 1.5% of the amount of caffeine that mum gets (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.

Because caffeine takes much longer to clear out of a young baby’s system it is possible that high caffeine intake by mum can make a baby irritable and wakeful. Two studies found that most mothers need to drink more than five cups of coffee before their breastfeeding baby is affected (Nehlig & Derby 1994, Ryu 1985).

Sources of caffeine include: coffee, black, white and green teas both hot and iced, colas and other caffeine containing soft drinks, as well as some over the counter medications including pain relievers, cold remedies and diuretics. 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.

** Note:  If you have a breastfeeding question, please click here.

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