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.

To encourage, promote and provide mother-to-mother breastfeeding support and educational opportunities as an important contribution to the health of children, families and society. Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.