Caffeine while breastfeeding … Is it Safe, and is it Smart?

Caffeine while breastfeeding … Is it Safe, and is it Smart?

You most likely gave up or limited your caffeine while you were pregnant. However, with a newborn it is common to be tired, fatigued, and exhausted. Often, a cup of coffee sounds like a nice “little pick me up!” So, the question is – can you drink caffeine while breastfeeding? 

The American Academy of Pediatrics considers it safe to consume a small amount during breastfeeding. How much is “a small amount?” The short answer is 200mg a day, or about 2 cups of coffee.  There are a couple of studies1,2 that show five cups starts to affect your baby. Though it is important to note the effects of caffeine are greater with premature babies, babies with health issues, and babies under six months of age3. This is basically due to their inability to clear the caffeine from their system. Upwards of 1.5% of the maternal dose of caffeine makes it to baby, keep in mind this peaks at 1 hour after ingestion.4 

A baby with caffeine related symptoms can exhibit irritability, wakefulness, or fussiness because caffeine is a stimulant5. Sometimes your little one will begin to feel upset or cranky during the time when you are sleeping. This in turn causes your own level of fatigue to increase as the small amount of time you do have to sleep or relax has been interrupted because of when the caffeine is hitting the baby. 

As with many decisions related to being a Mom, there is a lot to consider when it comes to caffeine and breastfeeding. Even though 2 cups may be considered “safe to consume,” keep in mind a few significant things:

  • How long you should wait after you have a cup of coffee before you breastfeed – 2 hours is a good amount of time, but can’t always be achieved since we know your schedule is not your own!
  • Try not to allow 2 cups to turn into 3, 4, 5, or 6 cups! Even though the boost may seem helpful in the moment, the results can linger if you are jittery and can’t rest, or if your baby is affected by the caffeine and becomes irritable.
  • Your baby is unique, and so are you! How you metabolize caffeine is different than someone else. As with adults who can express their reactions verbally, some are just more affected by caffeine than others. Your baby will exhibit behaviors, and communicate with those instead of words. The age, possible health issues, and other variables of your baby should all be considered when deciding on if, how much (click here to learn how much caffeine is in commonly consumed drinks), and when to introduce caffeine into your new lifestyle. 
1. Ryu JE. Effect of maternal caffeine consumption on heart rate and sleep time of breast-fed infants. Dev Pharmacol Ther. 1985;8(6):355-63. doi: 10.1159/000457060. PMID: 4075934.
2. Nehlig A, Debry G. Consequences on the newborn of chronic maternal consumption of coffee during gestation and lactation: a review. J Am Coll Nutr. 1994 Feb;13(1):6-21. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1994.10718366. PMID: 8157856.
3. Aranda JV, Collinge JM, Zinman R, Watters G. Maturation of caffeine elimination in infancy. Arch Dis Child(1979) 54:946–9. 10.1136/adc.54.12.946
4. Berlin CM Jr, Denson HM, Daniel CH, Ward RM. Disposition of dietary caffeine in milk, saliva, and plasma of lactating women. Pediatrics. 1984 Jan;73(1):59-63. PMID: 6691042.
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