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Please give me the skinny on breastfeeding and coffee/caffeine

Posted by on Oct. 9, 2013 at 12:09 PM
  • 13 Replies
I keep reading so many different things. With my other two babies, the thought of coffee sickened me throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. Not so this time, so how much is ok? My dd is one month today. I'm talking about caffeiene in general not just coffee but I'll tell you my coffee routine (I don't get much caffeine anywhere else)

I drink a half caff every morning in the Keurig but always want another. What do I need to look for on the label and how much of that? Geez, I am not making the most sense. Sorry. SEE??? This post partum mama yearns for coffee!! Haha

Is it more ok if you break it up during the day as opposed to two cups back to back?
by on Oct. 9, 2013 at 12:09 PM
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by on Oct. 9, 2013 at 12:14 PM
Also, what are the specific negatives to too much caffeine on the baby? It it purely in behavior/mood or also body/sickness issues (such as upset stomach). Are there any thoughts on too much caffeine affecting baby long term?
by on Oct. 9, 2013 at 12:14 PM
Depends on how it affects your loved one. :) I have a Starbucks beverage almost daily...with plenty of expresso. I try to keep my intake to two cups a day. And never after 3(when it keeps me up). Though I know several who opt to skip it altogether. I know I'm pretty dangerous if I'm dragging and sleepy, so I do what I gotta do.
by Silver Member on Oct. 9, 2013 at 12:16 PM

I have at least two cups of hot tea a day.  IF I go to starbucks I have to get decaf.  It seems they a lot of caffiene and it keeps my little guy up all night.

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by Kate on Oct. 9, 2013 at 1:08 PM
1 mom liked this
Good info here

My youngest had a major issue with caffeine, even the amount in a chocolate chip granola bar was enough to cause 5 days of screaming. It resolved around 8 months for him.
by Gina on Oct. 9, 2013 at 1:45 PM

You can drink your coffee. Not a problem unless baby reacts to it. You're drinking practically no coffee compared to what I've always been accustomed to! (Journalists run on caffeine; we aren't even cogent till the second cup of full strength dark roast goes down.)

by Gina on Oct. 9, 2013 at 1:46 PM
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Here's the kellymom info for those who can't do the link:


Most breastfeeding mothers can drink caffeine in moderation. Some babies, particularly those under 6 months, may be more sensitive to mom’s caffeine intake. Babies whose mothers avoided caffeine completely during pregnancy seem to react more to caffeine in mom’s diet. Even if baby is sensitive to the caffeine now, he may not be when he’s a little older — so if you do have to stop or limit your caffeine intake, you can try again when baby is older.

Per Medications and Mother’s Milk (Hale 2010, p. 150-151) caffeine is in Lactation Risk Category L2 (safer); milk levels are quite low (0.06-1.5% of maternal dose) and usually peak 1-2 hours after ingestion. One study has indicated that chronic coffee drinking might decrease iron content of breastmilk (Nehlig & Debry, 1994). The American Academy of Pediatrics has classified caffeine as a “Maternal Medication Usually Compatible with Breastfeeding.” Caffeine is given directly to premature babies (as a treatment for breathing problems) in much higher levels than than those generally found in the breastmilk of mothers who consume caffeine.

If your baby is sensitive to caffeine, it will typically become less of an issue as baby gets older. Newborns have a much harder time metabolizing caffeine than older infants. Preterm or ill infants might also have more problems with mom’s caffeine intake.

Half-Life of Caffeine
Newborn65-130 hours [2.7-5.4 days]
3 – 5 monthsapprox. 14 hours
4-9 months3-7 hours
Adult3-7 hours
References: USP DI 2001Hale 2010

Is baby sensitive to my caffeine intake?

According to the Breastfeeding Answer Book (LLLI 2003, p. 599-600), excessive caffeine consumption by the mother (more than 750 mL per day) can result in a baby who shows signs of caffeine stimulation. “A baby who is being overstimulated by caffeine is a wide-eyed, active, alert baby who doesn’t sleep for long. He may also be unusually fussy.”

If your baby seems particularly wakeful or fussy and there is a significant amount of caffeine in your diet, you might want to cut back or stop the caffeine for 2-3 weeks to see if it makes a difference. If you cut out caffeine, consider decreasing it slowly since abruptly stopping caffeine can result in headaches or other symptoms.

If caffeine stimulation is a problem for baby, it may take a few days to a week after mom eliminates caffeine for baby to become less fussy.

Does caffeine decrease milk supply?

There is no evidence that caffeine decreases milk supply.

The myth that caffeine will decrease milk supply is widespread. Many moms consume caffeine, and it ought to be easy to document any adverse effects of caffeine on milk supply. No such effect has been observed, however, despite a number of studies of caffeine intake in breastfeeding mothers and years of clinical observations. In fact, one study (Nehlig & Debry, 1994) indicates that caffeine can stimulate milk production. A baby who is fussy and jittery from caffeine stimulation may not nurse well, however, which could lead to a decreased milk supply over time (due to decreased nursing, rather than the mother’s caffeine intake).

Caffeine Sources

Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, sports/energy drinks (including the “sports water” products), some over-the-counter and prescription medications, and foods containing coffee or chocolate. Herbal products containing guarana/paullinea cupana, kola nut/cola nitida, yerba maté, or green tea also contain caffeine. Following is information on caffeine content of various foods.

Typical caffeine content of various foods
(Caffeine in tea & coffee will vary widely depending on brewing, etc)
Caffeine (mg)ProductSize
Caffeine (mg)
Starbucks Coffee, short82507-Eleven Big Gulp cola64190
Starbucks Coffee, tall12375Mountain Dew1255
Starbucks Coffee, grande16500Diet Coke1246
Starbucks Caffe Latte or Cappuccino, grande1670Coke Classic1236
Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino9.598Vanilla Coke1232
Starbucks Espresso, double270Dr. Pepper, regular or diet1242
Maxwell House Cappuccino (various)845-65Pepsi-Cola1240
Coffee, brewed (non-gourmet)8120-180Sunkist Orange Soda1234
Coffee, instant880Barq’s Root Beer1222
Coffee, decaffeinated83Caffeine-free versions of Coke, Diet Coke, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Barq’s, etc.120
Minute Maid Orange, Slice, Sprite, 7-Up, A&W Root Beer, Mug Root Beer120
TeaIce cream, yogurt, candy
Tea, leaf or bag848Starbucks Coffee Java Chip Ice Cream428
Tea, green830-35Häagen-Dazs Coffee Ice Cream424
Arizona Iced Tea, assorted varieties1615-30Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream86
Snapple Iced Tea1642Dannon Coffee Yogurt636
Other drinksStonyfield Farm Cappuccino Yogurt80
Cocoa or Hot Chocolate82-5Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar1.5510
Herbal iced tea, lemonade, fruit juice, milk, tap water, plain bottled water120Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate bar1.4531
Compiled from various sources.

How much caffeine is too much?

Watching your baby is the only way to get an individual answer to this question. As stated above, the amount of caffeine that might affect baby will vary widely depending upon the specific baby and the baby’s age and health. The estimate we often hear is “less than five 5-oz cups of coffee” or 500 mg/day. Various sources suggest an upper limit for caffeine intake ranging from 300-750 mg/day.

During pregnancy: Most sources suggest a 300 mg/day upper limit on caffeine for pregnant moms. However, one source (Motherisk) recommends an upper of limit 150 mg caffeine per day during pregnancy.

The table below shows various suggested upper limits for caffeine in terms of amounts of coffee, tea, soda, etc.

Equivalent caffeinated products for various daily caffeine intakes
150 mg300 mg500 mg
Starbucks Coffee250 mg/8 oz (short)
375 mg/12 oz (tall)
500 mg/16 oz (grande)
1/2 cup (short)1 cup (short)2 cups (short)
1.5 cups (tall)
1 cup (grande)
Coffee, brewed
100 mg/5 oz
160 mg/8 oz
1.5 cups (5-oz)
1 cup (8-oz)
3 cups (5-oz)
2 cups (8-oz)
5 cups (5-oz)
3 cups (8-oz)
Starbucks Frappuccino98 mg/9.5 oz bottle1.5 bottles3 bottles5 bottles
Diet Coke46 mg/12 oz can
77 mg/20 oz bottle
3 cans (12-oz)
2 bottles (20-oz)
6.5 cans (12-oz)
4 bottles (20-oz)
11 cans (12-oz)
6.5 bottles (20-oz)
Pepsi-Cola40 mg/12 oz can
67 mg/20 oz bottle
3.5 cans (12-oz)
2 bottles (20-oz)
7.5 cans (12-oz)
4.5 bottles (20-oz)
12.5 cans (12-oz)
7.5 bottles (20-oz)
Tea, leaf or bag48 mg/8 oz3 cups (8-oz)6 cups (8-oz)10 cups (8-oz)
Häagen-Dazs Coffee Ice Cream24 mg/4 oz serving6 servings (4-oz)12.5 servings (4-oz)20 servings (4-oz)
Dannon Coffee Yogurt36 mg/6 oz serving4 servings (6-oz)8 servings (6-oz)13 servings (6-oz)


More information


Santos IS, et al. Maternal Caffeine Consumption and Infant Nighttime Waking: Prospective Cohort Study. Pediatrics. Published online April 2, 2012 (10.1542/peds.2011-1773)

Nawrot P, et al. Effects of caffeine on human health. Food Addit Contam. 2003 Jan;20(1):1-30. This review article suggest that reproductive-aged women should limit thei caffeine intake to no more than 300 mg per day.

Koren G. Caffeine during pregnancy? In moderation. Can Fam Physician. 2000 Apr;46(4):801-3.

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. “We conclude in this review that maternal caffeine consumption in moderate amounts during gestation and lactation has no measurable consequences on the fetus and newborn infant. Pregnant mothers, however, should be advised to consume coffee and caffeinated beverages in moderation [300 mg caffeine/day], especially because of the prolonged half-life of caffeine both during the last trimester of pregnancy and in the newborn infant.”

Stavchansky S, Combs A, Sagraves R, Delgado M, Joshi A. Pharmacokinetics of caffeine in breast milk and plasma after single oral administration of caffeine to lactating mothers. Biopharm Drug Dispos. 1988 May-Jun;9(3):285-99.

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. This small study showed no significant changes in breastfed baby’s heart rates and sleep time when the mothers ingested 500 mg/day of caffeine. This is the “5 cups of coffee” study.

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.

Hildebrandt R, Gundert-Remy U. Lack of pharmacological active saliva levels of caffeine in breast-fed infants. Pediatr Pharmacol (New York). 1983;3(3-4):237-44.

Tyrala EE, Dodson WE. Caffeine secretion into breast milk. Arch Dis Child. 1979 Oct;54(10):787-800.

by on Oct. 9, 2013 at 1:49 PM
My dd is 8 weeks and the 2 times I've had caffeinated coffee she's had terrible nights. Possibly a coincidence, but I'm willing to cut my losses and not drink the coffee just in case
by on Oct. 9, 2013 at 7:25 PM

I believe 1% of the caffeine you consume goes to baby. And recommendations for daily consumptions are 50% higher than those for pregnancy, during pregnancy the limit is 150mg a day, breastfeeding is 300mg which is a considerable amount for most people.

If you are ever concerned, cut it out for a few days and see if there is a difference in how baby reacts.

by on Oct. 9, 2013 at 9:07 PM
My kiddo reacts to caffeine. I have had very little to none since she was about a week old... I'm not much help :/
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by Group Admin - Amy on Oct. 9, 2013 at 9:29 PM
My boys didn't react to any caffeine in my diet, so I never limited my intake. I'm a half a pot drinker in the mornings.
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