How Much Caffeine Can You Have When Breastfeeding?


The baby is here, so break out the bubbly! Better yet, break out the coffee! You’ve limited your coffee and caffeine intake for months. Maybe you even quit caffeine altogether. Now that the long wait is over, you’re more than ready for that irresistible caffeine drink from your favorite cafe. Oh, wait… is that allowed yet? 

One of the most common questions breastfeeding mums have is whether caffeine will affect their baby. How much is too much? Is any caffeine too much? And if it is too much, how will you know? 

To answer these questions, we turned to the scientific literature. While there isn’t a whole lot out there on the subject, let’s take a look at what is there says. 

caffeine and breastfeeding

You, Your Baby, and Caffeine  

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Drugs and Lactation database, “Insufficient high-quality data are unavailable to make good evidence-based recommendations on safe maternal caffeine consumption.1” 

In 2018, researchers published a systematic review2 of the medical literature, looking at the effects of mums’ consumption of caffeine on breastfeeding infants. Their review included five studies, and they came to the same conclusion as NIH: “Evidence for recommendations on caffeine intake for breastfeeding women is scant, of limited quality and inconclusive.” Not as helpful as we hoped, but funding for studies on this topic is limited, so we still have a long way to go to get a robust body of research. 

However, the little research that has been conducted on the topic does give us some useful information and insight to the topic of caffeine and breastfeeding. 

What else can we glean from the research?  

1. Most breastfeeding mothers should be able to have some caffeine without it affecting their baby.

This finding was published in a landmark study back in 1984 in the journal Pediatrics.3 The key finding of the study (to the joy of new mothers everywhere) is that one regular cup of does not pass on caffeine in any significant amount to your baby in breastmilk.  

Another study, published in the Korean Journal of Pediatrics4, found that there are no detectable traces of caffeine in a baby’s urine when their mothers drink as much as three cups per day.  However, the study does discuss how much caffeine will a baby absorb before it spills over into their urine. So, if one cup is okay, how much is too much? In the same Korean Journal of Pediatrics article, researchers suggested that once mum gets more caffeine than is in five cups (around 26 fluid ounces) of coffee, it can begin to affect the baby. 

2. Only a tiny amount of the caffeine you take in makes it into your milk supply.

When mum has caffeine, it takes about one hour until it peaks in breastmilk.5 And even then, it’s not much. According to that 2017 article6 published in the Korean Journal of Pediatrics, “the amount of caffeine transferred to breast milk is generally less than one percent of the amount consumed by the mother.” 

3. Most babies can metabolize the tiny amounts of caffeine they get through their mother’s milk.

How does even that little bit of caffeine affect your baby? Since every baby (and their metabolism) is different, some babies can tolerate caffeine better than others. Keep in mind, though, that most newborns metabolise caffeine much more slowly than older infants. So, a tiny newborn is more likely to be more sensitive to caffeine than a chubby-cheeked five-month-old.7 

Tanja Knutson, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Registered Lactation Consultant (RLC), explains further: “A newborn might take up to 100 hours (almost five days) to metabolize the caffeine in its system, whereas a six-month-old might only take two to three hours.” 

4. Caffeine may not influence a baby’s sleeping habits.

In a 2012 study,8 researchers looked at whether caffeine use by mothers affected the sleep habits of their three-month-old infants. The bottom line? Not really. Infants whose mothers consumed 300mg of caffeine or more per day were slightly more likely to wake up their parents at night because they woke up, but it wasn’t statistically significant. Babies do wake up at night, of course, but researchers concluded that the caffeine wasn’t a contributing factor. 

Moderation is your mantra

Our conclusion is that while you’re breastfeeding, it’s probably best to enjoy caffeine in moderation. We fully recognize that the concept of moderation may or may not be helpful here. When it comes to coffee (or other caffeinated drinks) one woman’s moderation means “I’ll just have half a cup because I miss the taste of it” while that same half-cup is another woman’s “I’m just getting started.” 

So once again, we checked in with lactation consultant Tanja Knutson. What does moderation really mean? “Anywhere between 150 to 300mg of caffeine – which is about one to two cups of regular coffee (eight-ounce cups),” Knutson says. The terms “regular” and “8-ounce” are key here–coffee from a coffee shop can be higher in caffeine, and portion sizes are often much larger than eight ounces. 

Caffeine can sneak into your life without your realizing it and not just through drinking coffee. If you’re a big tea drinker (even green tea), the caffeine milligrams can still add up. 

Your babies come with a built-in alarm system if they get too much caffeine 

How will you know if your baby is reacting to the caffeine? Your little one may be unusually fussy, irritable, or not sleeping well. Fussy babies (regardless of the cause) may have difficulty latching on. If you’ve been consuming caffeine, and then realize that’s what’s making your baby fussy, what should you do? Should you pump and dump? 

That’s an emphatic “no,” says lactation consultant Tanja Knutson. “Introducing a bottle or formula at this time might only add a new form of fussiness. In general, baby’s reaction to caffeine is happily short-lived.” 

In Knutson’s experience, most of the time it takes only a day or two for the effects of the caffeine to wear off. While you’re waiting for those effects to dissipate, you have one of the best methods of comfort at your disposal. “More cuddles and skin-to-skin can be very beneficial any time a baby is fussy,” Knutson explains. “Continuing to breastfeed will be the most comforting thing for your baby.” 

Once your baby bounces back to normal, you can try resuming caffeine gradually. Start with half a cup of coffee or tea and see how your baby responds. If you find you need more caffeine to keep up with the demands of your life plus a new baby, be kind to yourself, Knutson advises. “It’s okay to listen to your body, to take a nap in the middle of the day if you can, or to get less done.”  

Breastfeeding – like all aspects of parenting – can sometimes be stressful for mums especially as you filter through all the “do’s” and “don’ts” when it comes to your baby’s health and wellbeing. But as you sift through all this information and make certain decisions, remember to go easy on yourself as you navigate your journey of breastfeeding. And we at UpSpring are right here by your side to support you every step of the way. 

Our Milkflow products are specifically designed to help you produce a healthy supply of breastmilk* so that your little one can continue to grow and thrive. We’ve got you, mums! 

Milkflow Fenugreek + Blessed Thistle Capsules

milkflow fenugreek milk booster

Fenugreek is a well-known breastmilk booster – or galactagogue9 – and so is Blessed Thistle.10 The proprietary blend of herbs in these capsules also contain anise,11 another galactagogue. All these together work to help you produce a healthy supply of milk for your little one.  

The herbs are naturally sourced, are non-GMO and contain no added fillers. What’s more, each capsule has 1,800 mg of concentrated fenugreek seed extract, that could help improve your milk production*. Because of this high concentration, you only need to take one to three Milkflow capsules a day, unlike some other brands where you may need to take up to six (or more) capsules daily.

To find out more about these Milkflow capsules and purchase them, click here.

Milkflow Blessed Thistle Capsules

milkflow blessed thistle breastmilk booster

Each serving of these capsules contains 1,000mg of concentrated Blessed Thistle extract, and could help promote a good breast milk supply.* The Blessed Thistle capsules also contain a proprietary botanical blend to help  digestive health for both mum and baby.  

Both the Milkflow (Fenugreek) and Blessed Thistle supplements could be taken whenever you want to boost your milk supply, whether this is to cope with the demands of your baby’s growth spurt/s, or in preparation for heading back to work. And having two options means that you could select the Milkflow product that works best for you.

To learn more about UpSpring’s Milkflow range, please click here.

*Before you try a galactagogue, it’s important to speak to a lactation consultant who could give you some tips on how to improve breast milk production.



References

  1. Drugs and Lactation Database. Last revised on April 19, 2021. Retrieved on June 7, 2021 from Caffeine - Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov) 
  1. Effects of maternal caffeine consumption on the breastfed child: a systematic review. Swiss Medical Weekly. 2018. Retrieved on June 7, 2021 from Effects of maternal caffeine consumption on the breastfed child: a systematic review - PubMed (nih.gov) 
  1. Disposition of dietary caffeine in milk, saliva, and plasma of lactating women. Pediatrics. 1984. Retrieved on June 7, 2021 from Disposition of dietary caffeine in milk, saliva, and plasma of lactating women - PubMed (nih.gov) 
  1. Maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding. Korean J Pedatr. 2017. Retrieved on June 7, 2021 from Maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding (nih.gov) 
  1. Breastfeeding and maternal caffeine consumption. Australian Breastfeeding Association. Last reviewed in December 2019. Retrieved on June 7, 2021 from https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/breastfeeding-and-maternal-caffeine-consumption
  1. Maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding. Korean J Pedatr. 2017. Retrieved on June 7, 2021 from Maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding (nih.gov) 
  1. The safety of ingested caffeine: a comprehensive review. Front Psychiatry. 2017.Retrieved on June 7, 2021 from The Safety of Ingested Caffeine: A Comprehensive Review (nih.gov)
  2. Maternal caffeine consumption and infant nighttime waking: prospective cohort study. Pediatrics. 2012. Retrieved on June 7, 2021 from Maternal Caffeine Consumption and Infant Nighttime Waking: Prospective Cohort Study (nih.gov) 
  1. Medications, Herbal Preparations, and Natural Products in Breast Milk. ScienceDirect (from Botanical Medicine for Women's Health, 2010). Retrieved on June 7, 2021 from Galactagogue - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
  2. A Review of Herbal and Pharmaceutical Galactagogues for Breast-Feeding. The Ochsner Journal. Published 2016. Retrieved on June 2, 2021 from A Review of Herbal and Pharmaceutical Galactagogues for Breast-Feeding (nih.gov).
  3. Anise. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Last reviewed on February 15, 2021. Retrieved on June 7, 2021 from Anise - Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)