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Does caffeine affect baby while breastfeeding?

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Does caffeine affect baby while breastfeeding? We all know that coffee is life (at least for most moms — if you’re a tea gal, listen up because some teas also contain caffeine). In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about caffeine and how it can possibly affect your baby and breastfeeding journey.

During my first pregnancy, I gave up ALL caffeine cold turkey. It sucked. However, I was that paranoid mom who wanted to make sure she didn’t risk ANYTHING at all (reasonably so).

Needless to say, I was anxious to sip on my first warm cup of coffee after my son was born. I mean shoot, I was averaging about 2-3 hours of sleep per day if I was lucky. You bet I was counting down the hours and days for that coffee!

However, the lingering question continued: Is drinking caffeine safe while breastfeeding? After doing a TON of research on this topic, I’m here to share what I found out! Ready for the results?

Does caffeine affect baby while breastfeeding?

does caffeine affect baby infographic with facts about caffeine and it's effects on baby

The short answer is yes, it definitely can! The good news is that your baby will only get about 1-1.5% of the caffeine you ingest.

It’s actually pretty interesting, at least to me. The younger the baby, the more sensitive they’ve been shown to be to caffeine!

Simply due to the fact that the amount of caffeine that stays in their little bodies takes longer to exit as they’re younger. As they get older, they’re able to metabolize it much quicker.

For instance, one study cited from the Drugs and Lactation database showed, “Jitteriness in a 6-week-old breastfed infant reported by a mother who claimed to drink 4 to 5 cups of coffee and 2 to 3 bottles (about 480 mL each) of cola daily as well as occasional tea and cocoa. Upon examination, the infant was gaining weight appropriately but had trembling and increased muscle tone. The infant’s symptoms decreased markedly 2 weeks after his mother stopped all caffeine-containing beverages.

Clearly, that mother drank a TON of caffeine so it’s pretty reasonable to see why her 6-week old baby had such dramatic effects from the caffeine intake.

In another article published by the CDC, “Caffeine passes from the mother to infant in small amounts through breast milk but usually does not adversely affect the infant when the mother consumes low to moderate amounts (about 300 milligrams or less per day, which is about 2 to 3 cups of coffee). Irritability, poor sleeping patterns, fussiness, and jitteriness have been reported in infants of mothers with very high intakes of caffeine, about 10 cups of coffee or more per day.

So, as you can see, it is POSSIBLE that caffeine can have an effect on your breastfed, baby, BUT there are ways to limit those effects, such as consuming NO MORE than 300mg caffeine per day.

How long does caffeine stay in breastmilk?

Similar to alcohol, the amount of caffeine that stays in your breastmilk will vary per person and situation.

And on average caffeine levels tend to peak around the 60-120 minute mark.

Another important aspect to understand is how the HALF-LIFE of caffeine works. Half-Life refers to the amount of time required for the concentration of a substance to decrease by half.

You may have heard it used when talking about medications, such as “the half-life of this drug in the body is ______”.

Now that you know what half-life is, let’s chat about how long it takes for the concentration of caffeine to decrease by HALF in babies:

  • 97.5 hours for a newborn
  • 14 hours for a 3-5-month-old
  • 2.6 hours for a baby greater than 6 months old.

How much caffeine is safe when I’m breastfeeding?

Based on all of the information above, it’s deemed safe to consume NO MORE than 300 mg of caffeine per day.

Obviously, if you can survive on less, I would personally opt for less if you can. I mean, we can never be too safe, right?

However, I do understand that coffee is life (especially as a new mom) so sometimes you just need the extra energy boost!

milkology breastfeeding class

How do I know the caffeine content of drinks?

Some drinks can be pretty sneaky on how they fill out their nutritional labels.

That’s just another reason why I try to stay on the ‘lower’ side of caffeine consumption, but again, you do what you need to do.

Below is a little chart I made showing an AVERAGE amount of caffeine you can expect in various drinks (again, this is just an average amount, please be sure to check ALL your labels and read any fine prints on bottles/cans).

  • 16oz Monster = 160mg Caffeine
  • 12oz Redbull = 120mg Caffeine
  • 12oz Coke = 34mg Caffeine
  • 12oz Diet Coke = 46mg Caffeine
  • 12oz Pepsi = 38mg Caffeine
  • 9.5oz Starbucks Bottled Frappuccino = 90mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Chai Crème Frappuccino® Blended Beverage = 20mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Mocha Light Frappuccino® Blended Beverage = 70mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Caramel Frappuccino® Light Blended Beverage = 65mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Java Chip Frappuccino® Blended Beverage = 75mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Espresso Frappuccino® Blended Beverage = 130mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Green Tea Latte = 55mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Iced Black Tea = 20-25mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Chai Tea Latte = 70mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Caramel Macchiato = 75mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Brewed Coffee – Dark Roast = 193mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Brewed Coffee – Medium Roast = 235mg Caffeine
  • (Sbux)TALL Brewed Coffee – True North Blend Blonde Roast = 270mg Caffeine

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>> How to help baby sleep through the night!

>> LIFE-SAVING Breastfeeding tips for beginners

>> Tips for Exclusively Pumping Moms

>> Things new moms should NOT do after giving birth

Is it better to drink decaf coffee while breastfeeding?

Since decaf coffee contains much less caffeine than normal coffee, it does tend to be better to consume when you’re weighing out the possible effects of caffeine while breastfeeding.

However, it also will depend on how many caffeinated beverages you’re planning to drink per day, etc…

How can I tell if my baby has signs of caffeine sensitivity in infants?

If you’re consistently consuming a large amount of caffeine each day (300mg+ caffeine), you should pay close attention to the following signs in your infant:

  • Increased fussiness
  • Being unable to sleep
  • Gassiness
  • Frequent wakings
  • Jitters

If you notice your baby showing any of these signs, you should mention it to their pediatrician AND consider significantly lowering or stopping your caffeine intake for 1-2 weeks to see if you notice these signs getting better!

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