Is Caffeine Safe While Breastfeeding?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 18, 2023
3 min read

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in over 60 plants. People consume caffeinated foods and beverages to give them a kick of energy. The most common way to take in caffeine is with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning. 

People enjoy caffeine because it makes them feel more alert. New mothers may use it to help adjust to a new work schedule or to feel more awake if they haven't gotten much sleep due to their new baby. Some people also enjoy the taste of products that contain caffeine, like chocolate and coffee. But is it safe to drink caffeine while breastfeeding?

The short answer is yes, it is generally safe to drink caffeine while you are breastfeeding your baby. However, experts recommend limiting your caffeine intake to 300 milligrams of caffeine per day while nursing.

Caffeine does affect some babies. Breast milk can contain small traces of the substance. The amount varies from mother to mother. Some babies are also more sensitive to it than others. 

Signs that your caffeine intake is affecting your baby include:

  • Increased fussiness and irritability
  • More trouble going to sleep or staying asleep
  • Hyperactivity
  • Restlessness

Younger babies are more sensitive to caffeine than older ones. Caffeine also stays in a newborn baby's system longer than an older baby's. In a 6-month-old baby, the half-life of caffeine is around 2.5 hours, but for a newborn, it is a few days.

Drinking caffeine may affect the nutritional quality of your breast milk. Mothers who drink three cups of coffee per day have about one-third less iron in their breast milk than mothers who don't drink any coffee. Avoiding caffeine can improve the iron content of breast milk.

What to do if you're concerned about your breast milk. If you suspect that your caffeine consumption is making your little one stay awake longer, experts have a few recommendations:

  • Feed your baby before you take in any caffeine. Then, wait at least three hours before breastfeeding again. This should give your system enough time to process the caffeine and avoid spreading it through breast milk.
  • Reduce your caffeine consumption to one cup of coffee per day.
  • Quit caffeine altogether until you are done breastfeeding or until your baby is old enough to process it more quickly.

Breastfeeding mothers can have up to 300 milligrams of caffeine per day. For reference, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 96 milligrams of caffeine. A cup of black tea has 47 milligrams, while a cup of green tea has only 28 milligrams.

Many herbal teas are caffeine-free. Make sure to read the label to be aware of your caffeine consumption while breastfeeding. Even decaffeinated coffee has about 2 milligrams of caffeine. 

Coffee and tea are the main ways people take in caffeine, but it is also present in other products including:

  • Some sodas (mainly colas)
  • Energy drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Sports drinks
  • Pain relief medications, especially those for migraine headaches
  • Weight loss supplements
  • Guarana
  • Kola nuts

Avoid painful side effects. If you suspect you need to reduce or stop your caffeine consumption, do so gradually to avoid withdrawal. Caffeine withdrawal can last for anywhere from two to nine days and can affect your ability to perform daily activities. Symptoms include: