Can I have caffeine when I’m breastfeeding?

Dr Christine Catling

Dr Christine Catling

Dr Christine Catling, a midwife for over 25 years, is the Director of Midwifery Studies at UTS. She believes research, innovation and good quality midwifery are pivotal to the well-being of mothers and young families. Christine has extensive experience in antenatal education, policy development and research, and has published on workforce issues, homebirth, vaginal birth...
Updated on Jun 14, 2024 · 5 mins read
Can I have caffeine when I’m breastfeeding?

Those long days and sleepless nights caring for your baby have probably got you leaning pretty heavily on your morning (and mid-morning, lunchtime, afternoon) cup of tea or coffee to get you through. But you might be wondering can you have caffeine when breastfeeding? How much caffeine can you have when breastfeeding and what does caffeine do to breastfeeding? The short answer is yes, it is generally safe to have caffeine when you are breastfeeding, but you do need to be mindful of how much you are consuming. The long answer to these questions can be found below!

How much caffeine can you have when breastfeeding?

It is recommended that breastfeeding mothers do not exceed 200mg of caffeine per day when feeding your little ones.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association reports the following caffeine estimates in common foods and drinks 1,2:

  • Espresso coffee: 145 mg/50 mL shot
  • Formulated caffeinated drinks/‘Energy’ drinks: up to 80 mg/250 mL can
  • Instant coffee (1 teaspoon/cup): 60–80 mg/250mL cup
  • Tea: 10–50 mg/250mL cup
  • Coca Cola: up to 54 mg/375 mL cup
  • Milk chocolate: 20 mg/100 g bar
  • Takeaway coffee: 51–332 mg/serving3

Caffeine and breastfeeding

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant found in various beverages and foods, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks. When consumed, caffeine is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can cross into breast milk, potentially affecting the nursing baby. The sensitivity to caffeine can vary among individuals, including infants, as their ability to metabolise caffeine is limited.

What does caffeine do to breastfeeding?

The two main concerns when it comes to caffeine and breastfeeding tend to be:

  • Sleep: One of the main concerns about caffeine consumption during breastfeeding is its potential impact on the infant’s sleep patterns. Caffeine is a mild central nervous system stimulant and can cause increased wakefulness or restlessness in some babies when exposed to it through breast milk.However, the impact of caffeine on infants varies, and some infants may not show any changes in sleep patterns.
  • Irritability and Fussiness: In some cases, infants may become irritable or fussy after their mother’s caffeine intake. This can be attributed to the stimulant properties of caffeine, which can affect the baby’s developing nervous system. It is important to note that these symptoms are usually temporary and may vary depending on the individual baby.

Typically, most breastfeeding mothers can consume a small amount of caffeine per day without it affecting their baby too much. However you might find your newborn can be sensitive to caffeine, so if you notice this you might need to cut back or cut it out and see if that helps. By 3-4 months however, they should be better able to handle it.

Caffeine during breastfeeding

Some mums notice that when they consume any or too much caffeine, it continues to make their babies sensitive to it even as they grow, resulting in unsettledness or poor sleep.And some mums will notice no changes at all. Whether or not to consume caffeine during breastfeeding is a personal choice as to how it affects both you and your baby, so it might take some trial and error to work out how and when to safely consume a cup of tea or coffee around your baby’s feeds.

What are some good alternatives to caffeine?

If you’d rather err completely on the side of caution, there are several healthy alternatives to caffeine for tired new parents looking for an energy boost. These alternatives can provide a natural lift without the risk of side effects or disrupting sleep patterns. Consider the following beneficial alternatives:

Natural Energy-Boosting Foods: Incorporating specific foods into your diet can provide natural energy. Some examples include:

  • Fresh Fruits: Fruits like bananas, apples, and berries contain natural sugars, fiber, and vitamins that can provide a quick energy boost.
  • Leafy Greens: Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are rich in iron, which helps transport oxygen to cells and supports energy production.
  • Lean Proteins: Including lean protein sources like chicken, fish, tofu, or beans in your meals can help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide sustained energy.
  • Complex Carbohydrates: Foods like whole grains, quinoa, and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates that provide long-lasting energy.

Herbal Teas: Herbal teas such as chamomile, peppermint, ginger, or ginseng can provide a soothing and refreshing effect without the caffeine content. These teas can help promote relaxation and reduce stress levels, enhancing overall well-being.

Healthy Snacks: Opt for nutritious snacks that provide a sustained release of energy. Foods rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein can offer a longer-lasting energy boost compared to sugary snacks. Examples include whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

Stay Hydrated: This is a biggie! Dehydration can contribute to fatigue, so it’s essential to drink enough water throughout the day. Staying hydrated can help maintain energy levels and promote overall well-being.

The takeaway (pun intended)

  1. Consume moderate amounts of caffeine. This translates to about 200-300 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day, which is roughly equivalent to one or two cups of coffee.
  2. Caffeine Metabolism: Every person metabolises caffeine differently. Some women may find that even small amounts of caffeine affect their babies, while others may tolerate higher levels without any noticeable effects. It is important for nursing mothers to observe their baby’s behaviour and adjust their caffeine intake accordingly.
  3. Timing and Moderation: Spacing out caffeine consumption and consuming it in moderation can help minimise potential effects on the breastfeeding infant. It can be a good idea to drink caffeinated beverages immediately after breastfeeding or pumping to allow enough time for caffeine to metabolise before the next feeding.

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