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WILL CAFFEINE AFFECT MY BABY?
You might be wondering if your morning cup of coffee or tea could have an effect on your nursing baby. It may be reassuring to know that your consumption of moderate amounts of caffeine is unlikely to affect your full term, healthy baby, especially after the first months. In most cases, baby only consumes moderate amounts of caffeine, about 1.5% of maternal dose. (Mohrbacher, 2020, p.566).
The European Food Safety Authority (2020) states that a daily intake of 2 cups of coffee (200 mg of caffeine) is safe to consume while nursing a baby. The USA Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 300 mg or less per day, 2-3 cups of coffee is acceptable.
However, caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, so you may want to take the following into consideration:
IS MY BABY MORE LIKELY THAN OTHERS TO REACT TO CAFFEINE?
Babies who are premature, under six months or have other health issues may be more likely to show symptoms because they take longer to clear caffeine from their systems. (Hale 2019). Caffeine levels peak in your milk one to two hours after ingestion.
WHAT SYMPTOMS MIGHT MY BABY HAVE?
Babies who are reacting to your caffeine intake may be unusually irritable, fussy, or wakeful. They may have a harder time staying asleep.
WHAT OTHER BEVERAGES AND FOODS MIGHT HAVE CAFFEINE IN THEM?
Caffeine can be found in many foods and beverages besides coffee and tea. Some sources include:
- Coffee (decaffeinated coffee contains 3% caffeine)
- Tea (Black tea, green tea and other herbal teas. Matcha green tea contains much more caffeine than other green tea. Some teas are caffeine-free.)
- Energy drinks
- Carbonated beverages/soda/pop
- Sports drinks
- Flavored water
- Medications (over the counter and prescription):
- Pain relievers
- Menstrual relief tablets
- Weight-loss supplements
Caffeine may not be labeled if it occurs naturally in the food or beverage. Other sources of caffeine which may appear on a label include:
- Yerba Mate
- Kola nuts/Cola
(Reyes, Cornelis 2018)
An updated list of caffeine content in food and drink is listed here.
If you are not sure if a product has caffeine, check the label if available. Some beverages like coffee, tea, and soda/pop do have caffeine by default unless otherwise labelled.
HOW MUCH CAFFEINE IS SAFE TO CONSUME?
Up to 200-300 mg of caffeine, or about 2-3 cups of coffee, is considered safe to consume while breastfeeding (EFSA, 2020; CDC, 2020). According to the Mayo Clinic, an average 8 oz cup of coffee contains 95 – 165 mg of caffeine and an 8oz cup of black tea can contain 25-48 mg. Strength of coffee/other caffeinated beverage may be different for each individual, so it may be helpful to review serving size and nutritional labels prior to drinking.
WHAT CAN I TRY IF I THINK MY BABY IS REACTING TO CAFFEINE?
If you suspect your baby might be reacting to your caffeine intake, you could substitute caffeine-free beverages for two to three weeks (Mohrbacher 2020). This will give enough time for the caffeine to clear your system and you can judge whether caffeine is affecting your baby. It is best to reduce your caffeine intake slowly, as you may experience headaches if you stop too quickly. As babies get older, they may be less affected by caffeine.
Hale, T. W. (2019). Medications & Mothers’ Milk. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company, LLC. 2019.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20049372
Mohrbacher, Nancy. Breastfeeding Answers: A Guide for Helping Families, Second Edition, Nancy Mohrbacher Solutions, Inc. 2020.
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy, Scientific Opinion on the Safety of Caffeine, EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies (NDA)2
(accessed 11 June 2021).
CDC, Maternal Diet, October 2020 https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html (accessed 11 June 2021).
Infant Risk Center at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Breastfeeding, Caffeine, and Energy Drinks, April 2021 https://www.infantrisk.com/content/breastfeeding-caffeine-and-energy-drinks (accessed 11 June 2021).
Healthline, How Much Caffeine Is in Decaf Coffee? September 2018
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/caffeine-in-decaf (accessed 11 June 2021).
Center for Science in the Public Interest, Caffeine Chart, December 2020- February 2021 https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/ingredients-of-concern/caffeine-chart (accessed 11 June 2021).
Published January 2018, revised June 2021.