Breastfeeding and maternal caffeine consumption

Most breastfeeding mothers can consume a moderate amount of caffeine (eg a few cups of coffee or tea each day) without it affecting their babies. Newborn babies however can be particularly sensitive to caffeine. This is because it can take a newborn baby a long time (ie half-life of 50–100 hours) to process caffeine. By 3–4 months, however, it takes a baby only about 3–7 hours.1

Food Standards Australia New Zealand recommend that daily caffeine consumption of up to 200mg is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.2 If a mother smokes, this can compound the effect of caffeine on her baby, so mothers who smoke should limit their caffeine intake further.1

 Caffeine content in common drinks and food1,2

Drink/food

Caffeine level (mg)

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

 

 

Note that the Food Standards Code in Australia requires that cola and ‘energy’ drinks be labelled as unsuitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women.2

The amount of caffeine that gets into a mother’s breastmilk is about 1% of what she takes in and the caffeine level in her breastmilk usually reaches a peak about 60 minutes after she has consumed it.1

Some mothers find that their baby becomes unhappy, jittery, colicky and/or sleeps poorly if she consumes too much caffeine.4 Too much caffeine is different for every mother and depends on various things such as how well a mother’s body processes caffeine. The only way to know if you are taking in too much caffeine is to observe your baby.

If a breastfeeding mother has nipple vasospasm she may find caffeine consumption aggravates it.

Further information

For further current and accurate information about the use of caffeine while breastfeeding, see the Breastfeeding and prescription medications article which lists contacts of the Medicines Information Centres in your state or the NPS Medicines Line.

References

  1. National Health and Medical Research Council 2012, Infant Feeding Guidelines: Information for Health Workers (2015 update). URL: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/infant-feeding-guidelines-information-health-workers  Accessed 30/11/19
  2. Food Standards Australia New Zealand, 2019, Caffeine. URL: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/generalissues/Pages/Caffeine.aspx Accessed 30/11/19
  3. Crozier TWM, Stalmach A, Lean MEJ, Crozier A 2011, Espresso coffees, caffeine and chlorogenic acid intake: potential health implications, Food and Function DOI: 10.1039/c1fo10240k
  4. Liston J, 1998, Breastfeeding and the use of recreational drugs – alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and marijuana, Breastfeeding Review, 6(2): 27–30.

 The information on this website does not replace the advice of your health care provider.

© Australian Breastfeeding Association December 2019

 

Last reviewed: 
Dec 2019