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
Authorities recommend that pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should not exceed 200 mg caffeine per day.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
Caffeine level (mg)
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
10–50 mg/250mL cup
up to 54 mg/375 mL cup
20 mg/100 g bar
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.
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.
- 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
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand, 2019, Caffeine. URL: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/generalissues/Pages/Caffeine.aspx Accessed 30/11/19
- 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
- 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