After yet another sleepless night, 4 am feed, or bleary-eyed diaper change, chances are you’ll need a coffee.
Across countless internet lists of things, mamas miss most during pregnancy, caffeinating almost always ranks highly.
And when you finally have your babe in your arms, you might be tempted to return to the ways of old, meeting every yawn or eye rub with another cup of Joe.
But while tempting, the idea of switching back to pre-pregnancy levels of caffeine can prompt plenty of questions for breastfeeding mamas.
Like, how much caffeine can you have while breastfeeding?
Does caffeine go into breast milk?
And importantly, does caffeine in breast milk keep baby awake?
We get it—sleep is a distant memory when you have a newborn, and if you choose to breastfeed, the worry of drinking caffeine while breastfeeding could be creeping on your mind.
Let us quell your thoughts; grab yourself a coffee (spoiler alert, you’re allowed), and we’ll dive into everything you need to know about caffeine and breastfeeding.
In this article: 📝
- Is it safe to drink caffeine while breastfeeding?
- How much caffeine will affect breast milk?
- Does caffeine affect baby while breastfeeding?
- Why should caffeine be avoided during breastfeeding?
- Caffeine and breastfeeding FAQs
- When can I drink caffeine while breastfeeding?
- What are hidden sources of caffeine?
Is it safe to drink caffeine while breastfeeding?
First things first: is it OK to drink coffee while breastfeeding?
Congratulations, coffee-mamas, because it’s absolutely safe to drink moderate amounts of coffee, tea, soda, or other caffeine while breastfeeding. 🎉
Just as it was safe to do so while you were pregnant.
So, you don’t have to go cold turkey when it comes to coffee and breastfeeding. Phew!
But before you brew your next pot or make a beeline for your favorite can of energy drink while breastfeeding, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- Trace amounts of caffeine can make its way from your bloodstream into your breast milk.
- Caffeine in breast milk is at its peak around 60 - 120 minutes after you’ve consumed it.
- Although the level is typically too small to be harmful, some babies can be more sensitive to caffeine in breast milk than others.
- If you notice your baby is having trouble sleeping or is extra fussy, restless, hyper, or irritable post-feed (and after you’ve had caffeine), it could be a sign that you need to reduce your caffeine while breastfeeding.
How much caffeine will affect breast milk?
It depends on who you’re asking!
According to the CDC, up to 300 milligrams of caffeine while breastfeeding per day is fine.
This is echoed in a study shared by the breastfeeding organization La Leche League International that shows stretching to 300 mg a day (around two to three cups of coffee) is a safe amount of caffeine while nursing.
Meanwhile, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests that up to 200 mg a day (one large or two small cups of coffee) while breastfeeding is the sweet spot.
So, a few cups of coffee while breastfeeding is a-OK. 🥳
But anything over and above that 300 mg mark could result in overstimulation, wakefulness, and jitters in your little one.
How long does caffeine stay in breastmilk?
Caffeine in breast milk has a half-life of anywhere between 1.5 and 14.5 hours (the half-life is the amount of time it takes for the level of caffeine to reduce by half).
So, any trace of caffeine in breast milk is usually gone within 24 hours, assuming you don’t top it up!
That’s why you should be mindful of that 200 - 300 mg range above, especially in the first few weeks with your new baby.
Caffeine has a crazy high half-life in newborns (as much as 97.5 hours), which means you could drink a cup of coffee on Monday morning, and the caffeine in breastmilk could still be present on Thursday evening.
Does caffeine affect baby while breastfeeding?
Unfortunately, caffeine in breast milk can affect your baby if you’re breastfeeding.
But it depends on how much caffeine while breastfeeding you’re consuming.
The main effect of caffeine while breastfeeding newborns is the impact on their sleep patterns.
For instance, the CDC reports that poor sleeping patterns have been observed in infants whose mamas consume very high amounts of caffeine while breastfeeding (we’re talking 10 or more cups of coffee a day).
And preterm and newborn babies can take longer to break down caffeine in breast milk, so this could also have an impact on their sleep and mood.
Either way, you need to do what’s right for you and your baby.
Whether that’s bringing your intake down or timing your coffee breaks so that the caffeine’s out of your system when you feed or pump, you can still enjoy caffeine while breastfeeding with a little moderation and planning.
Does caffeine in breast milk keep baby awake?
Yes, if baby drinks caffeine in breast milk, it can keep them awake, making caffeine a bit of a double-edged sword.
You’re drinking it to cobble together some energy to stay alert, but it could have the exact same effect on your little one. Uh-oh. 😳
That said, as we’ve mentioned, it affects every baby differently, and that will usually come down to individual circumstances.
Typically speaking, signs you might be drinking too much caffeine while breastfeeding, whether that’s coffee, soda, or energy drinks, could be if baby is:
- Having difficulty getting to sleep
- More active than usual
- Fussier than usual
Basically, the same way you might feel if you have too much caffeine!
If you’re drinking your fair share of coffee while breastfeeding and baby’s showing any of these signs, it could be worth cutting down.
You both need your rest!
Why should caffeine be avoided during breastfeeding?
What’s so bad about caffeine and breastfeeding?
Besides keeping baby awake (if you drink a lot, that is), there aren’t really any adverse effects of caffeine while breastfeeding.
However, consuming a lot of caffeine (while breastfeeding or otherwise), in whatever form (coffee, soda, energy drinks), can have some less desirable side effects than just keeping your eyes open:
- Insomnia: Sure, insomnia is par for the course with a newborn. But too much caffeine while breastfeeding can mean that the little time you do have to sleep is spent trying to sleep.
- Diarrhea: Coffee, in particular, does have a bit of a laxative effect, so it stands to reason that drinking more than a few cups a day could cause some digestive complaints, along with dehydration.
- Anxiety: Caffeine triggers adrenaline, your fight-or-flight hormone, which can be great for jolting you awake when you need it, but if your adrenaline is firing throughout the day, it can show up through constant nervousness and anxiety.
Caffeine and breastfeeding FAQs
The concern about caffeine and breastfeeding is real. And it’s not just coffee.
Let’s tackle each liquid energy fix one by one and narrow you down an option that works:
Can I drink coffee while breastfeeding?
You’re the mama of a newborn. You’re exhausted. Like, in your bones tired.
All you want is a hot cup of coffee (or maybe even an icy cold brew).
You’ve got Starbucks close to hand and one question in your brain… “Can I have caffeine when I’m nursing or pumping?”
The answer… drumroll please….
Just try to limit your daily caffeine intake to 300mg.
That’s 3 x 6oz coffees, 4 cups of caffeinated tea, 6 x 12oz sodas, or 25oz of chocolate!
Now that’s a lot of chocolate.
Since all tiny humans are unique and individual, please know that some babies can be sensitive to caffeine and may be irritable, fussy, or more awake/overly tired.
If this is the case, you can either limit your caffeine or consume it directly after nursing/pumping so it’s out of your system by the next feeding.
Enjoy your coffee shop outing with baby.
And if it’s set to be your first time, check out our expert guide to breastfeeding in public.
Can I drink energy drinks while breastfeeding?
100%, you can drink energy drinks while breastfeeding.
And just like drinking coffee while breastfeeding, it’s all about moderation.
A lot of energy drinks contain more caffeine than coffee, tea, or soda, so it’s best to stick with energy drinks with less than 100 mg of caffeine.
However, caffeine may not be the only concern in energy drinks while breastfeeding—the high sugar content is probably the most important thing to consider with energy drinks and breastfeeding.
So as long as you have a healthy, balanced diet, drinking energy drinks while breastfeeding shouldn’t have any negative effects.
Can you drink Red Bull while breastfeeding?
A standard can of Red Bull contains 80 mg of caffeine, which puts it on the safe end for your caffeine while breastfeeding—although it’s probably best to limit it to just one can per day.
Keep in mind the sugar content might be fairly high.
One can of Red Bull is similar in sugar content to the same amount of fruit juice but the key difference is the type of sugar.
So, if you’re craving a Red Bull while breastfeeding, maybe their sugar-free alternative could be the best bet.
Can I drink soda while breastfeeding?
Typically, the amount of caffeine in most sodas and colas isn’t high enough to warrant any concern about whether it’s safe to drink soda while breastfeeding.
However, like energy drinks, the high refined sugar content might be something you’d like to avoid.
So how much soda can I drink while breastfeeding, we hear you ask—well, to be honest, the science isn’t really there yet.
But, generally speaking, it’s best to limit your soda drinking to the same as you drank during pregnancy ‒ about one can per day of the sugary stuff.
Can I drink tea while breastfeeding?
What about drinking tea while breastfeeding? Well, considering processed tea contains about half the caffeine of coffee.), caffeine-wise, you’re pretty safe to have a few cups.
But not all teas are created equal when it comes to teas and breastfeeding.
Most teas are totally safe to drink while breastfeeding, but there are some to avoid entirely:
- Blue cohosh
- Caraway oil
- Gordolobo yerba tea
- Pennyroyal oil
- Peppermint oil
- Rhubarb root
- Yerba mate
- St John’s wort
But if you’re feeling like a cup of tea while breastfeeding, here are a few that are generally safe (again, in moderation):
If you’re in doubt about which teas to drink while breastfeeding, it’s best to check with your doctor—for some teas, there’s simply not enough scientific evidence to give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
When can I drink caffeine while breastfeeding?
So when is best to drink caffeine while breastfeeding?
Since the amount of caffeine in breast milk is at its highest between 1-2 hours after drinking it, it’s generally best to wait about 3 hours before breastfeeding after drinking your cup of coffee.
It’s totally up to you to work out what schedule works best for you, but according to our mamas on Peanut, feeding baby before your morning coffee works out well, timing-wise.
What are hidden sources of caffeine?
To recap: Is it ok to drink coffee while breastfeeding? You bet!
Just remember to keep it in moderation and, if you can, plan to drink it around two hours before your next feed to let it work its way through your system.
But if you wish to start your day with a nice, life-affirming cup of coffee or tea (and who could blame you?), you need to think about what else you’ll be putting in your body over the course of the day.
This means inspecting every label and list of ingredients for hidden caffeine.
Otherwise, you could go over the recommended 300 mg guidelines without even realizing it.
Beyond the usual suspects of coffee, tea, and soda, you should look out for caffeine content in a few sneaky sources:
- Energy bars
- Chocolate (the higher the cocoa content, the higher the amount of caffeine)
- Coffee ice cream (it’s not just flavoring)
Common additives like ginseng, guarana, kola nut, and taurine also contain caffeine, so even if it’s not listed outright, you could be getting caffeine in breast milk without even knowing it.
The final word on caffeine and breastfeeding? Enjoy your iced caramel macchiato in moderation, mama:
You’ve got this.
And if you’re looking for alternatives to caffeine (or some local breastfeeding-friendly coffee spots), have a chat with the other mamas on Peanut.
You never know, your next coffee date may be closer than you think…