Breastfeeding and Caffeine

Does A Typical Amount Of Caffeine Affect A Breastfeeding Baby?

In most cases, one or two cups of coffee or an equivalent amount of caffeine will not affect a breastfeeding baby in any way.

How Much Caffeine Is Transferred To Breast Milk?

About 1% of the caffeine a breastfeeding mother drinks is transferred to her breast milk. So if a mother drinks coffee with 300 mg of caffeine in it about 3mg of caffeine will end up in her breast milk during the peak timeframe. That’s about the same amount of caffeine in a 4oz glass of chocolate milk.

When Does Caffeine Peak In Breast Milk?

caffeine and breastfeeding info

Photo credit: epSos.de via flickr.

Caffeine concentrations peak in a breastfeeding mothers milk about 60 to 90 minutes after drinking the caffeinated beverage. This time can be shortened by:

  • Consuming the caffeinated beverage quickly
  • Drinking caffeine on an empty stomach
  • Below average body weight

The 60 to 90 minute timeframe can be increased by

  • Consuming the caffeinated beverage slowly
  • Having the caffeinated beverage along with a lot of food
  • Above average body weight

About half of the caffeine is removed from the mother’s body after 4 hours has passed.

When Breastfeeding, What Is The Best Time To Have Caffeine?

Because caffeine does not have a noticeable effect on breastfeeding babies, it is not crucial to carefully schedule breastfeeding around caffeine consumption. However if you want to minimize the amount of caffeine that is passed along to your breastfeeding baby, avoid breastfeeding for several hours starting one hour after you have the caffeinated beverage.

The best time to have caffeine when breastfeeding is while breastfeeding! Be sure to keep hot liquids well away from baby, but drinking your morning cup of coffee or tea while breastfeeding does not give the caffeine a chance to get into your breast milk and it fills baby so that baby is less likely to want to breastfeed during the following time when the concentration of caffeine will be the highest in the breast milk.

How Can I Tell If Caffeine Is Affecting My Breastfeeding Baby?

Watch for these warning signs that your breastfeeding baby may be sensitive to caffeine:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Restless sleeping / frequently waking up
  • Wide eyed and very alert
  • Fidgety or jittery
  • Fussiness

These symptoms can occur at any time during the day because a baby’s digestive system is immature and can not breakdown caffeine as quickly as an adult.

How Long Will Caffeine Stay In My Breastfeeding Baby’s System?

While the mother can remove half of the caffeine she consumed in as little as 3 hours, newborns can take up to 5 days to remove half the caffeine from their bodies they received through breastfeeding! By the age of three months, a baby can remove half the caffeine in about 14 hours and by the age of 6 months they can remove half the caffeine in about as quickly as an adult can.

What To Do If You Suspect Caffeine Is Affecting Your Breastfeeding Baby.

If you have caffeine at a specific time, only once each day, you can try to schedule your breastfeeding so that you are breastfeeding while you are drinking caffeine. Then try to go as long as possible before breastfeeding again, however you may need to pump for comfort or to maintain breast milk production.

Pumped milk should not be given to baby (since it likely contains caffeine) however it can be frozen and saved until baby is older and less likely to be affected by caffeine.

The other option is to abstain from caffeine and see what happens. Be aware that you may be withdrawal symptoms such as: headache, tiredness and fatigue.

The amount of time you will need to wait for the caffeine to clear from baby’s system depends on the age of the baby.

Time to clear caffeine from a breastfeeding baby’s body:

  • Newborns to 1 month olds: 20 days
  • 1 to 2 month olds: 14 days
  • 2 to 3 month olds: 8 days
  • 3 to 5 month olds: 3 days
  • Older than 5 months: 2 days

After the required amount of time has passed reevaluate baby. If baby is no different then it is likely caffeine is not the cause of the symptoms. If baby’s symptoms are improved, caffeine may be the cause. Wait for baby to get older (especially older than 3 months) and then try caffeine again and watch how baby reacts. Often as a breastfeeding baby’s digestive system matures, caffeine posses less of a problem.

What Are The Common Sources For Caffeine?

  • Caffeine is not just found in coffee! Check your diet against these common sources of caffeine:
  • Coffee (percolated, drip, instant, espresso, etc)
  • Tea (Black, green, etc, but usually not herbal)
  • Chocolate (Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate milk, etc)
  • Soda (Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Jolt, etc)
  • Energy Drinks (Red Bull, Monster, Full Throttle, etc)
  • Certain medications (Excedrin, Day Time formulas, weight loss pills, NoDoz, etc)

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