Caffeine and Breastfeeding

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated August 11, 2014.

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Is it Safe to have Caffeine while Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding and CaffeineYes, it is generally considered safe to consume caffeine while breastfeeding.  Though all babies are different and some may be more sensitive to the small amounts of caffeine that pass through breast milk, caffeine and breastfeeding are not contraindicated.

How Much Caffeine Passes into Breast Milk?

As a general rule, only about 1% of the maternal dose of any drug a nursing mother takes passes into her milk. But, most drugs are metabolized at a much slower rate in babies than in adults.  Caffeine is no exception.  Approximately 1% – 1.5% of the maternal dose is passed to a baby via breast milk.1 The half-life of caffeine is 97.5 hours in newborns, 14 hours in 3-5 month olds, 2.6 hours in 6+ month olds, and 5 hours in an adult.2  It takes 5 half lives to completely clear a drug from the system.  If you multiply the first-half life times five you will have an idea how long it takes to clear. So while very little caffeine that is ingested by a mother actually transfers to her baby, it can quickly accumulate.  It takes a newborn 487 hours (97.5 x 5) to completely clear caffeine from his system.  Though only a small amount may enter each day, it can quickly build up with such a long half-life. (Further information about drugs and breast milk can be found here.)

How is caffeine intake measured and what is too much?

Caffeine is measured in milligrams.  Peak levels of caffeine are found in breast milk between 1-2 hours after consumption.3  As caffeine leaves the maternal blood serum, it also decreases in breast milk.  Consumption of less than 300 mg/day is typically considered to be safe for a breastfeeding baby. 4 However, all babies are different and if you notice symptoms of sleep disturbance, decrease in your baby’s appetite, irritability, and/or hyperactivity it is possible your child is reacting to the caffeine in your breast milk.  Decreasing your caffeine intake, switching to decaffeinated drinks, and waiting for several hours to nurse after caffeine intake are all strategies than can reduce the amount of caffeine your baby is exposed to. Also, preterm or sick infants might be less able to metabolize caffeine and therefore impacted to a greater degree by small amounts of maternal consumption.

How Much Caffeine is in My Favorite Drink?

Caffeine Content of Various Drinks and Foods
CoffeeTea
DrinkServing SizeCaffeine (mg)DrinkServing SizeCaffeine (mg)
Starbucks Filter Coffee, Short8 oz160 mg Starbucks Hot Brewed Tea, ShortAllvaries
Starbucks Filter Coffee, Tall12 oz240 mgStarbucks Chai Tea Latte, Short8 oz50 mg
Starbucks Filter Coffee, Grande16 oz320 mgStarbucks Chai Tea Latte, Tall12 oz75 mg
Starbucks Caffe Latte, Short8 oz75 mgStarbucks Chai Tea Latte, Grande16 oz100 mg
Starbucks Caffe Latte, Tall12 oz150 mg
Starbucks Caffe Mocha, Short8 oz85 mg
Starbucks Caffe Mocha, Tall12 oz95 mg
Starbucks Americano, Short8 oz 75 mg
Starbucks Americano, Tall12 oz150 mg
Starbucks Cappucino, Short8 oz75 mg
Starbucks Cappucino, Tall12 oz75 mg
Starbucks Espresso, Solo75 mg
Starbucks Espresso, Doppio150 mg
Starbucks Macchiato, Solo75 mg
Starbucks Macchiato, Doppio150 mg
Starbucks Caffe Americano, Short8 oz75 mg
Starbucks Caffe Americano, Tall12 oz150 mg
Starbucks Caffe Americano, Grande16 oz225 mg
Starbucks Cappuccino, Short8 oz75 mg
Starbucks Cappuccino, Tall12 oz150 mg
Starbucks Cappuccino, Grande16 oz150 mg
Starbucks Caffe Misto, Short8 oz75 mg
Starbucks Caffe Misto, Tall12 oz115 mg
Starbucks Caffe Misto, Grande16 oz150 mg
Hot Drinks
Starbucks Hot Chocolate, Short8 oz10 mg
Starbucks Hot Chocolate,Tall12 oz15 mg
Starbucks Hot Chocolate,Grande16 oz20 mg
Starbucks Frappuccino, Tall12 oz 70 mg
TeasServing SizeCaffeine (mg)
Starbucks Chai Tea LatteShort (8 oz) / Tall (12 oz)50 mg / 70 mg
Starbucks Green Tea LatteShort (8 oz) / Tall (12 oz)25 mg / 55mg
Soft Drinks
DrinkServing SizeCaffeine (mg)
Coca-Cola12 oz30-35 mg
Coke Zero12 oz35 mg
Diet Coke12 oz38-47 mg
Pepsi12 oz32-39 mg
Diet Pepsi12 oz27-37 mg
Dr. Pepper12 oz36 mg
Mountain Dew12 oz46-55 mg
Barq's Root Beer12 oz18 mg
Energy DrinksServing SizeCaffeine (mg)
Red Bull8 oz76 mg
Full Throttle8 oz70-72 mg
Monster8 oz80 mg

Does Chocolate Contain Caffeine?

Yes, chocolate does contain caffeine but it depends on the type of cocoa beans and the degree of fermentation as to how much caffeine is present.  Typically, chocolate has caffeine levels typical to decaffeinated teas and coffees. 5 Caffeine is not typically listed as an ingredient in chocolate because it is a part of the cocoa itself and not an added ingredient, much the same way as water would not need to be listed as an ingredient in a whole watermelon.

Chocolate also as theobromines which have a similar impact on the body’s nervous system as caffeine. 6   But, as with caffeine, the levels in chocolate are quite low.  One oz of milk chocolate has 6 mg and 1 oz. of dark chocolate has 20 mg. 7 Chocolate does not usually cause problems in breastfeeding babies.

Show 7 footnotes

  1. Hale, T.W. (2012) Medications and Mother’s Milk, 15th ed. Amarillo, TX: Hale Publishing, p. 172.
  2. Hale, T.W. (2012) Medications and Mother’s Milk, 15th ed. Amarillo, TX: Hale Publishing, p. 172.
  3. Hale, T.W. (2012) Medications and Mother’s Milk, 15th ed. Amarillo, TX: Hale Publishing, p. 172.
  4. Mohrbacher, N. (2010) Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple. Amarillo, TX: Hale Publishing, p. 521.
  5. The cocoa manual. Cacao de Zaan, 1993, p.91-92. Accessed 22 September 2013, via www.food-info.net
  6. Mannel, R. et al. (2013) Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice, 3rd ed. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, p.331.
  7. Goodwin, L. “How Much Caffeine is in Coffee, Tea, Cola & Other Drinks?” Accessed 22 September 2013, www.coffeetea.about.com
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