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Caffeine and Breastfeeding

Most women choose to restrict their caffeine intake whilst pregnant; the prospect of doing this throughout your breastfeeding journey may seem daunting (especially with all the night feeds!). Thankfully it is possible to enjoy caffeine safely whilst breastfeeding. In this article we’ll explore experts’ advice with regards to caffeine and breastfeeding, information on caffeine levels in your favourite drinks and snacks as well as some alternatives if you want to reduce your caffeine intake.

What do the experts say?

Experts recommend limiting your caffeine intake to less than 300 milligrams daily. 500 milligrams is roughly 3 cups of coffee a day. Be aware that other foods and drinks contain levels of caffeine and take this into consideration when deciding whether to opt for decaf or not. The NHS state that caffeine can reach your baby through your breast milk and that this may keep them awake. They recommend trying decaffeinated tea and coffee and to avoid energy drinks.

Read our related article: Caffeine in Pregnancy

What happens if I consume caffeine whilst breastfeeding?

In moderation, a small amount of caffeine won’t harm. When you consume caffeine, it enters your bloodstream and then a small amount can be passed on to your baby through your breast milk. Most babies (especially those over 6 months) won’t be affected by this. However, you may find that your baby becomes fussy or more wakeful after you have consumed caffeine. If this is the case for you, bear in mind that the concentration of caffeine in your milk will peak at around 1 – 2 hours after consumption.

It’s worth noting that if your baby does seem sensitive to caffeine initially, as they get older their sensitivity levels may drop so you could try gradually  adding caffeine back into your diet over time.

breastfeeding coffee

How do I know if my baby is sensitive to caffeine?

As mentioned above, the concentration of caffeine in your milk will peak at around 1-2 hours after consumption. So if you consume caffeine and within two hours notice your baby seems irritable, fussy or won’t sleep for very long, then it may be worth swapping to decaffeinated or caffeine-free drinks for a week to see the impact of this on your little one.

If you do consume a considerable amount of caffeine and you would like to cutdown or reduce the amount then consider decreasing the amount slowly to reduce the chances of headaches from abrupt reduction in caffeine.

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What else is caffeine in other than tea and coffee?

chocolate caffeine breastfeeding

We are aware of caffeine in tea and coffee, but it can also be found in soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, some over-the-counter and prescription medications as well as herbal products containing guarana/paullinia cupana, kola nut/cola nitida, yerba maté, or green tea. It’s definitely worth checking labels when it comes to monitoring your caffeine intake as you may be surprised by how much you are consuming.

How much caffeine is there in my daily drinks?

You may be wondering how much caffeine there is in various coffee drinks or snacks. We have gathered a list of items and their caffeine levels to help you to reflect on how much caffeine you are getting. 

  • Small coffee shop black coffee : 250 mg
  • Small coffee shop latte or cappuccino : 70mg
  • Instant coffee : 80mg
  • Decaffeinated instant coffee : 3mg
  • Can of Coca-Cola : 32mg
  • Can of diet Coca-Cola : 42mg
  • 50g milk chocolate bar : 25mg
  • 50g dark chocolate bar : 50 mg

How can I cut down on my caffeine intake?

As we mentioned above, if you would like to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume then cut it down gradually. You can see from the list above that making small changes can make a big difference to the amount of caffeine in your everyday items. So by swapping dark chocolate for milk chocolate you’re halving the amount of caffeine. You may wish to opt for decaffeinated coffee or tea when you go to a coffee shop to see the impact of this on your little one.

What alternatives are there to coffee?

Of course there are decaffeinated versions of instant coffee that you can have at home or in coffee shops but if you’re looking for some alternatives here are the most popular on the market.

Matcha tea is a type of green tea in the form of a powder, it’s a concentrated source of antioxidants and some studies have found it may reduce your risk of high blood pressure.

Lemon water is caffeine and calorie free and is a fabulous alternative way to start your day.

lemon water

Hot or warm water with fresh lemon is a great source of vitamin C which is essential for your immune system, protecting your skin against sun damage and boosting collagen. Finally there’s Rooibos tea which is otherwise known as red tea. Finally there’s Golden Milk.

This warm beverage incorporates spices such as ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper. Other common additions include cardamom, vanilla and honey. You combine the above with milk and heat it in a pan.

Does caffeine affect breast milk supply?

You may have heard that consuming caffeine can affect your  supply but this isn’t true. Many studies have been carried out into caffeine and supply but none have found that it decreases or impacts milk supply. A baby who is fussy from caffeine in the milk may therefore not nurse well which could in turn lead to a decreased supply over time. So if milk supply has been affected its down to lack of nursing rather than the caffeine itself.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful. Whether you’re considering breastfeeding or currently feeding your little one, we know you want to do what’s best for your little one. If you do feel that your caffeine intake is affecting your little one or you’re mindful that you may be consuming increasing amounts of caffeine then hopefully this article will help you to reflect on the caffeine in your diet and offer you some alternatives to help reduce the amount safely.