Can You Drink Coffee While Breastfeeding? Is It Safe?

Last Updated On: 

December 14, 2017

As soon as you get confirmation that you’re pregnant and will be a mom 9 months later, that’s when all the lifestyle changes start to happen one after the other.

a breastfeeding mother holds her baby as she's working and drinking coffee at her desk

One of the most important changes that many pregnant to-be mothers hate is the dietary change that just forces itself on you, leaving you with no option to agree or disagree with it.

When there’s a baby inside of you, all of that changes and you start taking extra caution with everything you put in your mouth – anything you can eat or drink, you suddenly start thinking twice about before doing so.

But, do you have to do the same AFTER these 9 months have passed and you’ve given birth to your baby? Now that you’re breastfeeding them and they’re no longer getting nutrients from you through an umbilical cord, do you still need to watch out for what you eat and drink?

One of the most common questions breastfeeding moms ask nowadays is “can I drink coffee during my baby’s breastfeeding phase? Or will doing this cause my baby to be alert, stay up all day long and not get much sleep?”.

The answer? Let’s take a look.

Can Breastfeeding Moms Drink Coffee?

The short answer to this question is YES, breastfeeding moms can have coffee and caffeine without harming their nursing babies, assuming they ingest acceptable amounts of caffeine and don’t go overboard.

Now, you may be asking yourself “but wait, won’t the coffee and caffeine I consume be transferred to my baby through breast milk?”. Technically speaking, yes – the caffeine you ingest through anything you drink or eat will make its way to your breast milk.

However, according to many studies conducted on this topic, the amount of caffeine that does make its way there is very negligible.

Research has found that only around 1% of the caffeine you consume ends up making its way into your breast milk through the blood stream.

Coffee And Breastfeeding: Do These Two Go Together?

Yes and no. How exactly? Allow us to explain.

First of all, how your baby reacts to you breastfeeding them while there’s coffee and caffeine in your system is going to largely depend on whether or not you’ve been drinking coffee and caffeine during pregnancy, and how much you’ve been drinking if you were.

If you used to drink coffee back when you were pregnant with your baby, then they’re less likely to develop a negative reaction to your breast milk if there’s any caffeine in it.

The more coffee you used to drink back when you were pregnant, the more tolerance your baby will have to it after birth.

On the other hand, if you’re just starting to make a habit out of drinking coffee during your breastfeeding period while you didn’t used to do this back when you were pregnant with your baby, that’s when the chances of problems happening are high.

Your baby’s system wasn’t subjected to any of this back when they were still in your tummy, so why should they be used to it all of a sudden when traces of caffeine make their way to them through your breast milk?

The Age Factor

One thing you definitely don’t want to do is go overboard on drinking caffeine beverages and breastfeed your baby when they’re younger than 6 months of age.

Be that your coffee, latte, tea or anything else that comes to mind – the younger a baby is, the higher risk they’re going to negatively react to it.

After a baby exceeds the 6 months of age mark and as their bodies continue to develop, they’ll become much more able to handle caffeine amounts (within limits, of course) than they could when they were younger than 6 months of age.

How Much Can I Drink?

So, how many cups of coffee does this mean you can drink before you cross the line and start putting baby’s well-being at risk?

Experts recommend that you try to limit yourself to only 3 cups of coffee on a daily basis, as that would be playing it the safest.

Experts also warn that crossing the line into the “danger zone” would be drinking more than 5 cups of coffee a day while breastfeeding.

If you would rather know how many milligrams of caffeine you’re allowed on a daily basis when breastfeeding and keep track of everything that way, then keep your daily intake of caffeine below 300 milligrams a day to stay on the safe side.

If you can go decaf, that would be great as well – you’ll be maintaining the same level of enjoyment but drastically cutting down on your caffeine intake.

Upon conducting tests on urine samples of babies being breastfed by mothers who drink 3 cups of coffee a day where the caffeine amounts don’t exceed 300 milligrams in total, results have shown that negligible (almost existent) amounts of caffeine have been found in the urine samples of these babies.

You do have to keep in mind, though, that you don’t just get all your day’s worth of 300 mg caffeine from coffee alone.

You can also take in caffeine from different foods you eat and beverages you drink throughout the day.

You can be getting caffeine from other beverages like tea, latte or your favorite energy drink (even though I personally hate energy drinks) – and from food like chocolate, protein bars, and ice cream & yogurt.

So, make sure that your entire intake throughout the day from all these different sources adds up to no more than 300 mg, and not just your intake from coffee alone. It all adds up in the end.

How Should I Be Drinking Coffee?

Besides limiting yourself to no more than 3 cups of coffee on a daily basis, you should also adequately space things out and leave enough time in between one cup and the next.

So try to also limit yourself to one cup of coffee in the morning, one in the early afternoon and one in the late afternoon before 5 hours from bedtime.

Why exactly should you do this? By drinking all your day’s worth of coffee in one sitting, you’ll be maximizing the amount of caffeine in your breast milk at that specific moment.

On the other hand, if you properly spread out your coffee and caffeine intake throughout the day, you’ll be ensuring that there’s the absolute least possible amount of caffeine in your breast milk at any given time baby wants to breastfeed.

You should also try to keep your caffeine intake and your breastfeeding sessions as spaced out as possible between one another.

When you drink any beverage that contains caffeine, studies have shown that the amount of caffeine in your breast milk is at its highest level around 60 minutes after consumption.

After the 60 minute mark, it gradually dies down.

So, if you can time your coffee consumption to be a few hours before a breastfeeding session, that will help ensure there’s much less caffeine in your breast milk to be passed on to baby than if you consumed your coffee 30 minutes before a breastfeeding session.

How Can I Tell If Something’s Wrong?

If you suspect the caffeine from the coffee you’re taking in is negatively affecting your baby, the first thing you should do is double check whether you’re sticking to the maximum caffeine dosage a day.

As we already covered above, if you’re exceeding 300 mg of caffeine a day, that’s the first problem you should fix before doing anything else.

However, if you’re staying below the maximum dosage of 300 mg of caffeine a day, are properly spacing out your coffee intake throughout the day but still notice any of the following symptoms in your baby, the caffeine could still be getting to them.

  • Sudden disruption in sleeping schedule
  • Inability to sleep, stays up all night
  • Cranky mood
  • Jitters

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