What's the deal with caffeine and breastfeeding? Is it okay to drink coffee whil nursing? Is two cups too much? We've got answers for you in this post!

Caffeine and Breastfeeding: Is It Safe?

Now that baby has arrived you may be looking forward to some of the foods and drinks you avoided while pregnant.

At the top of the list for most mamas? Coffee and caffeine.

But are caffeine and breastfeeding compatible?

Coffee, Caffeine and Breastfeeding

Caffeine is a stimulant and should be used with caution when it comes to pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Our recommendation for coffee while pregnant is to limit yourself to a cup a day – or better yet, none at all.

Our recommendation for coffee while breastfeeding is much looser. Most women can have a few cups of coffee each day while nursing and it won’t cause any issues. That’s because caffeine doesn’t cross into the breastmilk in the same the way that it crosses the placenta.

When Is Caffeine and Breastfeeding Not Ok?

Some babies are very sensitive to substances in mom’s colostrum or breastmilk, and caffeine is can be a big one. For sensitive babies, even a tiny bit of caffeine is too much.

The younger the baby is, the more likely it is that he or she will be sensitive to caffeine.

Babies born to moms who didn’t consume any (or very little) caffeine while pregnant may be even more susceptible to reacting negatively.

But take heart, if your baby is sensitive to caffeine in breastmilk now, chances are good he or she will gain tolerance as they get older.

Follow Your Baby

If your baby is not sleeping well, has acid reflux or colic, or is just acting funny, you should look into whether it’s being caused by caffeine.

Remember that things like chocolate, black tea, and even decaf coffee have enough caffeine to cause problems for some babies. According to La Leche League international (LLL), “a baby who is being over-stimulated with caffeine will be wide-eyed, active, alert, and perhaps fussy.”

In other words, a baby who’s over caffeinated acts similar to adults who are!

On the flip side, some babies are sensitive to acidic foods (tomatoes, citrus, etc.), so it’s not the caffeine but the acid in coffee  that causes problems, especially tummy trouble. If this is the case for you, you can add a pinch of baking soda to coffee to alkalize it, or you can drink matcha tea, which has caffeine but is less acidic.

How Much Coffee Is Too Much When Nursing?

Many sources have different guidelines for how much is too much. According to LLL, you can safely have 5 cups of coffee a day while breastfeeding. The key is to notice how your baby reacts and cut back if you think she’s being affected.

Studies show that adverse reactions occur when mothers drink 10 or more cups, of coffee a day while other studies show coffee consumption under 5 cups has no adverse affect on baby.

In other words, if you’re used to drinking over a gallon of coffee a day, try dialing it back to just 1/3 of a gallon. 🙂

Also, keep in mind that too much caffeine isn’t beneficial to you or baby, so it won’t hurt to err on the side of caution. If you’re experiencing heart palpitations, anxiety, high blood pressure or blood sugar, excessive sweating, or shakiness then definitely consider cutting way back or eliminating caffeine altogether.

How to Make Your Morning Cuppa Work Harder for You

Coffee and caffeine aren’t bad for most people. In fact, there are many studies revealing the great health benefits of moderate amounts of caffeine or coffee. For example, this study shows that coffee consumption may be correlated to longevity. So, why not make it work harder for you?

  • Add 1/2 TB of coconut oil or grass-fed butter or ghee and blend with an immersion blender. This will taste like a frothy Starbucks drink but also improve the fatty acid profile of your breast milk. Win win!
  • Add 2 TB of grass-fed raw milk or cream instead of the typical ultra-pasteurized options for another health boost.
  • Drink alongside a breakfast high in protein, healthy fats, and veggies. (Think veggie omelet with raw cheese or high protein waffles 🙂 ) Healthy fats and veggies go hand in hand, supporting optimal absorption and anti-inflammatory properties.

Here’s What Other Natural Mamas Have to Say About Drinking Caffeine or Coffee While Breastfeeding

I asked the mamas on my Facebook page if they drank coffee while nursing. Here are some of their responses.

  • I drink coffee. I’ve always been a coffee drinker and started very young with cream and coffee in a saucer (Finnish heritage). While pregnant I had two cups every morning organic with filtered water. Breastfeeding the same two cups in the morning and maybe one in the afternoon if I go and visit my parents (who drink oodles and are so healthy almost 80 years old) I don’t see it effect my LO at all. – Aleen F.
  • I avoided caffeine during both of my pregnancies, only allowing myself a rare fountain drink or decaf coffee/latte drink (less than 10 during the entire pregnancy). About two months after I had my first child (about the time I returned to work), I started to drink regular coffee and caffeinated drinks again and quickly learned that my baby was being affected by the caffeine. He started becoming fussy and cranky and it was hard to put him down for his naps. He stopped falling asleep easily and his naps got shorter. I cut the caffeine out and noticed a difference right away. I’m not testing the waters with my second which is a month old now. So, zombie mom it is for me until I stop breastfeeding. – Lorena S.
  • I was never much of a coffee person before and during my pregnancy. I’d have a cup maybe once every 4 months or less. But after I gave birth, I craved coffee. Not for the caffeine, but for the taste. I was suddenly drinking at least one a day (when I was trying not to have too much), and up to four a day. I honestly wanted to drink it all day long. That lasted for maybe two weeks before I stopped craving it so harshly. – Ashley R.
  • I breastfeed my currently 20 month old daughter. I drink one 6oz cup of caffeinated coffee with cinnamon. I drink one in the morning and before bed. Caffeine has no effect on my sleep or hers. She’s slept 12 hours a night ever since she was 4 weeks old. She’s healthy, eats a nutritional foods, no juice or sugar. Just my experience. – Allyce P.
  • I limited my caffeine during pregnancy and the first year of nursing. On month 23 of nursing ( my need rehab for this tots boob addiction) I have probably 2 sodas and a cup or two of coffee most days but also drink lots of water. Don’t sit there and suck down 90 oz of suger and caffeine but do what’s best for your baby and body. – Tavia C.
  • I did. I also drank it through my pregnancy. I remember the first 11 weeks of my pregnancy having NONE and my midwife said to me “you know you can drink coffee right?” She explained to me that enjoying a cup a day was fine and not going to harm my baby. So that is what I did all through my pregnancy and all 15 months of breastfeeding. – Heather B.
  • I NEVER drank coffee until I was pregnant with my 2nd. There was no way I could keep up with my toddler without it haha! She’s exclusively breastfed on demand (no bottles) and I have 0-2 lattes/day. – Anna B.
  • I love coffee. It wasn’t till I became pregnant with my first and quit drinking it that I really understood how it offset my moods and made me more easily irritated. I’m nursing my second child now (19m) old and on the weekly occasion I have a cup; it defiantly affects her sleep and my irritability, so I plan to have it after I’ve nursed and drink lots of water after. Also, adding coconut oil to coffee helps regulate the caffeine. Adding baking soda alkalizes it. Pretty fantastic hacks!   – Anna M.
  • When my little guy was a week or two old, I was excited to enjoy my favorite tea, but he seemed very agitated in the evening when I did, so I went back to restricting caffeine. I know lots of mom/baby units do okay with coffee or whatever, but we just didn’t. Now that he’s a little older, I have some now and then, and he seems okay.  – Allie O.

How About You?

Do you drink coffee while breastfeeding? Why or why not?

 

References

  • https://www.llli.org/faq/caffeine.html
  • https://www.drugs.com/breastfeeding/caffeine.html
  1. I used to be a coffee drinker but as became sensitive to caffeine, I became a heavy tea drinker. During the pregnancy, I drank quite a lot of tea, but after giving birth, I drank lots of tea – white, green, black – all day long. I even started to introduce a teeny weeny bit of coffee on top of all the tea. Until I noticed that the baby is not sleeping very well during nap times. So I quit. After a couple of weeks I carefully tried one mug of tea, not too strong, and his naps were seriously affected again. Now I have to wait until I stop breastfeeding to get back to tea and coffee. So Rooibos it is!

  2. My kinesiologist/chiropractor insisted i not drink coffee- not for the caffeine, but for all of the bacteria that accumulates on the bean- and then the roasting, etc. all open up areas for mold and such to thrive on the beans. It also affects your adrenals, which can deplete the adrenals of the baby while pregnant. I hope you look into this and would love to hear your thoughts.

    Molly

  3. It should be noted that the LLLI recommendation is five *5-ounce* cups of coffee a day. 5 ounces is approximately half of a standard sized coffee mug.

  4. I got a few recipes with ghee butter and coconut oil that I’m going to try, but my regular intake is about 3-4 cups per day. It’s nice to see that coffee doesn’t particularly affect women who are breastfeeding though, because I feel for the moms who go back to work soon after giving birth. It takes a real toll on the body and I could imagine how hard it is to go through your day without it while maintaining a job and providing nutrients to your baby.

  5. I completely gave up caffeine w/1st pregnancy. 2nd I found I could not function. I really could care less it I died. A little caffeine helped turn me around. This pregnancy Pregnancy, I really try to limit caffeine intake but I work full time and then come home and have family life on top of my day and pregnancy so I drink more than I want to admit. I worry how caffeine will impact my breastfeeding and hope drastically cut back to the 500 mg at a minimum. I was not successful at exclusively breastfeeding my first two and had to use a breast pump. This go around I hope to breastfeed exclusively.

  6. I am an emotional coffee drinker 🙂 it is a surefire way to boost my mood. I have always been one that was sensitive to caffeine until after giving birth. Now (probably due to sleeping less) caffeine just makes me happy but not jittery ir energized like it did before. I did not drink it will pregnant and now while breastfeeding I probably have about 3-5 cups a week. I have not noticed a difference with my baby and I add grass-fed butter, whole, raw milk, and collagen and love it!

  7. I never avoided coffee. It was other things that my kids were sensitive to, like broccoli and beans giving them horrendous gas. I have one to two cups a day, hot in the winter, iced in the warmer weather. I’m one of those people that coffee doesn’t affect my sleep, so I can drink a cup with dessert before bed. I have enjoyed coffee ever since I was little. My favorite Haagen Daz flavor was coffee at 4 years old. Even the baby tries to get the last sips out of my cup!


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About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 75,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

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