Caffeine and breastfeeding: uncovered

There’s a lot of studies and conflicting information out there when it comes to caffeine and breastfeeding. Should you continue as normal…cut down…stop entirely? Is it a contributor to colic and your non-sleeping baby?

In this blog, TMM Expert, Christian explores the effects of caffeine, how long it takes to metabolise in babies and adults, as well as other reasons for babies with colic.

Caffeine - the cause of colic?

Christian speaks about caffeine intake and whether it gets into breast milk very often with mums in clinic. However, 99% of the time there are other issues that are more likely to be upsetting your baby.

Yes, caffeine could be a contributing factor, but you must look at the other causes that your baby has colic or is crying.

These include taking antibiotics, having a C-section, traumatic delivery or maybe overeating another food type whilst breastfeeding.

Caffeine in breast milk

Studies show that after a cup of coffee, caffeine is rapidly absorbed into mother’s blood and then passively diffuses across the epithelial layers of the mammary gland.

Caffeine appears in milk within 15 minutes after intake and peaks within an hour. The concentration of caffeine in breast milk ends up being about 80–90% of that in mother’s plasma.

However, taking into account the amount of breast milk consumed and adjusting for body weight, the infant receives no more than 10% of the maternal dose of caffeine. Per Medications and Mother’s Milk (Hale 2017, p. 139-140) caffeine is in Lactation Risk Category L2 (safer); milk levels are quite low (0.06-1.5% of maternal dose).

The amount is small, as it would be for all foods. It is more about how the mother and baby process the caffeine.

The good news is that most breastfeeding mothers can drink caffeine in moderation.

Caffeine is broken down in the adult body quicker than the baby so it makes sense to NOT have caffeine as it says in the baby’s system longer and obviously they are smaller.

 Adults have the caffeine elimination of about five hours, babies have the half-life of four days.*

This means that caffeine stays in the baby for four days! If you really want to find out if caffeine is affecting your baby you need to not drink it yourself for at least 5 days to notice a difference.

Is this amount of caffeine safe for a baby?

Just because levels of caffeine in breast milk are low relative to what adults usually consume, it doesn’t mean that these amounts are necessarily safe to a baby.

Something to consider is how efficiently a baby can metabolise caffeine, which is actually very slow. Some babies, particularly those under six months, may be more sensitive to their mothers’ caffeine intake.

Whereas the half-life of caffeine in adults is around 2-6 hours, it is an average of 3-4 days in new-borns and can be even slower in premature babies. As the baby matures and the necessary enzyme levels become active, and most babies can metabolise caffeine at rates similar to adults by 5-6 months of age.

However, it must be taken into account that there is a lot of baby-to-baby variation in caffeine metabolism.

Since you’re unable to measure your baby’s caffeine half-life (because this requires repeated blood draws), your best indicator is your baby’s behaviour and how you react to caffeine yourself.


Whilst the research is conflicting, Christian recommends thinking of you and your baby ‘as one’ when it comes to caffeine response.

If coffee gives you the jitters then there’s a good chance it could affect your baby more. If you cope with coffee okay yourself then perhaps your baby has a similar tolerance.

Without repeated testing, there’s no real way of knowing without monitoring your baby and experimenting with removing caffeine from your diet.

If your baby is fussy, upset or not sleeping well then experiment with going caffeine-free.

If your baby is showing no signs of caffeine-related distress and sleeping patterns are normal, then you can continue drinking caffeine in moderation.  

And please remember, there are many other reasons for a crying, colicky, not sleeping baby other than caffeine in your breast milk. See Calming Colic for more details:

Find out more about TMM Expert, Christian Bates here.


p.s don't forget you got this mama!

Love Sophia x