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Feeding the Child

Caffeine and breastfeeding

Does the caffeine I have get into my breastmilk?

When you have a cup of coffee or eat chocolate, a small amount of caffeine will enter your bloodstream. Once it's in your blood, about one per cent of it will appear in your breastmilk. Some flavours from what you eat and drink also pass into your breastmilk, though more research is needed.

Will caffeine harm my baby?

We don't know for certain what effect caffeine has on breastfeeding babies. But every baby is different, and some babies seem to be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others.

Some experts suggest that babies under four months may not be able to cope with too much caffeine. Babies can't get rid of caffeine very well, so it can build up in their bodies, causing them to be wakeful, restless or irritable.

However, other experts suggest that caffeine may have little effect on babies.

How much caffeine is safe when I'm breastfeeding?

It's normal to feel tired in the early weeks and months after having a baby. Breastfeeding can also make you feel thirsty, so it's tempting to drink cup after cup of tea and coffee, just to keep you going. But it's better not to have lots of caffeinated food and drink when you're breastfeeding.

Caffeine occurs naturally in many of the things we eat and drink, including coffee, tea and chocolate. It’s also added to some soft drinks and energy drinks, and to some cold and flu remedies. Some espresso-based coffee drinks, such as cappuccinos and lattes, can be particularly high in caffeine, depending on where you buy them.

We don't have a UK guideline for a safe amount of caffeine for breastfeeding mums. In the US, no more than 300mg of caffeine a day is recommended. That's about the equivalent of two cups of filter coffee, or four mugs of tea, a day.

More than this amount of caffeine is unlikely to harm your baby. However, if your baby seems very unsettled or restless, or finds it difficult to sleep, try cutting back on caffeine. Just have just the occasional cup of tea or coffee, or cut it out of your diet completely, and see if it makes a difference.

You could try drinking decaffeinated tea and coffee, fruit juice, milk or mineral water instead. Herbal teas are another option, though try to have no more than two or three cups a day while you are breastfeeding. And bear in mind that some herbal teas, such as green tea, contain some caffeine.