Can Caffeine Affect Breast Milk Production?

  • Maha Ahmed, MBBS, Intarnal Medicine and General Surgery, Cairo University
  • Jessica Tang, Cancer Science, Oncology and Cancer Biology, University of Nottingham

Definition of caffeine

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant belonging to the class of compounds known as xanthines. It is commonly found in various plant-based sources such as coffee beans, tea leaves, cacao, and certain nuts. 

As a central nervous system stimulant, caffeine acts by blocking the action of adenosine, a neurotransmitter responsible for promoting relaxation and drowsiness in the brain. By doing so, caffeine enhances alertness and temporarily wards off fatigue, making it a widely consumed substance in beverages like coffee, tea, and energy drinks. Moderation is often advised to avoid potential side effects associated with excessive consumption.

Importance of breast milk for infant nutrition

Breast milk is widely recognised as the most complete and ideal source of nutrition for infants. Its importance lies in the fact that it provides essential nutrients and bioactive components that are specifically tailored to meet the unique nutritional needs of a growing baby. 

Here are some key reasons highlighting the significance of breast milk for infant nutrition:

  • Optimal nutrition with a perfect balance of nutrients
  • Easily digestible for a baby's delicate system
  • Provides essential antibodies and immune factors
  • Reduces the risk of infections and illnesses
  • Long-term health benefits for both baby and mother
  • Promotes bonding and emotional connection
  • Natural hydration for the baby
  • Convenient and economical for parents

Can caffeine affect breast milk production?

Yes, caffeine consumption can potentially affect breast milk production. Caffeine is a stimulant that, when consumed by a breastfeeding mother, can enter her breast milk and be transferred to the nursing baby. 

Some studies suggest that high caffeine intake might lead to a reduction in milk production in some women. 1 The exact mechanism by which caffeine affects milk supply is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to its impact on certain hormones involved in lactation. However, it is essential to note that individual responses to caffeine can vary, and not all breastfeeding mothers experience a decrease in milk production due to moderate caffeine consumption. 

To ensure the well-being of the baby, nursing mothers should monitor their caffeine intake and, if necessary, limit their consumption or time appropriately to avoid potential adverse effects on breast milk production. 

Caffeine and breastfeeding

Transfer of caffeine from mother to breast milk

Caffeine can transfer from the mother's bloodstream to her breast milk, and its concentration in breast milk tends to be relatively low. After a mother consumes caffeine, it reaches peak levels in her breast milk around one to two hours later. 

While the transfer of caffeine to breast milk is a concern for some breastfeeding mothers, the amount that passes to the baby is generally considered safe, especially when consumed in moderation. However, since babies can react differently to caffeine, some infants may be more sensitive, experiencing irritability, sleep disturbances, or fussiness. 

Monitoring the baby's behaviour and adjusting caffeine intake accordingly can help ensure a positive breastfeeding experience. 

How caffeine affects the baby

Some babies may be more sensitive to caffeine than others, experiencing fussiness or gastrointestinal discomfort.3 It is essential for breastfeeding mothers to be mindful of their caffeine intake and observe any potential adverse reactions in their babies.

Factors Influencing Caffeine's Impact

  • Sensitivity: Some babies are more sensitive to caffeine than others, leading to stronger reactions
  • Age and maturity: Newborns and younger infants may have a less developed metabolism, making them more susceptible to caffeine's effects
  • Mother's caffeine intake: The amount of caffeine consumed by the mother plays a role in how much is transferred to breast milk
  • Timing of consumption: Consuming caffeine just before nursing can result in higher levels of breast milk during feeding4
  • Individual tolerance: Each baby may have a different tolerance level for caffeine, leading to varying responses
  • Other sources of caffeine: Consider the total caffeine intake from various sources, including coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks, and certain medications or supplements
  • Frequency of feeding: Frequent breastfeeding may result in a cumulative caffeine effect on the baby
  • Metabolism: Some individuals, including babies, metabolise caffeine more slowly than others
  • Pre-existing health conditions: Babies with certain health conditions may be more affected by caffeine

Timing of caffeine intake relative to breastfeeding

The timing of caffeine intake relative to breastfeeding is crucial. Breastfeeding mothers should consume caffeine after nursing rather than before. This approach allows more time for caffeine to metabolize in the mother's system, reducing the amount transferred to breast milk during the next feeding. By doing so, potential adverse effects on the baby, such as irritability or sleep disturbances, may be minimised.

Recommendations for breastfeeding mothers

Moderate consumption

Stick to moderate caffeine intake, around 200-300 mg per day (approximately one to two 8-ounce cups of coffee). This amount is generally considered safe for most breastfeeding mothers and their babies.2

Timing matters

Consume caffeine after nursing, not before. This allows more time for caffeine to metabolise before the next feeding, reducing its presence in breast milk.

Monitor your baby

Pay attention to your baby's reactions after you consume caffeine. If you notice any signs of sensitivity, like fussiness or difficulty sleeping, consider reducing your caffeine intake.

Watch for other sources

Be mindful of other sources of caffeine beyond coffee and tea, such as energy drinks, chocolate, and certain medications.

Individual differences

Remember that each baby may have different tolerances to caffeine, so observe your baby's behaviour to adjust your caffeine intake accordingly.


Opt for water and other caffeine-free beverages as the primary source of hydration for both you and your baby.

Consult a healthcare professional

If you have any concerns or questions about caffeine consumption during breastfeeding, consult with a lactation consultant or your baby's paediatrician for personalised advice.

By following these recommendations, you can enjoy your favourite caffeinated beverages while maintaining a positive breastfeeding experience for both you and your baby.

General guidelines on caffeine consumption

General guidelines on caffeine consumption apply to both breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding individuals. It is essential to consume caffeine in moderation. 

For most healthy adults, a moderate intake of caffeine, typically around 200-400 mg per day (equivalent to 2-4 cups of coffee), is considered safe and may even offer some health benefits. However, individual tolerance levels vary, so some people may need to limit their intake even further. Caffeine's effects can last for several hours, so it's best to avoid consuming large amounts close to bedtime to prevent disturbances in sleep patterns. 

Monitoring caffeine effects on the baby

Breastfeeding mothers should be vigilant in monitoring their baby's behaviour and reactions after consuming caffeine. Observing any unusual changes in the baby's demeanour can help identify if the baby is sensitive to caffeine. 

If such effects are noticed, it may be necessary to make adjustments to the mother's caffeine intake to minimise its impact on the baby's well-being. 

This can involve reducing the overall intake of caffeine or altering the timing of consumption to limit the amount transferred to breast milk during feeding times.

Adjusting caffeine intake if needed

Adapting caffeine intake ensures that the baby's health and well-being are prioritised while allowing the mother to enjoy a reasonable amount of caffeine without causing discomfort or disruptions to the baby's sleep and behaviour.

Myth vs. fact: Common misconceptions about caffeine and breast milk production

Myth: Caffeine decreases breast milk production.

Fact: There is no evidence to suggest that moderate caffeine intake negatively impacts breast milk supply. In most cases, caffeine consumption does not interfere with milk production.

Myth: Caffeine makes breast milk taste bad.

Fact: While caffeine can be detected in breast milk, the concentration is usually low and unlikely to significantly affect the taste. Most babies do not seem to mind the taste of breast milk with moderate caffeine consumption.

Myth: Avoiding caffeine completely is necessary during breastfeeding.

Fact: Moderate caffeine consumption is generally considered safe for most breastfeeding mothers and their babies. It is not necessary to eliminate caffeine unless the baby shows specific sensitivity to it.

Myth: Babies should not be breastfed after the mother consumes caffeine.

Fact: Timing matters more than avoiding breastfeeding altogether. Consuming caffeine after nursing allows time for the caffeine to metabolise, reducing its presence in breast milk during the next feeding.

Myth: Caffeine causes colic in breastfed babies.

Fact: There is no scientific evidence linking caffeine consumption by the mother to colic in breastfed infants. Colic is a common condition in babies, and its exact cause remains unknown.

Myth: Caffeine causes sleep problems in breastfed babies.

Fact: While caffeine may affect some babies' sleep patterns, the impact can vary between infants. Not all babies experience sleep disturbances due to moderate caffeine consumption by the mother.

Myth: Decaffeinated beverages are always caffeine-free.

Fact: Decaffeinated drinks may still contain small amounts of caffeine. Check the labels to know the exact caffeine content in decaffeinated products.

Myth: Consuming caffeine during pregnancy can cause harm to the baby after birth.

Fact: While excessive caffeine intake during pregnancy is discouraged, moderate caffeine consumption during breastfeeding is generally considered safe and does not cause harm to the baby.

As with any dietary consideration, breastfeeding mothers need to be mindful of their caffeine intake and observe their baby's reactions. If there are concerns or questions, consulting with a healthcare professional can provide personalised guidance.


Caffeine is a substance that is found in beverages like tea, coffee and energy drinks. This widely popular substance consumed by the majority of the population enhances alertness and wards off fatigue. 

Monitoring of caffeine intake is highly recommended for new mothers as excessive consumption can affect the breast milk that is consumed by the newborn baby. Common signs that caffeine is affecting your baby are irritability, trouble sleeping and fussiness. General guidelines recommend around 200-300mg of caffeine as this is considered safe for most breastfeeding mothers and their babies. 

If you’re concerned about how your caffeine consumption may affect your baby, speak to your healthcare provider for guidance.


  1. Rozenberg S, Body JJ, Bruyère O, Bergmann P, Brandi ML, Cooper C, et al. Effects of dairy products consumption on health: benefits and beliefs—a commentary from the belgian bone club and the european society for clinical and economic aspects of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal diseases. Calcif Tissue Int [Internet]. 2016 Jan 1 [cited 2023 Aug 4];98(1):1–17. Available from:
  2. CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2023 [cited 2023 Aug 4]. Diet considerations for breastfeeding mothers. Available from:
  3. Jahanfar S, Jaafar SH. Effects of restricted caffeine intake by mother on fetal, neonatal and pregnancy outcomes. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2023 Aug 4];(6). Available from:
  4. Caffeine. In: Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed®) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; 2006 [cited 2023 Aug 4]. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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