Study: Caffeine Does Not Affect Breastfed Babies Sleep Patterns

In the early months of parenthood, fatigue is quite common. Many moms turn to caffeine for a quick pick-me-up during the day. While there is no doubt that the caffeine consumption of a formula fed baby is benign, experts have pondered for years about breastfed babies, unsure of whether or not it could affect their sleep patterns after being passed along through the mother’s breast milk.

After tracking the sleep patterns of 885 infants born in 2004 and the caffeine habits of their mothers, researchers from Brazil say there is nothing to worry about. All but one of the mothers in the study drank caffeine regularly and some consumed more than 300 mg of caffeine a day, which is equal to about six expressos.

Researchers found no trace of caffeine in the urine of babies whose mothers consumed caffeine regularly, which suggested that infants metabolize caffeine differently than adults. The reason for this is not understood but the researchers believe it may be why the sleep patterns of infants were not affected by the amount of caffeine in their mother’s systems.

According to the data collected in their study, crying, colic at 3 months of age and night wakings at 12 months were not affected by the mother’s caffeine consumption. Around 14 percent of the infants woke more than three times a night. Around 41 percent woke up at least once a night. But these night wakings, according to the experts, had nothing to do with caffeine.

“Night waking is common throughout the first year of life,” said Marlos Rodrigues Domingues, co-author of the study and a researcher at Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Pelatos.

Experts say that night-time wakings can often be attributed to the infant’s age; the younger the infant, the more frequent night-time wakings tend to be. Parents will also cite other factors, like daytime napping, bed-sharing habits, whether or not an infant is nursed to sleep, parent’s sleeping habits, the responsiveness of the parent when the child stirs at night and more. Some experts back some of these factors and many more. But it seems that caffeine isn’t one of them as far as these researchers are concerned.

But don’t start that pot of coffee just yet. Keep in mind that the researchers in this study included only one mother that was caffeine-free. While their study was designed to determine if more caffeine meant more night-time wakings, the study was not designed to differentiate between non-caffeine drinkers and caffeine drinkers.

Other studies have warned against caffeine consumption when breastfeeding, suggesting that mothers should limit their consumption to avoid “caffeine accumulation” in their infants. The adverse effects of this condition are unknown and it would seem that more research needs to be done before mothers throw moderation out the door.


About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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