Caffeine - how much per day is OK for mums?

healthy mum

If one of your primary goals is to have adequate sleep every night, motherhood is probably not for you. Being a Mother starts off with a significant lack of sleep that comes with having a newborn and although they will sleep eventually, mothering still involves losing sleep from time to time. Sometimes we need an extra boost to get through the responsibilities of the day and usually that comes from a caffeinated beverage. In moderation, caffeine is not harmful, but can cause some health problems, especially in excess.

Coffee is a favourite morning drink for many mums. But, is it beneficial or harmful for our health?

The research is actually pretty positive in terms of the health benefits of coffee. A 2012 study found that regular coffee intake reduced the risk of death by a variety of causes including heart disease, respiratory failure,diabetes and infections. It has also been connected to reduction in rates of certain types of cancer. Due to this positive research about coffee and its potential benefits, researchers are now thinking that the risks previously associated with coffee drinking may be actually related to other lifestyle factors normally associated with the type of person who drinks large amounts of coffee. Someone who drinks a ton of coffee may also indulge in other less than healthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking, or poor eating habits.

How about Tea?

Tea, another common caffeinated beverage, can be a good choice with less caffeine, but still a ton of health benefits. Tea may decrease risk of heart attack and stroke. Green tea consumption has been shown to help the body more efficiently breakdown fat during exercise and may help with weight loss by speeding up metabolism. Although exact dosages for weight loss still need to be determined, it doesn’t hurt to drink a cup of green tea as a start to your day.

Both coffee and tea are high in antioxidants

Both coffee and tea are high in antioxidants which may help prevent cancer and slow the aging process. Coffee is actually the primary source of antioxidants for many people. It contains an antioxidant called quinines, which becomes more active once the coffee beans are roasted.Tea contains a variety of polyphenols, another type of antioxidants, which also help with disease prevention.

Too much caffeine can cause anxiety in some people

Although coffee and tea may have some health benefits, too much caffeine can still cause anxiety and irritability in some people. Caffeine is a stimulant and people tend to have different levels of tolerance to its effects. If you find yourself with a rapid heart rate,anxiety, or unable to fall asleep, you may want to consider cutting back on your intake of caffeinated beverages. Caffeine is also a diuretic and may lead to mild dehydration. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to counteract the effect.

Coffee and tea can reduce your iron absorption

The tannins found in coffee and tea can bind to iron and reduce absorption of this important mineral by up to 50 percent. You may also drink your coffee or tea with milk, the calcium in milk further reduces iron absorption. Many mums struggle with iron levels, especially after giving birth, so this is something to consider.

What is the recommended amount of caffeine per day?

The recommended amount of caffeine per day is around 300 mg, the equivalent of 2cups of coffee. Levels above 700 mg daily have been shown to increase blood pressure and the risk of osteoporosis. Caffeine is also quite dehydrating and dehydration can stall weight loss.

Watch the calories you add to coffee

Lastly, although plain coffee and tea do not contain any calories, anything you may add such as, milk, cream, sugar, or flavourings can increase the calories quite quickly! Coffee or tea with a dash of milk has the lowest calories.

Soft drinks and energy drinks can also contain caffeine

Coffee and tea are not the only forms of caffeine you may consume. Soft drinks and energy drinks can also provide varying amounts of caffeine. Regular soft drinks and energy drinks may contain a lot of sugar and calories as well as caffeine, therefore they are not your best choice if you are trying to lose weight. Even diet versions of these drinks have been implicated in increased abdominal fat and risk for diabetes.

Energy drinks may contain too much caffeine, leading to feelings of jitteriness or anxiety, if you are sensitive to the effect of caffeine. Therefore, energy drinks and soft drinks may not be the best choice for your caffeine intake, since they provide calories and sugar without any health benefits.

Chocolate also contains caffeine

Chocolate also contains some a small amount of caffeine, although only about 1/10th as much as a cup of coffee. Dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants, therefore it can be a nice, healthy treat when consumed in moderation. A square or two of chocolate can really help improve a challenging afternoon chasing after kids!

What if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant?

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you should think about limiting your caffeine intake. Caffeine does cross the placenta and the potential risks to the baby are unknown. Intakes greater than 3 cups of coffee a day while pregnant has been implicated in miscarriages, so keep your consumption moderate.

What you need to know if you're breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding, concentrate your effort on eliminating or severely restricting your caffeine consumption in the early months of your baby’s life. You may find it easier to know that you can slowly increase your consumptions as they grow. In really young babies their liver takes up to 5 days to process caffeine. This gets better with time as their body starts to improve its metabolism of caffeine. After about 6 months, generally the clearance is quite good.

The caffeine level in the breast milk peaks at about 2 hours after consumption. As with an alcoholic drink, if you are going to drink a caffeinated drink you will limit the impact on your baby if you drink it straight after a feed. This ensures that the peak level in the milk is passed by the time the next feed comes around (unless they are demand feeding, then it is obviously a different story).


In general, it’s OK to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in the morning; if that gives you the boost you need to get through your busy day. But, take into account that caffeine levels can significantly differ depending on the strength of the beverage, so it’s best to be moderate in your intake, especially if you are sensitive. But, enjoy your morning cup without worry knowing you are doing something good for your body.

Julie Masci, BHlthSc, APD, AN

Julie is one of In Shape Mummy’s dietitians and the founder and director of New Life Nutrition. Julie was key in the formulation of the In Shape Mummy Health Shake for Breastfeeding Mums. She is a Mum to 3 children under 5; 2 little boys and a blueberry obsessed baby girl. Julie has appeared on television on Brisbane's Channel 9 News, Channel 7 News, Today Tonight and Brisbane Extra, as a diet and nutrition expert. Julie is also a regular guest on Brisbane's ABC radio. She has extensive experience as a public speaker on a variety of nutrition topics, such as obesity, diabetes, and digestive health. In her career, she has been a monthly contributor to Prevention Magazine as their Grocery Guru and Australian Weight Watchers Magazine.

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