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Should Nursing Mothers Drink Decaf Tea?

By Shara JJ Cooper ; Updated September 26, 2017
Even decaffeinated tea has some caffeine in it.

Many breastfeeding moms worry about what they are eating, since their consumption impacts their breast milk. It is best to have a limited caffeine intake while breastfeeding, but moms who want to tea or coffee every day may search out alternatives like decaffeinated drinks. These can be safe, but all decaffeinated drinks have some level of caffeine in them.

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Caffeine Levels

Regular coffee has about 16 milligrams of caffeine per ounce whereas black tea has 5 milligrams per ounce and decaffeinated tea has 0.50 milligrams per ounce. The caffeine levels found in decaf tea are extremely low and should not be harmful to most breastfed babies. However, this can change depending on each infant's circumstances and tolerance. Herbal tea is naturally caffeine free, but some varieties can also affect breastfed babies.

Caffeine Complications

Breastfed babies can experience complications from caffeine. For most babies, high levels of caffeine can cause "fussiness and jitteriness," according to the Univeristy of Arizona's College of Pharmacy. The organization defines high levels of caffeine to be the equivalent of 10 cups of coffee. However, some babies can react to lower levels of caffeine if they have an intolerance, which can cause colic or crankiness.

Infant Metabolism

According to the University of Arizona's College of Pharmacy, infants under three months of age do not break down caffeine as quickly as older infants. This means that younger babies, particularly newborns, will be more susceptible to caffeine intake. This should be taken into consideration if an infant is more sensitive to caffeine. Breast milk contains about 1 percent of the caffeine ingested by the mother, so with decaffeinated tea, even younger babies shouldn't have problems. "If you drink no more than three cups of coffee spread throughout the day, there is little to no caffeine detected in the baby’s urine," states HealthyChildren.org.


While decaffeinated tea will pass on little to no caffeine to breastfed infants, mothers need to remember that caffeine is found in a variety of sources including soda, chocolate and coffee. If the caffeinated tea is consumed along with other caffeine sources, the amount in breast milk could increase dramatically.

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About the Author

Shara JJ Cooper graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2000, and has worked professionally ever since. She has a passion for community journalism, but likes to mix it up by writing for a variety of publications. Cooper is the owner/editor of the Boundary Sentinel, a web-based newspaper.

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