Effect of Maternal Caffeine Intake on Childhood Growth

A woman drinking a cup of coffee
A woman drinking a cup of coffee
Maternal caffeine intake >200 mg/day during pregnancy was associated with high weight gain velocity beginning from the first months of life and higher BMI throughout childhood.

Maternal consumption of any amount of caffeine during pregnancy may affect the growth trajectory of a child significantly from birth to 8 years, as it is associated with a higher risk for excess infant growth and being overweight, primarily during preschool years, according to a study published in BMJ Open.

Researchers performed a prospective, population-based study using a nationwide pregnancy cohort in Norway, recruiting a total of 50,843 mothers from 2002 to 2008 with the purpose of studying the association between maternal caffeine intake and the subsequent overall risk for their children being overweight from age 6 weeks up to 8 years. It was hypothesized that prenatal exposure to caffeine may affect the child’s postnatal growth.

Study results found 7.13% and 3.21% of mothers reported caffeine intake at levels higher than 200 mg/day and 300 mg/day, respectively, with higher reports associated with mothers older than 30 years, those who were multiparous, those who had a daily energy intake in the upper tertile, women who smoked during pregnancy, and those who did not have nausea/vomiting during pregnancy.

As maternal caffeine intake increased from low to high, the prevalence of excess growth in infancy increased from 23% to 29%. Children had higher odds of excess growth during infancy when born to mothers who consumed average, high, and very high amounts of caffeine compared with children born to mothers with low consumption (1.15 [95% CI, 1.09-1.22], 1.30 [95% CI, 1.16-1.45], and 1.66 [95% CI, 1.42-1.93], respectively) after adjusting for confounders.

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Children had higher adjusted odds of being overweight at age 3 years when born to mothers who consumed average, high, and very high levels of caffeine compared with those born to mothers who consumed low levels of caffeine (1.05 [95% CI, 1.99-1.12], 1.17 [95% CI, 1.05-1.30] and 1.44 [95% CI, 1.24-1.67], respectively). There was a linear association between maternal caffeine consumption and risk for being overweight in children at ages 3 and 5 years, with a higher risk at 3 years of age compared with at 5 years of age.

Researchers concluded that maternal consumption of any amount of caffeine is associated with excess growth during infancy and with a child being overweight during childhood, with modified growth trajectories associated with caffeine intake levels above the recommended level (200 mg/day). This association begins early in life and persists during childhood up to 8 years of age. Therefore, clinicians should continue to recommend that women limit caffeine intake during pregnancy to less than 200 mg/day.


Papadopoulou E, Botton J, Brantsæter AL, et al. Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy and childhood growth and overweight: results from a large Norwegian prospective observational cohort study. BMJ Open. 2018;8:e018895.