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Coffee Consumption by Infants, Toddlers Not Uncommon In Boston

March 02, 2015

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(Boston) – March 2, 2015 – A recent study led by Boston Medical Center (BMC) researchers shows that coffee consumption among toddlers in Boston is not uncommon. Published in the Journal of Human Lactation, the results demonstrate that approximately 15 percent of toddlers (age 2) consume as much as four ounces of coffee a day, and that significant factors contributing to this include maternal ethnicity as well as infant gender.

While the US has not provided guidelines on coffee consumption for children, previous studies suggest that coffee and caffeine consumption among children and adolescents is associated with depression, type 1 diabetes, sleep disturbances, substance abuse and obesity. While coffee consumption in infants has not been deeply explored, one study did show that 2-year–old children who drank coffee or tea in between meals or at bedtime had triple the odds of being obese in kindergarten.

“Our results show that many infants and toddlers in Boston – and perhaps in the US – are being given coffee and that this could be associated with cultural practices,” said the study’s principal investigator Anne Merewood, PhD, MPH, director of the Breastfeeding Center at BMC and associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.

Using data from a prospective cohort study on infant weight gain and diet, the researchers looked at 315 mother-infant pairs to determine what and how much infants and toddlers were consuming. They looked at breast milk, formula, water and juice – and were surprised to find that many mothers also reported they had given their baby coffee to drink. At one year, the rate of coffee consumption reported was 2.5 percent of children. At two years, that number increased to just above 15 percent, and the average daily consumption for these children was 1.09 ounces. The results also indicated that infants and toddlers of Hispanic mothers were more likely to drink coffee than those of non-Hispanic mothers, and female infants and toddlers were more likely than males to drink coffee.

Previous research studies done internationally have demonstrated that children between birth and 5 years of age are given coffee in some countries, including Cambodia, Australia and Ethiopia. Additional studies have also shown that it is not uncommon for children raised in the Hispanic culture to also be given coffee.

“Given what the current data shows about the effects of coffee consumption among children and adolescents, additional research is needed to better determine the potential short and long-term health implications of coffee consumption among this younger age group in Hispanic and other populations,” said Merewood.

This research was supported in part by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through a National Research Initiative grant (2008-35215-188838).