America may run on Dunkin' Donuts, but apparently so do some toddlers in Boston. A new study by Boston Medical Center (BMC) discovered that a shocking 15 percent of 2-year-olds there guzzle up to 4 ounces of coffee a day, CBS reports. And the ones more likely to have a cup of joe were girls and children of Hispanic mothers.
Researchers chalk some of this up to culture. Kids raised in Cambodia, Australia, Ethiopia, and in the Hispanic culture are commonly served coffee, and the practice naturally continues even if the parents live in the U.S. Which means it's quite possible toddlers are getting their buzz on in places other than Beantown, says Anne Merewood, PhD, MPH, director of the Breastfeeding Center at BMC and the study's principal investigator.
Though no official government guidelines exist yet, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents against serving babies caffeinated drinks. Besides the obvious havoc it wreaks on sleep, caffeine could lead to weight problems when children start school. According to one study, 2-year-olds who drank coffee or tea between meals or at bedtime were three times more likely to be obese in kindergarten. Other research hints at a link between caffeine consumption in children and issues like depression, type 1 diabetes, and substance abuse.
Not a pretty picture. Still, Merewood says more work needs to be done to figure out exactly early caffeine consumption means for pint-sized coffee drinkers. "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," she explains.
Culture and health concerns aside for a second, I can't envision myself giving my toddler anything that will give him even more energy, especially before bedtime. Keeping up with him is enough on its own, without adding a caffeine jolt. Plus, he's pretty happy with the tried-and-true milk and water regiment right now. The way I see it, he'll have his whole adult life to revel in the joy of a good coffee buzz or a steaming cup of tea. What's the rush?
Now it's your turn: What's your take on the caffeine and babies? Have you ever given your child coffee or tea?
Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+
How To Start Solids
Image of baby drinking courtesy of Shutterstock