Toddlers Drinking Coffee Is Not Uncommon in Boston

In a new study, mothers admitted to giving their children the drink.

When Boston Medical Center (BMC) researchers began their study on kid’s diets, they did not set out to discover how much coffee infants and toddlers were drinking. But when the mothers in the study began divulging what they were feeding their young children, one strange item kept popping up: coffee.

In a new study published in the Journal of Human Lactation, researchers found that in Boston, toddlers drinking coffee is “not uncommon.” In fact, approximately 15 percent of toddlers (identified in the study as age 2) were found to have consumed at least four ounces of coffee a day.

According to BMC researchers, the U.S. does not have specific guidelines on coffee consumption for children, but 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.”

However, maternal ethnicity and the infant’s gender were found to play a large role in whether or not the children were drinking coffee. Previous international research studies have showed that it is completely normal for children to be given coffee in the Hispanic culture and in countries including Cambodia, Australia, and Ethiopia.

“Our results show that many infants and toddlers in Boston—and perhaps in the U.S.—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.

The study was conducted 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.

“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,” Merewood said.