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Boston toddlers drinking coffee not uncommon, study finds

By the time children reached the age of 2, more than 15 percent were consuming coffee.Katherine Taylor for the Globe/File

Is your baby having trouble sleeping?

Here may be one reason: He may have half a cup of coffee in him.

In a surprising new study, Boston Medical Center researchers found that coffee consumption among toddlers in Boston is not at all uncommon. About 15 percent of 2-year-olds consume as much as 4 ounces of coffee each day, the study found.

"Our results show that many infants and toddlers in Boston – and perhaps in the United States – are being given coffee," Anne Merewood, the study's principal investigator and the director of the Breastfeeding Center at BMC, said in a statement.


The study, which is published this month in the Journal of Human Lactation, looked at 315 pairs of mothers and infants who were participating in an analysis on how weight change during a child's first week impacted body mass index at age 2. During questioning about diets, researchers were surprised when mothers began spontaneously reporting that coffee was among the fluids they were giving to their infants. They added a question to the surveys to specifically find out whether children were drinking coffee, and how much.

Further study found that among 1-year-olds, the rate of coffee consumption was 2.5 percent. But by the time children reached the age of 2, more than 15 percent were consuming coffee.

It does not appear that the children were getting the coffee through breast milk, although the authors said that mothers could have been adding the coffee to bottled milk. The question mothers were asked was, "Does your child drink coffee? If yes, how many ounces per day?"

Infants and toddlers of Hispanic mothers were more likely to drink coffee than those of non-Hispanic mothers, the report indicated, but it did not examine the reasons why. Female infants were also found to be more likely to drink coffee than male infants.


Coffee in infants is an area that has not been studied in depth, but there are some troubling signs of what it can do. Caffeine consumption among children and adolescents is associated with a variety of negative impacts, including depression, Type 1 diabetes, obesity, and sleep disturbances.

A 2013 study concluded that 2-year-olds who drank coffee or tea had triple the odds of being obese in kindergarten.

Part of the reasons for giving children coffee may be cultural. In some countries, including Cambodia, Australia, and Ethiopia, it is not uncommon for children under 5 to have coffee.

The authors of the BMC study believe their study is one of the few to discuss the use of coffee among young children in the United States.

"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.

More in Double Shot:

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Plenty of options for mail-order coffee

Five quick tips to making better coffee

Seattle is java lover's nirvana

Matt Viser can be reached at matt.viser@globe.com.