Next time when you are having a cup of coffee, it might not be a great idea to let your toddler or child have a sip from your cup! Studies show that 2.5 percent of infants under age 1 and 15 percent of toddlers under age 2 get coffee from their parents. A cup of coffee is poor nutrition of empty calories in the form of added sugar. Parents should always ensure that coffee or any other sort of caffeinated drinks should be avoided.
When can kids start drinking coffee?
There is no black and white answer for the right age to introduce coffee to kids. Coffee has caffeine(a stimulant) which has no benefits but a lot of side effects. The effects of excessive caffeine include hyperactivity, sleep deprivation, poor appetite and anxiety. Excessive intake of coffee can affect both children and adults, regardless their age. Researches prove that caffeine can cause increased heart rate and seizures in children. It is also believed that caffeine can hinder calcium absorption, that negatively affects growth. Since significant bone strengthening and growth happens during childhood and adolescence, it is recommended not to allow coffee until the age of 18 years.
Is coffee bad for toddlers and young children?
Coffee and other caffeinated drinks like soda, energy drinks are not appropriate for toddlers and young children. And, NO amount of coffee is ok for young children. The following are the proven side effects of consumption of caffeine in toddlers and young children.
- Insomnia - Researches indicate negative neurologic(insomnia) and cardiovascular(anxiety) effects in children who consume coffee. The average number of hours of sleep a 3 to 5 year old child needs over a 24-hour period is 10 -13 hours. And, the average number of hours of sleep a teenager needs over a 24-hour period is 9 - 10 hours. Caffeine is absorbed in every body tissue and changes the body temperature. It changes the attentiveness of your child and can cause disruption and trouble in the sleep patterns.
- Less appetite - Since caffeine is a stimulant, it can affect appetite in children. Young children and teenagers need a balanced diet to meet the demands of their growth. Caffeine is an appetite suppressant and prevents a child from consuming adequate amount of calories. This might negatively affect the growth and development of toddlers and young children.
- Dehydration - Caffeine can lead to loss of water from the body. Drinking sugary, caffeinated drinks is a habit forming. Toddlers and young children might replace caffeinated drinks for water when they are thirsty. Dehydration can be very dangerous in young children.
- Weakened bones - Consumption of caffeinated coffee increase the amount of calcium flushed out in urine. Bone strengthening happens in childhood and adolescence. Caffeine intake interferes with calcium absorption and negatively affects growth and development.
- Cavities and loss of enamel - Children are more vulnerable to cavities than adults. Since coffee is acidic it lead to decline in tooth enamel, increase in tooth cavities and other oral health issues.
Sources of caffeine
Few main sources of caffeine include coffee beans, cocoa beans and tea leaves. Below are the most common foods and drinks that contain caffeine.
- Coffee and tea - The most commonly consumed form of caffeine is coffee and tea. However, the amount of caffeine intake depends on the serving size and how strong the brew is made.
- Chocolate bars - The amount of caffeine in chocolate bars depends on the amount of cocoa used.
- Ice cream - Coffee and chocolate flavored ice cream contain caffeine. The content of caffeine is high when the ice cream is topped with fudge or chocolate sauce.
- Soft drinks - Colas, energy drinks (like red bull) and chocolate beverages can contain variable but substantial amount of caffeine.
How to cut back on caffeine?
Kids and teens ‘DO NOT’ benefit in any way from caffeine. Caffeinated drinks are loaded with calories and void of nutritional value. Parents can have some control and prevent their children from caffeine intake, till they reach 18 years of age. One of the best way to cut down of caffeine is to replace caffeinated beverages with fruit juices, milk and water. The best way to keep caffeine consumption under control is moderation. Keep track of your child’s caffeine consumption, but allow them to enjoy a piece of chocolate cake or a cup of chocolate cake once in a while. Always check the ingredient list on foods and beverages for hidden caffeine content.
Childhood and adolescence are the times for growth and development. It is always in the best interest of your child to avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks until your child becomes an adult.