Could just be me, but I often feel I am doing all I can to get my kids to calm down! So when a Breezy Mama Bestie Kathy sent me an article about a new trend of moms serving their kids coffee – a.k.a. “Babyccinos” – I was slightly shocked. And after discussing it with Breezy Go-to pediatrician, Dr. Gillin, turns out I was floored for good reason. Breezy Mama got the scoop on the dangers of giving caffeine to kids (that includes decaf coffee and sodas!), how too much sugar can be toxic and more.
Are there any dangers for giving a child caffeine?
Yes. Caffeine can cause a variety of negative effects. The most common are related to the nervous system and heart. It can make kids jittery, irritable, and affect their mood. (Like we need any more of that!!). It can also speed up their heart rates, and affect their appetite.
To me, it is interesting that caffeine is an addictive substance. We know that children’s brains and brain connections are forming during the first 4-5 years of life, so I wonder if allowing a child to have caffeine this early can affect the way their brain forms. I am concerned that they would be more likely to be addicted to caffeine when they are older.
There was recently an article about a new trend of mom buying “babbyccinos” for their kids. These are “decaf” but isn’t there still caffeine in decaf or is it safe to give a child decaf?
There is still a small amount of caffeine in “decaf” coffees. The reason why is because coffee starts with caffeine, then the coffee is filtered to remove as much of the caffeine as possible. Not all the caffeine is removed.
I do NOT recommend giving your child a “babyccino”. Although I think a “babbyccino” is probably “safe” and your child will likely survive the coffee, I do not think it is a good idea because of the psychological and physical impact that coffee has on children.
What I mean by psychological, is that I think its “spoiling a child”. Why in the world does a kid need coffee? To me it’s like having a 2 year old carrying a Chanel bag. Some things are for adults. I think children need structure and boundaries, and I do not think it is “cute” for them to act like adults. A child should be offered a glass of water or milk.
By physical, I mean that the coffee can cause negative side effects on the child’s body and brain. The caffeine can cause neurologic side effects, as well as appetite stimulation, increased heart rate, and mood changes. The sugar can also cause mood changes, as well as increase the chances of obesity.
Brad Pitt was recently quoted as say he gives his kids sodas in the morning to “get them going.” Any thoughts on giving your kids caffeine soda?
I believe that children should NOT drink soda. Sodas have caffeine, sugar, carbonic acid (carbonation), and phosphoric acid that can lead to obesity, dental problems (the carbonation and sugar erode the teeth), and bone problems (the caffeine and phosphoric acid inhibit the calcium from binding in the bones.) This is not good for a growing child. Why would you give your child something that will prevent their bones from growing!
I do not believe that children should have sodas even “once in a while” because sodas are addictive. I find that most families in our community do not allow their children less than 5 years old to have any sodas. Then in KG, they start having it “once in a while” at parties and sometimes at dinner. Then by middle school, its 4-5 times per week. Sodas are addictive, and kids should not be exposed to them.
Children should not need anything extra to get the going in the morning. They should have an appropriate bedtime, and a healthy breakfast. In KG, I found that my son was having the hardest time getting up in the morning. I moved his bedtime up by 1 hour, and the problem was resolved.
Are there other pit(pun intended)falls to giving your child soda?
Here’s the thing…as much as we all love Brad Pitt (don’t we all), it is important not to just do what others are doing. So when other kids are drinking sodas, or some kids are drinking coffee, you really need to address the issue as the parent to your child. What is the best for your growing child? I think people give their kids sodas because the sodas are there, and other kids are drinking them. For the most part, people do not think sodas are good for them. In fact, most people know that sodas are bad for them, but give their kids sodas anyway.
Remember, Brad Pitt was not exactly good new for Thelma and Louise (oh wait, that was a movie!).
I also recently read that too much sugar can be toxic for kids. How much is too much and what happens when it reaches toxic levels?
Too much sugar causes moody kids, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It’s not like a kid is going to go into a coma for eating a donut, but it all adds up.
The amount of sugar that our kids should be getting is way less than they get. It depends on their age. Different sources state anywhere between 10-12 grams per day.
I ask my patients to limit their “non-growing” foods to once per day, maybe once every other day if they can. I think it is about being appropriate. It is ok to have cake at a birthday party (maybe), or candy on Halloween, but having sodas, coffee, fruits snacks, and other junk foods add up. Everyday is not a birthday.
Anything else you’d like to share when it comes to caffeine and kids?
Yes, I do want to comment that I am aware that there have been some studies (including by the NIH) that have shown some positive effects of coffee for adults. Although there may be some benefits for adults, children are not just small adults. They are completely different. They are developing, growing individuals that need to be nourished with healthy growing foods. Their bodies and brains are growing. So addictive substances which may break down bones and teeth are even worse for kids than they are for adults.
It is important for us to give our children good growing foods, and provide a balanced life style. Giving coffee and sodas to children makes no sense to me.
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Shakha Gillin, M.D., F.A.A.P. attended UCSD for her undergraduate education and medical school (and if she looks familiar that’s because she’s the twin sister of Breezy go-to dermatoligist Dr. Vi). She practiced pediatrics in La Jolla for 5 years before joining El Camino Pediatrics. She has also worked in private practice in Newport Beach and in the Rady Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. Dr. Shakha Gillin has a special interest in preventative care, particularly healthy and active lifestyles for children. She was recognized by San Diego Magazine as a “Top Doctor” in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. She also organizes the North County Pediatric Journal Club, an every other month meeting where local pediatricians discuss the latest pediatric medical topics.