Would you give coffee to your child?

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cafe capuccinoIn Latin American culture, it is common to start the day with a delicious café con leche (coffee with milk). To be honest with you, when I was younger I disliked coffee and preferred a cup of hot tea. However, many of my classmates, especially in high school,  had a breakfast that consisted of warm toast with smashed avocado (palta in Chile), jam or butter, plus the coffee. I had no desire to try this drink especially when I was at my friends’ homes and bread with avocado (avocado), jam, butter and coffee. 

Back in college I discovered how caffeine helped me stay awake, even if only it came in the form of Nescafe. After I became a mom, coffee became a basic necessity (okay, addiction) and I graduated to lattes, cappuccinos and espressos. Despite my Hispanic heritage, this does not mean I’ve given coffee to my children. I do not find it necessary. Also, they already have enough energy! Why would they even need a jolt of caffeine? Just the thought of my kids staying awake longer makes me cringe. This will surely change in adolescence, because teens tend to sleep less, have more academic demands and stay up later.

It is true that when I was growing up, nobody was aware of the effects of caffeine in kids, but now there are studies that have shown that children who consume caffeine are more prone to depression, type 1 diabetes, insomnia and childhood obesity. That does not sound too appealing to any parent. By the way, caffeine is present in many soft drinks and chocolate, so be careful with what you allow your kid to eat and drink. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that children should stay away from caffeine.

Why do I bring up the subject? It turns out that a Boston Medical Center study just came out and  researchers found that Latina mothers tend to give their children coffee even when they’re toddlers. Seriously. According to this study covered by Bloomberg , 15% of children under 2 years drink coffee, according to their parents. Latina mothers are 15 times more likely to give their children coffee, but researchers did not find out why.

For me it is clearly a cultural issue. If you grew up in a Latin American country, it probably wasn’t even discussed whether it was appropriate to give coffee to a child. Just keep in mind that even if we’re used to something, that does not mean it’s right.

What do you think? At what age do you think it is appropriate for a child to drink coffee?

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