Dennis Rosen M.D.

Sleeping Angels

Who Says That Coffee Is Bad For You?

New research shows the beneficial effects of caffeine on infants

Posted Nov 18, 2014

While most of us  wouldn’t think of giving our kids a double espresso alongside their yogurt and banana for breakfast, it turns out that many people’s preconceptions about the negative effects of caffeine may be based more on fiction than on fact.

Caffeine is often given to premature babies whose respiratory centers have not yet developed to the point where their breathing is regular. The frequent pauses in breathing (apnea), are often accompanied by drops in the babies' heart rate as well (bradycardia). Caffeine—a stimulant—acts on the respiratory centers, and is used to reduce the incidence of apnea and bradycardia.

A group of Canadian researchers recently reviewed the charts of more than 5,000 infants born at 31 weeks’ gestation or less, and compared the outcomes of those started on caffeine within the first two days of life, or from the third day of life and onward. The researchers found that those babies who were started on the caffeine earlier in life had a lower rate of death, and reduced lung disease of prematurity as well as a lower incidence of a certain form of heart disease.

So while this shouldn’t be taken as a push to ply children with coffee—and certainly not to compensate for poor or insufficient sleep!—it may reduce some people’s hesitancy to expose their children to anything containing caffeine.