I heard about it on NPR this weekend while on a mini road trip, but you may have already heard about it from a number of news sources or even Facebook. Babyccinos are a trend, it would seem, or at least a trending search term. As I did some digging, it seems that such things have existed in Australia and London for a while. In the U.S. it may be most popular in Brooklyn, I cannot say it is completely unheard of here in the midwest either. Babyccinos are coffee-like beverages intended for very young children. There are different versions that have been discussed some with steamed milk, some with honey, and some with a shot of decaf espresso. While babyccinos may be a trend that is over reported, the danger cannot be overstated.
1. Espresso – Even decaffeinated espresso or decaffeinated coffee is not free of caffeine; the amount of caffeine has just been reduced. The effects of caffeine on children will be exaggerated due to their small size, and as anyone who has ever had to skip their morning coffee knows, caffeine is a drug without which withdrawal symptoms will be experienced. At what age do you really want to introduce that to your children? It is also important to note that to remove caffeine from coffee beans a chemical solvent must be used.
2. Honey – Honey is a food that should not be given to children under a year old. It can contain a type of bacteria that can cause infant botulism. It is dangerous enough that infants should not be given even baked foods that contain honey. While some doctors do not forbid certain potential allergens be given to young children, especially if they have been cooked first, such as strawberries, I have not found any doctor that recommends allowing a child under the age of one to eat honey. While toddlers may be able to digest honey, it is recommended that they be given very little at first and watched for several days to ensure there is no reaction.
3. Steamed milk – If adults need warning labels that coffee drinks are hot and could burn them, we need to pay attention to the temperature of what we are giving very young children.
Perhaps my biggest concern is that these seem to be marketed toward infants and toddlers. Certain ingredients are simply not appropriate for infants. At the proper temperature, steamed milk would be a healthier choice than hot chocolate for a preschool or school-aged child. In some cultures, children are allowed to have coffee from young ages, generally mixed heavily with milk and sugar. Even regular coffee will not be fatal to a preschool or school-aged child.
As a preschooler, I was occasionally allowed to drink the cold dregs of my parents’ coffee if I requested it, yet I did not start drinking coffee regularly until well into my college career. Many children who are not specifically forbidden or encouraged to indulge in things like coffee are better prepared for moderation. On the other hand, baristas have told me about young teens who have ordered coffee drinks with six shots of espresso, likely because they were told at some point that they were not old enough for caffeine. Another concern that I have with babyccinos is that we are encouraging children to indulge in caffeinated and/or sugary drinks, especially if they accompany mom and dad to these stores on a regular basis. Do you really want to introduce budget-busting cafe indulgences to your toddler or small child?
I admit that the my pet, the Big Blue Dog, loves his “pup cups” and has been given a grande size more than a few times (in defense of the baristas the dog does outweigh me). While I am pretty sure Starbucks coined the term “pup cup,” he has had similar treats at Dunkin Donuts, Panera, and the local Patachou. It’s disconcerting to me that he get so excited every time we go to a drive through, even though I go to the bank nearly as much as I grab a black coffee on the go. That is not the kind of expectation I want to set up in my children, nor do I want my children -or my dog- to have that much sugar more than on special occasions.
Image via NYDailyNews
February 20th, 2012