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Is It OK To Give Kids Coffee?

Photograph by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez

Recently a mamiga (mama + amiga) shared the cutest picture of her baby girl holding a Starbucks coffee cup. Her caption read: "No workee before coffee." And in parentheses, she made sure to note that there really wasn't any coffee in that cup. On Facebook, she shared that she added that note to avoid any criticism.

It made me sad that she had to put a disclaimer on that. Honestly, I didn't need one. It didn't matter to me one way or the other if her toddler was taking a sip of her cafecito. I didn't think her to be less of a mom. Because I know a few mamas who allow their kids to drink coffee. I don't judge them. Coffee is a part of our culture.

Boston researchers discovered that 14% of toddlers may be drinking a couple of ounces of coffee of day. The survey revealed that "infants and toddlers of Hispanic mothers were more likely to drink coffee than those of non-Hispanic mothers, and girls were more likely than boys to drink the beverage." But coffee is not just a Latino thing — kids in Australia, Cambodia, and Ethiopia also drink coffee on occasion, too.

RELATED: Could Caffeinated Peanut Butter Replace Your Coffee?

I have been surrounded by coffee my entire life. I remember waking up to the smell of it every morning. It was ritualistic: the brewing of coffee, the warming of milk, the stirring of sugar. It was a welcome offering. I realized that the summer I spent in Puerto Rico — in that Caribbean heat — I watched as grownups drank it morning, noon and night. Whenever anyone visited the first thing you asked was, "quieres café?" And it was always served with toasted buttered bread or crackers (you know the kind, the ones that come in the green tin can).

I was so fascinated by coffee that I'd always ask my mother for a sip. She usually said no. "It'll stunt your growth," she said, which I didn't understand because my cousins drank coffee and they were all way taller than me. But that didn't stop me from sneaking one whenever I could.

My madrina was much more liberal with her coffee. She allowed her children to drink it, and on weekends I spent with her, she always served me a cup. I didn't like milk and was never a fan of chocolate milk or hot cocoa.

Even from a young age, I loved coffee. It was more leche than café and sweetened with too much sugar. But I loved drinking it with warm buttered bread. It wasn't so much the flavor but the ritual of it. Like food, coffee was a connection to my culture, to the elders in my family. I felt grown up.

Now that I'm a mom, I have to make choices for my son. Having a kid with autism and ADHD, I do try to limit his caffeine and sugar intake. And while my son's not as curious about coffee the way I was, he knows we drink it. When we go to Starbucks, he asks for sips of whatever we order. I usually oblige. It's not an everyday habit. It's more of a treat. And I believe that a sip of cafe every now and then won't hurt.

What do you think? Coffee for kids: Sí or no?

RELATED: Secret Drinks to Order at Starbucks for Kids

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