Coffee Isn’t As Bad For Pregnant Women And Children As You Think

By Debra Kelly on Monday, February 3, 2014
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“The voodoo priest and all his powers were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself.” —Mark Helprin, Memoir from Antproof Case

In A Nutshell

We’ve all heard the warnings not to give our kids coffee because it’ll stunt their growth. Coffee’s even said to be bad for children in the womb, increasing a woman’s chance to miscarry. But it’s not altogether true. No evidence of coffee having a negative effect on children’s growth has ever been found. Studies have also debunked the notion that having a morning coffee has anything to do with miscarriages or trouble conceiving. The disinformation is due to a failed rival product.

The Whole Bushel

Coffee has a bad reputation when it comes to the damage it’s said to do to kids and pregnant women, largely because of the caffeine content. But as it turns out, claims are largely unsubstantiated—as long as moderation is practiced.

One of the claims made is that children who drink coffee will have their growth stunted. Studies on children and adolescents who drank coffee over a six-year period showed absolutely no loss in bone density or growth. Caffeine might hinder the body’s ability to absorb calcium, but in such a small amount that it’s pretty negligible. A healthy, well-rounded diet will mean there are no ill effects from the caffeine intake. Eat the way you’re supposed to, and a cup of coffee’s not going to hurt you.

So why do we think that? Because we’re buying into the advertising campaign of a product that tried to replace coffee as the morning drink of choice.

In the 1800s, the breakfast-centric company Post invented a caffeine-free beverage that they marketed to replace coffee at the breakfast table. It was called Postum, and clearly the manufacturer would do or say anything to monopolize breakfast. To do that, they had to make parents aware of the dangers they were giving their children with their morning cup of coffee. That included depressed heart function, the development of a pale, sallow complexion, indigestion, and, of course, stunting of their growth.

The campaign continued well into the early 1900s. Advertisements from 1933 still condemn coffee and the tell of the dangers it poses to children. There’s never been any real evidence to support any of Post’s claims, and the campaign eventually died out. (Even though Postum is still made today.)

Of course, there’s still the issue of caffeine’s addictive potential and the possibility of it interfering with a child’s much-needed sleep. But there’s nothing scientific that has shown the caffeine itself is going to be doing any lasting damage to the child who’s allowed a cup in the morning.

And what about the danger to unborn babies? Pregnant women have long completely cut caffeine out of their diet, but according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, minimal to moderate caffeine intake poses no risks and won’t increase your chances of a miscarriage.

Now, studies suggest that consuming fewer than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day is unlikely to do any harm. It’s when caffeine intake becomes extreme that there’s an increase in the chance of danger to a pregnancy. There’s also no evidence that suggests drinking coffee—or any other form of caffeine, for that matter—will restrict baby’s growth and development in the womb, either.

And considering that your standard, home-brewed cup of coffee has as little as 95 milligrams of caffeine in it, it’s probably not going to hurt you if you don’t turn down that morning cup. And if tea is more your thing? That’s still only between 14 and 61 milligrams of caffeine in a single cup. Many doctors will still err on the side of caution, though, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Show Me The Proof

The Atlantic: The Devious Ad Campaign That Convinced America Coffee Was Bad for Kids
Smithsonian: It’s a Myth: There’s No Evidence That Coffee Stunts Kids’ Growth
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: No Link Between Moderate Caffeine Consumption and Miscarriage