I read on the internet that giving tea to infants can cause iron absorption problems, the problem is our infant of 9 months loves tea , as we gave her a sip when she demanded it and now she wants it whenever she sees a cup.

Is it safe to give her tea?

Note: Tea here is the typical Indian tea made from the tea plant called Camellia sinensis and milk

  • 4
    I would assume your fear is caffeine. Water is toxic too, at 90g/kg. All things in moderation I guess.
    – user1873
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 13:51
  • 3
    You don't say what kind of tea. This may make a difference. Some herbal teas are not for children. Caffeine may also be a concern.
    – MJ6
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 22:55
  • @user1873 your statement references toxicity of water in rats. Infant humans actually absorb water much more efficiently than adults, so that number could even be less Commented May 9, 2014 at 15:12
  • In searching multiple databases, I am not finding anything worrisome as yet, while finding multiple articles about the use of caffeine (which seems to be the primary worry with this sort of tea) with premature babies to assist with lung development and treatment of asthma. Watch for negative caffeine side effects like irritability or tummy upset.
    – MJ6
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 18:46
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    @DavidWilkins, testing is usually performed on rats rather than human babies, hence the Lethal Dose measurement is usually given in reference to when 50% of the rats die, not 50% of the babies.
    – user1873
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 0:20

4 Answers 4


I currently live in Japan. Needless to say, tea is extremely popular. Infants (9 months+) are sometimes given a certain type of tea called 麦茶, otherwise known as roasted barley tea. It is a caffeine free tea so it didn't make her jittery or keep her up and also has a few health benefits in the realm of bacterial resistance. This is the only tea we have given our daughter since she started drinking tea and we are very careful not to give her any other types.

The only peer-reviewed article I could find about tea and infants was in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the researchers did not recommend allowing them to drink it. For the test, the infants who's blood levels were tested and also drank tea showed higher signs of microcytic anemia and lower hemoglobin levels. It was theorized due to the tea causing iron deficiency (Merhav et. al, 1985).

Merhav, H., Amitai, Y., Palti, H., & Godfrey, S. (1985). Tea drinking and microcytic anemia in infants. The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 41(6), 1210-1213.


I would not give caffeinated tea (true tea) to an infant. Separate from the iron absorption issues (and it's not just iron; caffeine has a lot of negative effects on mineral and vitamin levels), the effect on mood is also significantly relevant to children.

That said, if she is breastfed, and Mom's having any caffeine, then so is she. Small amounts probably aren't a problem, and a sip or two of tea might be okay.

What we did, is introduce our children to mint "tea"s. No actual tea leaf, just mint. They love it, and when Mom and Dad have tea, they get mint tea. There are even some "kid teas" that have interesting flavor, like grape, along with the mint (although I prefer to stick with the plain mints, spearmint, peppermint, or combined).

  • It may be less the tea than the experience of drinking out of a grownup cup that entices!
    – MJ6
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 22:51
  • 1
    Certainly in some cases. Not in ours; our children drank out of glasses since before 1 year of age, and are free to drink from mugs if they so choose. I'm sure though that 'drinking like mommy' is a big part of it none the less in terms of the tea itself.
    – Joe
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 23:08

Infants do not have strong immune systems. A quick perusal of an academic database yielded three articles within the first 10 hits that caused concern (search terms tea infants):

Stojanović, M. M., Katić, V., & Kuzmanović, J. (2011). Isolation of Cronobacter sakazakii from different herbal teas. Vojnosanitetski Pregled: Military Medical & Pharmaceutical Journal Of Serbia & Montenegro, 68(10), 837-841.

Scientists tested 150 herbal teas and found cronobacter sakazakii in 48 of them (32%). Cronobacter sakazakii is a food-borne pathogen noted for causing serious illness in infants after being ingested in infant formula (Center for Disease Control). The conclusion of the study is that herbal teas should not be fed to infants or people with compromised immune systems.

Ize-Ludlow, D., Ragone, S., Bruck, I. S., Bernstein, J. N., Duchowny, M., & Garcia Peña, B. M. (2004). Neurotoxicities in Infants Seen With the Consumption of Star Anise Tea. Pediatrics, 114(5), 653-e656.

The title to this is self-evident.

Bakerink, J. A., & Gospe Jr., S. M. (1996). Multiple organ failure after ingestion of pennyroyal oil from herbal tea in two infants. Pediatrics, 98(5), 944.

The herbal tea in both cases cited in this article was mint.

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    About bacterial contamination: I think that can be solved by only brewing tea (real or herbal) with boiling water (not just hot water), which will kill the germs. In Germany all herbal teas I know have a printed warning to only brew them with boiling water, and to let them sit for >5 minutes, for this reason.
    – sleske
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 9:33
  • do add information of @sleske in the above answer and the tea I am asking about is the general tea from tea plant as updated in the question Commented May 9, 2014 at 11:26
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    This bacteria can survive at very high temperatures. In the study of 150 teas, dried herbs were mixed with boiling water and left a minimum of 10 minutes. Prepared teas stored at room temperature for 2 hours, 12 hours, and 24 hours were also tested and showed an increase in the bacteria over time. According to the article, this bacteria has been implicated in cases of infant meningitis, septicemia, and necrotizing enterocolitis. According to the researches, infants do not have enough acidity in their stomachs to combat this bacteria.
    – MJ6
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 14:57
  • Plus, if you brew with boiling water, you will ruin the tea.
    – nomen
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 15:58

Small amounts of relatively weak tea with plenty of milk to cool it down should be fine.

Each of our kids liked tea and coffee from an early age, though they seem less interested in it now, preferring hot chocolate.

Caffeine is of course toxic, but the fatal dose is far higher than anybody would be likely to drink under normal circumstances. Back some time ago when I had similar worries, I calculated that the fatal dose of coffee for an average sized two year old would be around about 20 standard-sized cups of filter coffee. Once I'd done that calculation, I stopped worrying.

And of course tea is less caffeinated than coffee.

  • I don't think toxicity is the concern, but rather the effects that occur at much smaller doses of caffeine.
    – Joe
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 13:42

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