• Kristina Mulligan

What's Your Usual Coffee Order?

“I’ll take an iced venti with a double shot!” The caffeine in your morning coffee might help get you out of bed, but for premature babies it can be lifesaving. Did you know that premature newborns are routinely given caffeine as a stimulant to help their immature lungs and brains remember to breathe? Many babies with apnea of prematurity (AOP) are given oral or intravenous caffeine to stimulate their breathing. AOP is when a premature baby either pauses breathing for more than 15 to 20 seconds or pauses breathing for less than 15 seconds, but has a slow heart rate or low oxygen level. A low dose of caffeine helps keep them alert and breathing regularly. It also reduces the number of episodes of intermittent hypoxia (drops in blood oxygen levels). While no single IH episode has much effect, lack of oxygen over days or weeks can affect a baby’s lungs, brain, and heart, which can have long-term developmental impact. Typically, a baby is weaned off caffeine once they’re developmentally mature enough to breathe without help, usually around 34 weeks chronological age.

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