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16-05-2011 | Paediatrics | Article

Prolonged bottle feeding increases risk for childhood obesity


Free abstract

MedWire News: Infants who are still being bottle fed at 2 years of age are at increased risk for obesity in later childhood, show study results.

Weaning children from the bottle by 12 months of age is unlikely to cause any harm and may actively help prevent childhood obesity, suggest Rachel Gooze (Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) and co-investigators.

The researchers explain that although there is agreement among experts in pediatrics, nutrition, and public health that obesity prevention should begin before children reach school age, evidence about which interventions are likely to be the most effective is somewhat lacking.

Gooze and team therefore carried out a longitudinal study of 6750 US children (Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort) to assess the long-term influence of prolonged bottle use on body mass index (BMI) at 5.5 years of age.

In total, 22.3% of the children in the study were still being bottle fed at the age of 2 years.

At 5.5 years of age, 17.6% of the children in the study had become obese (gender-specific BMI-for-age at or above the 95th percentile). The prevalence of obesity at this age was significantly higher in children who were still being bottle-fed at 2 years of age than in those who were not, at 22.9% versus 16.1%.

Following adjustment for potential confounding factors such as maternal obesity, maternal smoking, breast feeding, age at introduction of solid foods, and screen-viewing time, Gooze and colleagues calculate that prolonged bottle feeding increases the risk for childhood obesity at 5.5 years by a significant 33%.

Extended bottle use can lead to a child consuming an excessive amount of calories, especially when used as a form of comfort rather than to address hunger or nutritional requirements, noted Gooze.

For example, "a 24-month-old girl of average weight and height who is put to bed with an 8-ounce bottle of whole milk would receive approximately 12% of her daily caloric needs from that bottle," she commented.

The researchers concede that their study had some limitations, for example, data on physical activity were lacking and detailed dietary information for the children was not available.

Writing in the Journal of Pediatrics, the authors comment that "it is possible that children who were using a bottle at 24 months of age were more likely to be overfed in general, were more likely to consume sugar-sweetened beverages, or were less likely to be exclusively breastfed."

However, they propose: "Advising parents to avoid using the bottle after the child's first birthday is unlikely to cause harm and may prevent obesity along with other health problems."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Helen Albert

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