Limited Bottle Feeding May Help Prevent Child Obesity


Child obesity is a growing health concern, and the results of a new study offer a possible preventive step. An analysis of more than 6,700 children showed that limiting bottle feeding in children may help prevent obesity in children at 5.5 years of age.

Bottle feeding contributes to obesity

Previous research has suggested that long-term bottle use is associated with both iron deficiency and the development of cavities and rotting teeth early in childhood. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that parents not put their children to bed with a bottle that contains anything other than water to prevent such dental problems, although this recommendation is not noted as a way to prevent obesity.

A new study, however, indicates a link between prolonged bottle use and obesity in childhood. Investigators from the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University and The Ohio State University College of Public Health evaluated data from 6,750 children who were part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, which involved children born in 2001.


Analysis of children’s bottle use was determined by asking the parents two questions at the 24-month interview: whether the child “primarily” drank from a bottle, sippy cup, or regular cup; and whether they “usually” put the child to bed with a bottle.

Twenty-two percent of the 6,750 children were classified as prolonged bottle users, which means that at 24 months of age they had used a bottle as their main drink container and/or were put to bed with a bottle holding a calorie-containing liquid. Overall the prevalence of obesity at 5.5 years was 22.9 percent in children who were still using a bottle at 24 months, and it was 16.1 percent in children who were not.

According to Dr. Robert Whitaker, of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University, “children who were still using a bottle at 24 months were approximately 30% more likely to be obese at 5.5 years, even after accounting for other factors such as the mother’s weight, the child’s birth weight, and feeding practices during pregnancy.”

The study’s authors note that long-term bottle feeding may lead to children consuming too many calories, especially when parents use a bottle to comfort a child rather than take care of the child’s hunger or nutritional needs. They suggest pediatricians and other healthcare professionals help parents cease bottle feeding by 12 months of age, which may help prevent child obesity.

American Academy of Pediatrics
Gooze RA et al. Journal of Pediatrics 2011; DOI:10.1016/j.jpeds.2011.02.037