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4 Bad Feeding Habits Make Bottle-fed Babies Obese

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Bottle-fed Babies and Obesity

Sociology professors from Brigham Young University are investigating the origins of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. and find that part of the problem could be due to how babies are fed during the first two years of life. More to the point—that bad feeding habits tend to make formula bottle-fed babies 2.5 times more likely to become obese compared to babies given breast, which then increases the risk of an infant becoming an obese adult later in life.

According to a press release issued by Brigham Young University:

“If you are overweight at age two, it puts you on a trajectory where you are likely to be overweight into middle childhood and adolescence and as an adult,” says Brigham Young University sociology professor Renata Forste who is looking at not only the differences between bottle-fed and breast-fed babies along with her colleague sociology professor Ben Gibbs, but at differences in socioeconomic living conditions as a contributing factor.

In their study, Forste and Gibbs scratched at data gleaned from over 8,000 families and found at its surface that formula bottle-fed babies were over twice as likely to become obese toddlers. However, deeper into the data they discovered that it is not so much a simple bottle-versus-breast event; but rather, bad feeding habits that interfere with the development of normal feeding self-regulation of infants.

“There seems to be this cluster of infant feeding patterns that promote childhood obesity,” stated Gibbs.

Those feeding patterns were identified as habits that may promote obesity type of behavior. Examples they found include:

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• Making an infant finish the last of their bottle, even though they may be pushing it away or showing less interest in continued suckling.

• Adding cereal or sweeteners to an infant’s bottle at an early age.

• Encouraging eating as a habit just before going to sleep, which increases the risk of childhood obesity by 36 percent.

• Making the transition to solid foods too soon (before four months of age) increases a child’s risk of obesity by 40 percent.

Breast-fed babies the authors explain, are better able to self-regulate by recognizing when they are full. However, this does not mean that bottle-fed babies cannot learn as well if the above listed bad habits are not initiated during feeding.

In addition, the authors find that economics factors into obesity with babies just as it has been found in numerous studies looking at the causes of adult obesity. The authors found that breastfeeding rates are lower in poor and less educated families and could be one reason why poverty is often associated with childhood obesity.

The authors conclude that encouraging and supporting mothers toward breastfeeding their infants for the first six months of life, as well as incorporating healthy feeding practices, will play an important role in preventing obesity in children raised in low socioeconomic conditions.

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Reference: “Socioeconomic status, infant feeding practices and early childhood obesity” Pediatric Obesity, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2013.00155.x; B. G. Gibbs, R. Forste.