Babies Who Finish Their Bottles Become Obese Adults
May 22, 2013

Babies Who Finish Their Bottles Become Obese Adults

[WATCH VIDEO: Infant Feeding Patterns and Obesity]

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Parents who insist their infants finish their bottles could be setting them up to be obese adults, claims a Brigham Young University (BYU) study. Though babies are soon able to burn off those calories as their bodies grow, parents could be setting a pattern of overeating in their children which could be carried with them through adulthood.

The BYU researchers, publishing a paper in Pediatric Obesity, found that while breastfeeding is the best way for mothers to avoid turning overfeeding babies into overeating adults, those mothers who cannot breastfeed should let their babies and infants stop eating when they feel they are done.

Ben Gibbs and Renata Forste, BYU sociology professors, said they began their study with the understanding that children who are overweight in their infant years are more likely to be overweight as adults. It´s a big concern for the two professors.

For their study, Gibbs and Forste looked at data from over 8,000 families and discovered that those children who were fed formula as babies were two-and-a-half-times more likely to become obese toddlers than babies who were breastfed in the first six months of their life.

Professor Gibbs says this isn´t a study to promote breastfeeding; there are plenty of other unhealthy methods parents use when feeding that can ultimately be harmful to their children.

“There seems to be this cluster of infant feeding patterns that promote childhood obesity,” said Gibbs in a statement.

For example, parents who put their kids to sleep with a bottle increased the likelihood of childhood obesity by 36 percent. Additionally, parents who introduce solid foods too soon can also increase the possibility of childhood obesity by as much as 40 percent.

“Developing this pattern of needing to eat before you go to sleep, those kinds of things discourage children from monitoring their own eating patterns so they can self-regulate,” said Forste.

Forste and Gibbs say breastfeeding is best for reducing the possibility of childhood obesity because it´s easier for a baby to know when they´ve had enough to eat. Parents who insist their babies finish an entire bottle may be forcing their child to finish another half of the bottle when the baby is quite full. Forste says that those parents who feed their children from a bottle should learn to pay attention to their child and stop feeding when the child is full and pushes away.

Sally Findley, a public health professor at Columbia University says there´s another issue at play when considering this one. Obesity is more often found in poor and uneducated families. These families are also least likely to breastfeed than other parents.

“Bottle feeding somehow changes the feeding dynamic, and those who bottle feed, alone or mixed with some breastfeeding, are more likely to add cereal or sweeteners to their infant´s bottle at an early age, even before feeding cereal with a spoon,” said Findley.

Now Forste and Gibbs will begin looking for links between breastfeeding and cognitive development. For now, Gibbs says overfeeding babies with a bottle is a dangerous situation and a matter which should be addressed quickly.

“The health community is looking to the origins of the obesity epidemic, and more and more, scholars are looking toward early childhood,” Gibbs said. “I don´t think this is some nascent, unimportant time period. It´s very critical.”