Bottle Feeding Linked To Rapid Weight Gain In Infants, Possible Obesity Risk [Study]

In a surprise twist to the “breast is best” debate, bottle feeding, and not just formula feeding, increases the risk of rapid weight gain in infants, leading to an increased risk of obesity later in life, says a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics Adolescent Medicine.

In a study spearheaded by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers aimed to better understand the association between breastfeeding and a decreased risk of obesity by assessing the association of weight gain in infants with the mode of milk delivery aside from the type of milk (breast milk versus formula).

Participants in the study included 1,899 infants whose mothers were recruited via a consumer mail panel throughout the United States between May 2005 and June 2007. The infants’ weights were recorded at 3-, 5-, 7-, and 12-months.

To determine a relationship, if any, between mode of milk delivery and rapid weight gain, the babies participating in the study were classified into one of six mutually exclusive feeding categories:

(1) Breastfed only
(2) Breastfed and human milk by bottle
(3) Breastfed and nonhuman milk by bottle
(4) Human milk by bottle only
(5) Human and nonhuman milk by bottle
(6) Nonhuman milk by bottle only

Researchers also controlled for other potentially confounding factors including maternal age; race and ethnicity; maternal education; percentage of poverty; marital status; parity; postpartum participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program; pre-pregnancy body mass index; infant sex; gestational age; age at solid food introduction; average number of sweet drinks consumed per day during the first half year; and birth weight.

The results of the study indicate that breastfeeding, and not just breast milk, is best for babies. Infants who were exclusively formula fed by bottle gained only between 71 and 89 grams more per month than infants who were exclusively fed human milk by bottle. Furthermore, weight gain was negatively associated with the proportion of breast milk feedings but positively associated with proportion of bottle feedings among the infants who received mostly human milk.

As the researchers concluded:

“Infant weight gain might be associated not only with type of milk consumed but also with mode of milk delivery.”

In other words, bottle feeding, and not just formula feeding, puts children at an increased risk for rapid weight gain during infancy and for obesity later in life. Breastfeeding, and not just breast milk, is best in terms of maintaining a healthy weight.

Do you think that the recent research that links bottle feeding to obesity will influence the way that parents feed their babies?