Staying on the bottle too long can impact your baby’s health. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should give up the bottle by their first birthday and no later than age 18 months to reduce the risk of obesity, poor nutrient and tooth decay. If your baby is having trouble parting with his bottle, talk to your pediatrician about breaking the bottle habit.
Research shows that prolonged bottle use can cause babies to grow up chubby. In a study of 6,750 children published in the September 2011 issue of the “Journal of Pediatrics,” 22 percent of toddlers were still using a baby bottle by their second birthday and nearly a quarter of the kids were obese by age 5 1/2. By contrast, only 16 percent of children who gave up the bottle by age 2 were obese by kindergarten age. Continuing to drink from a bottle after age 1 can add excess calories to a toddler’s diet, increasing the risk of weight gain. Study author Rachel Gooze of Temple University notes that an 8-ounce bottle of whole milk can provide close to 12 percent of a toddler’s daily caloric intake. It’s fine for babies to switch from breast milk or formula to whole milk at age 1, but it’s best if they drink the milk from a cup instead of a bottle.
Nutrition and Feeding Problems
Nutrition should come from sources other than a bottle as a baby grows. Continuing to drink from a bottle could lead to nutrient shortfalls and increase the risk of iron deficiency, according to an article in the May 12, 2011 issue of “Time.” A bottle shouldn’t be a substitute for solid foods for babies or regular nutrient-rich meals for toddlers. Giving your child a bottle too often can cause the bottle to become a meal substitute, displacing a balanced diet. Prolonged bottle feeding may also inhibit the development of appropriate feeding skills, notes Benioff Children’s Hospital at the University of California, San Francisco. If your baby is drinking from a bottle too much, he isn’t learning self-feeding of nutritious finger foods; toddlers who still use baby bottles may not spend enough time practicing eating with utensils.
Some parents put their baby to bed with a bottle, increasing the risk of tooth decay. Many of the children in the Temple University study were put to bed with a bottle containing a calorie-containing substance, such as juice or milk. When a baby falls asleep sucking on a bottle of juice or milk, her teeth are bathed in the sugary substance throughout the night, allowing bacteria to eat away at the tooth enamel. This can lead to baby-bottle tooth decay, the most common cause of cavities in infants, according to the American Pediatric Association. If your baby can’t sleep without the comfort of a bottle, remove the bottle as soon as she falls asleep and brush her teeth first thing in the morning.
Bottle Weaning Tips
Benioff Children’s Hospital recommends starting bottle weaning early by letting your baby get used to holding a cup without liquid at age 3 to 6 months. Substitute a sippy cup for a bottle at one meal a day between ages 8 and 10 months. Pick the meal where you baby usually drinks just a little; then use a cup at this same feeding for a week. After that, increase the number of mealtimes you offer a cup and gradually decrease the number of bottles your child receives. Consistency is important for successful bottle weaning, so stick to a regular schedule of cup feeding until your child has completely given up the bottle.
- Time.com: Babies on the Bottle- How Long Is Too Long?
- Journal of Pediatrics: Prolonged Bottle Use and Obesity at 5.5 Years
- Temple University: Temple-Led Study Finds Prolonged Bottle Use May Contribute to Childhood Obesity
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
- Ask Dr. Sears: Nighttime Bottles
- UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital: Baby Bottle Weaning
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