Bottle-Toting Tots Face Increased Obesity Risk

Childhood Obesity Risk Factors

laughing toddlerMore meals away from home, food advertisements that target children, and increased portion sizes are among the main contributing factors leading to the increasing number of obese children. Adding on to this disturbing trend is the lack of physical activity and more time in sedentary activities, like watching television and playing video games.

While the reasons above seem obvious, there's another problematic habit that parents may not be aware of -- your "bottle-toting toddler" getting too many calories per day! A recent study reveals using a bottle past babyhood not only leads to the over-consumption of calories, but, according to the authors, prolonged bottle-users were 33 percent more likely to be obese at age 5.5!

A Quick Look at the Study

"Prolonged Bottle use and Obesity at 5.5 Years of Age in US Children," published in the Journal of Pediatrics:

  • Included 6750 U.S. children born in 2001
  • 22% of children still used a bottle at age 2
  • About 23% of the children who drank from a bottle at age 2 were obese compared to 16% of children who had stopped bottle use by this age
  • Extended bottle usage increased the risk of obesity at age 5 by 33%

Extended Breastfeeding May Lower Risk

What about nursing your baby past a year? Is breastfeeding your toddler also linked with later obesity? Studies indicate the opposite. Extended breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of your child being overweight at age four.

Breastfeeding your baby past infancy is normal. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding should continue for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child. According to their 2005 recommendations, increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and mother.

In short, breastfeeding your baby and toddler is a good thing, for both mother and baby. Enjoy this special time, guilt-free!

Does the risk increase when your toddler receives only breastmilk in the bottle? One study published in Pediatrics finds that babies are unable to self-regulate their milk intake -- whether that's expressed breastmilk or formula when they drink from bottles. If you find yourself in this situation, we encourage you to do more research to find what would work best for you and your little one!

Our Recommendations

Obese kids face an increased risk for developing Type II Diabetes as young adults as well as higher risks for heart attacks and heart disease, low self-esteem and mental health issues. Obese children's life expectancy is five years less than their average weight peers.

We all want the same basic things for our children -- to be happy, healthy, and successful. As parents, we have a critical role in helping our children to be healthy and fit.

Tips Toward Overcoming Childhood Obesity

Transition your toddler from bottle to sippy cup or cup by 18 months. Introducing a sippy cup to your baby early may be the key to success. By six months many babies will be able to manipulate the cup. Offer it as a new toy to explore! Around nine months your baby may be able to finally get some liquids from it. Another option is to skip the sippy altogether and go directly to drinking with a straw.

Find a new object for your child to use for comfort. Does your toddler have an emotional attachment to the bottle? There's nothing wrong with introducing a distraction like a stuffed animal, new toy or favorite blanket. Sometimes even a quiet rock in mom or dad's arms is enough to sooth and make them feel better.

Involve your child (and family) in a healthy and active lifestyle. It's never too early to teach good habits!

  • Limit or eliminate your toddler's screen time. Our Screen-Free Activities Article is chock full of projects you and your toddler can do together.
  • For food choices, focus on healthful options such as those high in protein, fiber and nutrients. This includes lean meats, whole grains, fruits and veggies. Let your child help select foods at the store, prepare them in the kitchen and even grow vegetables in the garden.
  • Get active! Walk when you can. Stop for a play break at the park. Set an example and invite your child to exercise right along with you. Create your own fun and adventures. It's a good excuse to get some tickles and giggling involved.

The Choice is Yours

Keeping your child's weight well-managed is really about making better educated choices. Take the time to research healthier options and enforce good habits. Your child will thank you for it later!

• "Prolonged Bottle use and Obesity at 5.5 Years of Age in US Children"
• "Does Breastfeeding Protect Against Pediatric Overweight? Analysis of Longitudinal Data From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System"
• "Repositioning Nutrition as Central to Development"
• "Do Infants Fed From Bottles Lack Self-regulation of Milk Intake Compared With Directly Breastfed Infants?"

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