The Journal of Pediatrics published a study yesterday that finds that toddlers (24 months) who drink from bottles regularly are more likely to become obese later in childhood. The study, which included 6,750 children, reported that toddlers who were using bottles at 2 years were more likely to be obese at age 5 (24%) than those who did not use bottles (16%). This was even after factors such as socioeconomic status, breastfeeding, and race had been controlled for. Toddlers who only used bottles at bedtime, or who only used bottles at other times, were not as likely to become obese as children who drank from bottles during the day and at night.
"Prolonged bottle use may lead to the child consuming excess calories, particularly when parents are using the bottle to comfort the child rather than address the child's hunger or nutritional needs," the study's authors wrote. They point out that an 8 oz. bottle of whole milk contains 150 calories, about 12% of the daily calories for a 2-year-old.
The study did not look at whether bottles were usually filled with breast milk, cow milk, juice, or other beverages, which is something that would have been interesting to know. Water or diluted juice certainly has fewer calories than, say, chocolate milk or soda. The study also did not measure children's physical activity. However, the researchers suggested pediatricians advise parents to limit or eliminate bottle use after the first year, noting that the measure is "unlikely to cause harm and may prevent obesity along with other health problems."