Bottle feeding beyond a child’s age of a year and a half may lead to adulthood obesity according to a new study. Often parents rely on this pacifier to comfort children when crying or simply being overly demanding, but in fact may be threatening their health and even their lives in the long run. Obesity could even set on as early as kindergarten the study reports.

So what is in a baby’s bottle on average? An 8-ounce bottle of whole milk contains 150 calories, or 12% of a healthy 2 year old’s daily dietary needs. When an additional bottle is given to a child who has met his or her daily calorie requirements, extra calories add up. Toddlers only need two to three servings of dairy a day, equivalent to 16 to 24 ounces of milk. While milk is a healthy food, kids who drink too much of it may not want to eat enough solid food, missing out on important nutrients like iron.

Mobile toddlers tend to tote their bottles around, drinking on the go, as opposed to infants, who are usually fed in a parent’s arms, with the bottle being removed as soon as the feeding session is over.

Keith Ayoob, a registered dietician and director of the nutrition clinic at the Rose R. Kennedy Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine says regarding overfeeding:

“Unfortunately that has consequences: they (parents) get in the habit of giving the bottle or giving food to manage children’s behavior. It sets up a dynamic of the kids getting food for reasons that have much less to do with hunger or appetite than behavior issues.”

Weaning tykes off the bottle between 12 and 14 months seems about right according to researchers from Temple University. They said pediatricians, by giving such advice, could make a difference in the battle against childhood obesity.

According to the Centers For Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%.

Obesity is the result of caloric imbalance (too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed) and is mediated by genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Let’s be honest, you don’t see too many babies at the gym these days.

Data from 6,750 Ohio participants in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, all born in 2001 was analyzed. By the age of two, 22% of the children still used a bottle for drinking or took a bottle to bed. When the youngsters were measured at age 5 and a half, almost 23% of the prolonged bottle users were obese, compared with just 16.1% of those that were off the bottle at a younger age.

By the time they’re a year old, kids have the motor skills to sit up, hold a cup, and drink from it, so they no longer need a bottle, at least not for nutrition. One-year-olds are much less stubborn, have a shorter memory, and are more interested in pleasing their parents than a child just six months older.

Sources: The Journal of Pediatrics and

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.