When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, well all know that how much you eat is just as important as what you eat. But when we are talking about babies, researchers now believe that how food is consumed might also matter.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compared the eating habits of babies who were bottle fed for the first six months of life against those who were breast fed. What they found was that those who took most of their meals via bottle were less able to self-regulate how much they ate. The bottle fed babies simply ate more, a fact that researchers suspect may increase their risk of developing a weight problem later in life.
The researchers looked at 1,250 infants at 7, 9, 10 and 12 months of age. Of the babies who had been exclusively breast-fed for the first six months of their lives, only 27% always or usually finished what was offered in a bottle or cup. That number rose to 54% among babies who were both bottle and breast fed during the first six months. And for those who were exclusively bottle fed as infants, 68% always or usually finished off their bottle or cup.
Experts have long suspected that breast milk helps prevent excessive weight gain by simply being breast milk. The hormones leptin and adiponectin are believed to help regulate appetite and metabolism. However, in this study, it didn’t matter if the bottle fed babies were given formula or breast milk — they still ate more.
The researchers theorize that this so-called “bottle effect” may be due to the simple fact that bottle fed babies are encouraged to finish what is offered to them whereas breast fed babies are allowed to stop when they are full. This encouragement to eat more, they say, may interfere with a baby’s innate ability to self-regulate their calorie intake, therefore messing up their appetite cues.
Further studies are needed to confirm whether this “bottle effect” will impact a child’s weight later in life. However, researchers say that parents would do well to pay attention to babies’ cues when bottle feeding. When they push it away, put it away.
Image: Micah Sittig/Flickr
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