Turns out that drinking their calories is just as bad for toddlers as it is for the rest of us.
A new study in The Journal of Pediatrics, “Prolonged Bottle Use and Obesity at 5.5 Years of Age in US Children”, found that children who were using a bottle as their primary source of drinks or were put to bed with one at the age of 2 were 33 percent more likely to be obese at 5.5 years. The study was based on data from approximately 6750 children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a national study of children born in 2001. Of the children in the study, 22 percent were defined as prolonged bottle users at 24 months. Of the prolonged bottle users 23 percent were obese at five and a half years old compared to only 16% obese in the group that abandoned the bottle earlier.
“This study was not about how children were fed as infants,” said Rachel A. Gooze, MPH, lead author of the study, which was also authored by Sarah E. Anderson, Ph.D and Robert C. Whitaker, M.D., MPH. “Older children who drink from a bottle may be consuming excess calories if it’s not about the bottle as food or nourishment, but rather comfort or convenience.”
This isn’t about a bottle of water. It’s more about the risks of future obesity that toddlers may face when they cling to that nighttime bottle of milk or juice as part of a ritual that has nothing to do with nutritional needs.
Gooze noted that there are already recommendations to reduce bottle use to promote better oral health in children from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
“We wanted to acknowledge that stopping the bottle at one year isn’t easy,” said Gooze. “We thought it might be helpful for parents to think of moving from the bottle to cup sooner as a developmental milestone to be celebrated.”
Gooze doesn’t underestimate the difficulties of getting a toddler to give up a beloved bottle. “It’s like learning to walk,” she said. “It may be challenging at first, but we still encourage it.”
She also acknowledged that “parents may not have anticipated it might be so challenging. This gives pediatricians and parents another talking point for parents to think about well before the child’s first birthday.”