Prolonged bottle-feeding may impose an increased risk of iron deficiency and cognitive problems in children (more seriously in Mexican American children) according to a new study by researchers at the Medical College and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
"This is the first study that we are aware of to report an association between prolonged bottle-feeding and iron deficiency, among a nationally representative sample of children one to three years of age. Our data suggest that prolonged bottle-feeding among Mexican-American infants may be at least partly responsible for the high prevalence of iron deficiency seen in this group," said Jane Brotanek, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of paediatrics at the Medical College and practitioner at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
The study involved 2,121 children aged one to three years old, all of which participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988 to 1994. Researchers examined the survey data on the feeding practice and iron status including transferring saturation, free erythrocyte protoporphyrin, and serum ferritin to determine the association between the prevalence of iron deficiency and duration of bottle-feeding among black, white and Mexican American toddlers.
The prevalence of iron deficiency among all groups of children increased with the duration of bottle-feeding: 3.8 percent for less than 12 months, 11.5 percent for 13 to 23 months, and 12.4 percent for 24 to 48 months.
Between the ages of 24 to 48 months, 36.8 percent of Mexican American children were still bottle-fed, compared with 16.9 percent of whites and 13.8 percent of black children.
"Toddlers who are bottle-fed consume large volumes of non-iron-fortified milk. This results in gastrointestinal blood loss together with a displacement of iron-rich foods from the diet," Dr. Brotanek said.
"Parents need to be aware that prolonged bottle-feeding and giving large volumes of milk to children older than 12 months can lead to problems with learning and development. Pediatricians need to counsel parents about feeding issues during the first year of life and encourage them to wean children from bottle-feeding by 15 months," Dr. Brotanek said.
Source: Paediatrics & Adolescent Medicine