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Bottle Effect: Pumped Breast Milk or Formula Affects Appetite "Self-Regulation"

Photo by Alessandro PerilliBaby bottle feeding affects appetite self-regulation

Baby bottle feeding affects appetite self-regulation

My daughter was a very chunky baby.  I worried she would become an obese child, but every study or book I read said that breastfed babies have lower risks of becoming overweight.  She’s now a slender child, and my worries certainly did not make me change her on-demand feeding habits.

A new study has found that breastfeeding helps children with appetite “self-regulation”, a skill that enables you to stop eating when you are full, even there is still food left on your plate.

Coined the “Bottle Effect“, “Babies who are bottle-fed early on may consume more calories later in infancy than babies who are exclusively breastfed.”

Interestingly, researchers found results were similar for pumped breast milk or formula fed via a bottle.  It is the bottle that is to blame, not the contents.  Reuters explains:

In this study, self-regulation was measured when the babies were 7, 9, 10 and 12 months old; mothers were asked how often their babies drank an entire bottle or cup of milk (formula or pumped breast milk)…

Babies who had had more than two-thirds of their feedings via bottle in early infancy were twice as likely to routinely empty their milk cups as babies who’d had less than one-third of their feedings via bottle.

What’s more, the pattern was seen whether those early bottle-feedings contained formula or pumped breast milk.

I wonder if it is actually the bottle to blame or the feeding habits of adults.  I have heard parents, grandparents, and caregivers say to babies many times, “Just finish the bottle.”  I think adults encourage infants, no matter their age, to consume entire bottle contents, whereas with the breast, their is no visual clues as to how much is left.  I know from personal experience serving my son pumped breast milk in the hospital after open heart surgery, I really didn’t want to throw away any of that precious liquid I had squeezed out of my breasts.

Whether the adult or the vessel is responsible for the bottle effect:  it is important for parents to be aware of the obesity risks that may result.


  1. I think you may be right. There’s a strong habit of discouraging food waste. I always hated disposing of unfinished pumped breast milk, and I’m sure those who formula feed can’t help but think of the cost of the formula.

  2. Damned if we do. Damned if we don’t. If i didn’t give my daughter pumped breast milk sh would be on ormula as she could not breast feed for 7 weeks.

  3. I only feed my seven week old son pumped breast milk in the bottle. I was worried that he might be eating too much at first because he was gaining weight fast. His doc said dont worry a baby will not over eat, but my lactation nurse told me that pumping and bottle feeding him will cause him to over eat. I didn’t know who to believe. Now that I have been doing this for seven weeks I can with confidence say a baby will NOT over eat via bottle. I burp him well about every ounce to two and this gives him a break to feel fullness. I know he is full when he will pucker those lips shut, or play with the bottle nipple and not suck and so on. He never eats the same amount at each feeding, at night he will have anywhere from 4 to 5 ounces of bm and in the morning he will haven 3 to 4 ounces, it depends on his demand. One night he was having a growth spurt so eat like crazy. I just don’t believe a baby will over eat I’ll whether surfed in a bottle or not!!!


  1. […] Bottle Effect: Pumped Breast Milk or Formula Affects Appetite …Interestingly, researchers found results were similar for pumped breast milk or formula fed via a bottle. It is the bottle that is to blame, … […]

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