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Doctors can influence when parents wean children from bottle, Study Finds

Family doctors and pediatricians can influence when parents wean their children from the bottle, thereby helping to reduce tooth decay, obesity and iron deficiency, according to a new study by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).

Toronto, July 12, 2010

Dr. Jonathon Maguire Dr. Jonathon Maguire

Only five minutes of advice at the nine-month “well baby” checkup about the dangers of prolonged bottle use resulted in a dramatic, 60-percent drop in the number of babies still using the bottle at age two, said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician at St. Michael’s and lead author of the study.

Most of the babies whose parents received the advice stopped using the bottle by their first birthday, compared to 16 months for babies whose parents received no instruction, Maguire said. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends complete bottle weaning for healthy children by 15 months, but Maguire said many doctors and parents are not aware of this. Many parents continue bottle feeding well past that time, even until their children are three or four years old.

“If physicians counsel parents of young infants about the dangers of prolonged bottle use and when to stop using the bottle, the counseling actually works,” said Maguire, whose research appears in the current issue of Pediatrics, the leading journal in the field.

“This shows it’s possible for health professionals to positively influence the health behaviour of young children before they develop unhealthy habits and will hopefully lead to healthier children and healthier adults that they become.”

“We and others have previously found an association between prolonged bottle feeding (beyond 16 months) and iron deficiency. Iron deficiency is associated with developmental delays, behavioural problems and poorer school achievement, and, in rare cases, strokes,” said Dr. Patricia Parkin, senior author of the study, staff physician and senior associate scientist at SickKids and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Toronto.