What Are the Dangers of Drinking from a Baby Bottle Too Long?

by Kimberly Dyke

    Just thinking about transitioning your child from a baby bottle to a cup can be overwhelming -- both for Mom’s convenience and baby’s habit. Understanding the consequences of continuing to use the bottle can make the transition easier, knowing that you are teaching your child big-kid skills, along with doing what is best for his overall health. Patience is a virtue when trying to convince your toddler that his new sippy cup is so much better than that silly old baby bottle.

    The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, reported by "Time" magazine, discovered that 25 percent of toddlers who were still using bottles on a regular basis at 24 months became obese by the time they reached 5 1/2 years. Findings suggested that drinking from a bottle beyond the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommended age of 12 to 18 months results in too many calories in a child’s diet. Babies begin to eat solid food between 4 and 6 months and eat mainly solid foods by age 1, accompanied by 10 to 16 ounces of milk each day. Additional bottles of milk mean additional calories that eventually affect the child’s weight.

    Tooth decay happens in infants and toddlers when liquids containing sugars -- natural or artificial -- cling to the teeth over time. Natural bacteria in the mouth combine with the sugar, producing acid that harms the enamel on the teeth. This can happen to a child who walks around sucking on a bottle all day long or one who routinely goes to sleep with a bottle. The affected teeth can be sore, infected or removed in extreme cases. Practicing good oral hygiene can help prevent tooth decay in your child, such as wiping gums with a clean cloth after feeding or brushing teeth twice a day.

    Baby teeth can remain in a child’s mouth until he reaches the teen years, making baby-bottle tooth decay a potential long-term consequence. Children suffering from tooth decay can struggle with speech problems and poor eating habits. The teeth can grow in crowded or crooked, causing damaged adult teeth as a result.

    Depending on bottle feeding for too long can lead to iron deficiency and anemia in your child. As the child moves from drinking iron-fortified formula to cow’s milk at 12 months of age, she ideally begins to eat other foods that are rich in iron. Toddlers who continue to drink most of their calories from cow’s milk have a decreased appetite for other foods and may also develop gastrointestinal blood loss. The longer a child drinks from a bottle, the greater the risk of having an iron deficiency -- which can lead to behavioral and cognitive delays.

    About the Author

    Kimberly Dyke is a Spanish interpreter with a B.A. in language and international trade from Clemson University. She began writing professionally in 2010, specializing in education, parenting and culture. Currently residing in South Carolina, Dyke has received certificates in photography and medical interpretation.

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