OBJECTIVE. Our goal was to test the hypothesis that infants who were breastfed more intensively during early infancy (≤6 months) will be less likely to have excess weight during late infancy (>6 months) and to examine the independent impact of infant-initiated bottle emptying and mothers' encouragement of bottle emptying on infants' risk for excess weight.

METHOD. The sample consisted of 1896 mothers who participated in postpartum surveys of the Infant Feeding Practice Study II and who provided at least 1 weight measurement of their infants during the second half of infancy. We used multiple logistic regression models to assess the association between infants' risks for excess weight during the second half of infancy and 3 self-reported feeding practices during the first half of infancy after adjusting for a series of sociodemographic characteristics. The early feeding practices examined included the percentage of all milk feedings in which infants consumed breast milk (breastfeeding intensity), the frequency of bottle feedings in which infants initiated bottle emptying, and the frequency of bottle feedings in which mothers encouraged bottle emptying.

RESULTS. Infants fed with low (<20% of milk feeds being breast milk) and medium (20%–80%) breastfeeding intensity in the first half of infancy were at least 2 times more likely to have excess weight during the second half of infancy than those breastfed at high intensity (>80%). Infants who often emptied bottles in early infancy were 69% more likely than those who rarely emptied bottles to have excess weight during late infancy. However, mothers' encouragement of bottle emptying was negatively associated with their infants' risk for excess weight during the second half of infancy.

CONCLUSIONS. Infants’ risk for excess weight during late infancy was negatively associated with breastfeeding intensity but positively associated with infant-initiated bottle emptying during early infancy. These findings not only provide evidence for the potential risk of not breastfeeding or breastfeeding at a low intensity in development of childhood obesity, but they also suggest that infant-initiated bottle emptying may be an independent risk factor as well.

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