Bottle-feeding moms lack info, may overfeed kids

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many moms who bottle-feed lack important information on how to feed their infants safely, which could lead to overfeeding and heavy kids, new research from the UK shows

Formula-fed kids are more likely to be too heavy, Dr. Rajalakshmi Lakshman of the University of Cambridge, a researcher on the study, told Reuters Health, so she and her colleagues set out to investigate why.

They reviewed 23 studies involving 13,263 people. What they found surprised them, the researcher said. Many mothers who used formula felt “guilt, anger, worry, uncertainty and a sense of failure,” she and her colleagues note in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood.

Moms also said they got little information on proper formula feeding, and many made mistakes in formula preparation. For example, many put powder in the bottle first, rather than water; this could overconcentrate formula by 10 to 15 percent, Lakshman said, meaning more calories than intended.

Also, she said, some parents reported packing scoops tightly when measuring formula, rather than loosely as recommended. And while water used to make formula should be boiled and used within 30 minutes, one US study found a third of moms were using warm tap water.

“All those things are important,” the researcher said. Due to the heavy focus on breastfeeding, many health care providers don’t bother giving new parents information on formula feeding, she added; one of the studies she and her colleagues looked at found just 21 percent of mothers were instructed on bottle-feeding by the time their babies were two months old.

Most babies-even breast-fed kids-will get some bottles before they move on to solid food, Lakshman said. “If a mother makes the decision to bottle feed then she should be given the information to do it correctly.”

She and her colleagues also found that parents frequently switched formula brands because their infants were spitting up, and they feared intolerance of the formula. But because pretty much all formulas are based on cow’s milk-aside from soy-based products-the regurgitation may have been due to overfeeding rather than intolerance, Lakshman said.

Overfeeding is indeed more of a risk with bottle-feeding, the researcher said, because parents have more control than babies do in how much milk the infant gets, which isn’t the case with breastfeeding. Parents can avoid overfeeding by paying attention to an infant’s cues, she advised, not giving the child more than the recommended amount of formula, and not assuming that every time the baby cries he needs a bottle.

SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood, online July 14, 2009.