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Prolonged Bottle-Feeding May Lead to Iron Depletion

Researchers see increasing risk in children who are bottle-fed for more than 16 months

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Daytime bottle-feeding in the second and third years of life may be a risk factor for iron depletion, according to a study published in the November issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Trenna L. Sutcliffe, M.D., of the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine in Toronto, Canada, and colleagues studied 150 children aged 12 to 38 months, of whom 82 were bottle-fed and 68 were cup-fed. They assessed iron levels in 78 of the bottle-fed and 67 of the cup-fed children.

The researchers found iron depletion in 29 (37 percent) of the bottle-fed children compared to 12 (18 percent) of the cup-fed children. They also identified a significant association between bottle-feeding longer than 16 months and iron depletion. They calculated relative risks of 1.31 at 18 months and 2.5 at 24 months. Because the bottle-fed children were more likely to consume more than 16 ounces per day of milk than the cup-fed children (67 percent versus 32 percent), the researchers suggest that the high intake may have compromised their iron absorption or intake of iron-rich foods or juices.

"Children using a bottle beyond the age of 12 to 16 months may be selected for screening and counseling," the authors write. "Bottle use is a potentially modifiable practice. The promotion of bottle weaning before the age of 12 months, or weaning directly from the breast to the cup, may be a potentially simple primary prevention strategy. These hypotheses must be tested in prospective trials."

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