Drop the Bottle? Study Says Formula-Fed Babies More Likely to Have Digestive Issues

ByKylie McConville
January 30, 2017
Hero Image
Image: Shutterstock / The Bump

New research found that bottle feeding baby increases his risk for developing hypertrophic pyloric stenosis (HPS). HPS is a stomach obstruction that results in severe and frequent vomiting by baby. It’s most common in the first two months of an infant’s life.

The study, published in the JAMA Pediatrics, set out to identify whether or not bottle feeding during early infancy increases baby’s risk of HPS. Researchers led by Dr. Jarod P. McAteer from the Seattle Children’s Hospital and his team of colleagues set out by first looking at when HPS cases were at their lowest — which, coincidentally, was during the 1980s, when there was an upsurge in breastfeeding rates.

From there, they collected data from Washington State birth certificates and hospital discharge data between the years of 2003 and 2009, in what’s being called the largest analytical HPS study of its time. During the six-year time frame, researchers identified 714 singleton births as their “control” group; they did not suffer from HPS.

Though the study was entirely observational, they do make note that all of the data was provided when mom and baby were discharged from the hospital, which means that they did take into account babies who might have been initially breastfed after birth but then switched to formula feedings once mom was home. Babies who were switched from breast to bottle also had a greater likelihood of developing HPS.

So, what did the researchers find? Incidence of HPSC decreased, overall, from 14 per 10,000 births to just 9 per 100,000 births in 2009. That drastic drop, researchers note, is due to the popularity of breastfeeding (it increased from 80 percent of moms nursing in 2003 to 94 percent of moms nursing in 2009).

Related Video

At the same time, however, researchers did find that bottle-fed infants were more 19.5 percent likely to develop HPS than their breastfed peers. The likelihood of baby developing HPS was increased if the baby was a boy; the odds also surged upward if mom was 35 years (or older), and if she’d already given birth once before.

In their conclusion, researchers write: “These data suggest that bottle feeding may play a role in HPS etiology, and further investigations may help to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the observed effect modification by age and parity.” The long and short of it? Researchers know that bottle feeding baby does increase the risk of HPS, but they’re not sure of exactly why that happens.

Dr. McAteer and his colleagues agree, saying, “Further studies are warranted to validate these findings and to look more closely at the speculative mechanisms, including possible hormonal effects, underlying the bottle feeding-HPS association.”

Do you think that formula-feeding baby is dangerous?

Holle baby food brand launches in the United States at Whole foods, image of Holle's cow milk product.

This Cult-Favorite European Baby Formula Brand Is Coming to America

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
mom holding her newborn baby close to her chest

New Study Finds 9 Out of 10 Newborns Are Born With Gut Deficiency

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Collage of banana slices and watermelon pieces.

The Best Finger Foods for Baby

profile picture of Katherine Martinelli
Katherine Martinelli
Baby being fed food on a spoon by his father.

The Dos and Don’ts of Homemade Baby Food

profile picture of Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, MPH
Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, MPH
10 slides

Top 10 Sippy Cups

profile picture of Anisa Arsenault
Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
dad feeding his baby a bottle while on bed with dog

How to Tell if You're Overfeeding Baby

profile picture of Jennifer L.W. Fink
Jennifer L.W. Fink
Registered Nurse
dad feeding baby organic baby food

Best Organic Baby Food

profile picture of Kathleen Harris
Kathleen Harris
mom holds baby while dad kisses her cheek

Parents Make 1,750 Tough Decisions in Baby’s First Year, Survey Says

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
dad feeding newborn baby formula bottle

How Much Should a Newborn Eat?

profile picture of Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie
Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie
Contributing Writer
Article removed.