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The results of a new study suggest that there is no difference in the risk of weight gain between breast-fed and bottle-fed babies. Researchers measured body fat for 313 five-year-olds and collected data on their feeding histories. They used the dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry method rather than body mass index to determine fatness. Of the 313 children, one quarter of the mothers did not breast-feed. Of the 231 who did, 88 moms breast-fed for less than 6 months, 77 breast-fed for 6 months to 1 year, and 66 breast-fed for more than 1 year. Fifty-two women breast-fed for more than 1 year without using formula. Half the mothers started their babies on solid foods at 4 months, and only 8% waited until 6 months to start on solids. With the compiled data, researchers found no difference in fat levels between bottle-fed and breast-fed children. Although this study will not end the debate over infant feeding, it may assuage any fears mothers may have regarding bottle- feeding. The study authors, however, are quick to point out the documented benefits of breast milk, such as protecting infants from respiratory tract and ear infections and improving cognitive function. The findings were published in the March 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.