Infant digestive problem more likely with formula

Condition causing forceful vomiting twice as common in babies not breast-fed

Breast-feeding an infant could help prevent a condition in which an otherwise healthy baby begins vomiting at a few weeks of age and can’t keep food down for long. The malady is hypertrophic pyloric stenosis, a scarring and tightening of the valve at the pinch point where the stomach empties into the duodenum. The forceful vomiting can lead to life-threatening dehydration and weight loss, and treatment requires surgery. The condition arises in one to three babies per 1,000 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its cause is unknown.

To explore the role of feeding in this problem, physician Jarod McAteer of Seattle Children’s Hospital and his colleagues pulled the medical records of 714 babies who had been treated for it and the records from more than 7,000 infants who hadn’t had the condition. The babies with the stomach disorder were more than twice as likely to have been bottle fed upon discharge from the hospital, the researchers report October 21 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study doesn’t clarify how formula might contribute to the tissue build-up that causes hypertrophic pyloric stenosis. But as the largest study of its kind, the research offers “a more complete picture of the influence of feeding patterns,” the authors say.

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