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Can Bottle-feeding Cause Ear Infections?

Many mothers have heard the above statement. The answer is yes, bottle feeding can cause ear infections in your baby. Here are the reasons why and how you can prevent it.

There is also an old women’s story that says that if the baby is breastfed while sleeping, his ears will get infected. This is not true; in fact, breastfeeding actually lowers a baby’s risk of ear infections than bottle-feeding.

Ear infections from food are often transmitted through milk into the baby’s ear, where the warmth of the ear along with the moisture and sugar of the milk provide a perfect breeding ground for germs. This is true for both breast milk and formula milk. However, the mother’s teat is wonderfully designed so that the milk only flows when the baby is nursing. Therefore, during feeding, the mother’s milk in the ear of the child decreases. However, the nipples of the bottle are not so well designed, and it is very easy for milk to leak out of the nipple when the baby stops nursing. Ear infections in formula-fed babies are similar to breast-fed babies; it has nothing to do with milk, but everything to do with mechanics.

Therefore, if you are breastfeeding your baby, you should take a little extra care to prevent ear infections. The first thing you should be aware of is that formula milk, unlike breast milk, is a foreign substance and usually contains higher sugar; remember that heat, moisture and sugar are what germs thrive on. Even when feeding the baby in a sitting position, it is still possible for milk to seep into the baby’s ear, so be aware of this. The most important thing is to never put the bottle in the baby’s mouth, so that the baby can eat it. This is a practice that is often done by some mothers when the baby is in bed. Your child is unsupervised; it is very easy to get milk into the ear. This habit can also lead to something called bottle-feeding tooth decay. Finally, it is important to remember that you should be more careful against infection when you eat the bottle. Breast milk is full of maternal antibodies: breast milk has none of these. And, these are the antibodies that help your baby avoid infection.

Bottle feeding isn’t the only thing that can cause ear infections. Other causes include exposure to cigarette smoke, allergies, pacifier use, being in a day care center and therefore being close to other children who may have ear infections. As with most aspects of responsible parenting, it’s just a matter of being aware of the risks.

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