A new study indicates that weaning your children off the bottle early may be an effective way to prevent later obesity.Researchers from Temple University analyzed data from 6750 children to estimate the association between bottle use at 2 years of age and the risk of obesity at 5.5 years of age.

Of the children studied, 22% were prolonged bottle users, meaning that at 2 years of age they used a bottle as their primary drink container or were put to bed with a bottle.  Nearly 23% of the prolonged bottle users were obese by the time they were 5.5 years old.

“Children who were still using a bottle at 24 months were approximately 30% more likely to be obese at 5.5 years, even after accounting for other factors such as the mother’s weight, the child’s birth weight, and feeding practices during infancy,” said Dr. Robert Whitaker¬† of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University, in a press release.

The researchers say that drinking from a bottle beyond infancy may contribute to obesity by encouraging the child to consume too many calories.

An 8-ounce bottle of whole milk constitutes about 12 percent of a two year-old child’s daily caloric needs, according to researchers.

The authors suggest that pediatricians and other health professionals should work with parents to stop bottle use by the child’s first birthday.

The study was published in The Journal of Pediatrics.