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      A qualitative study of the infant feeding beliefs and behaviours of mothers with low educational attainment


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          Infancy is an important period for the promotion of healthy eating, diet and weight. However little is known about how best to engage caregivers of infants in healthy eating programs. This is particularly true for caregivers, infants and children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds who experience greater rates of overweight and obesity yet are more challenging to reach in health programs. Behaviour change interventions targeting parent-infant feeding interactions are more likely to be effective if assumptions about what needs to change for the target behaviours to occur are identified. As such we explored the precursors of key obesity promoting infant feeding practices in mothers with low educational attainment.


          One–on–one semi-structured telephone interviews were developed around the Capability Opportunity Motivation Behaviour (COM-B) framework and applied to parental feeding practices associated with infant excess or healthy weight gain. The target behaviours and their competing alternatives were (a) initiating breastfeeding/formula feeding, (b) prolonging breastfeeding/replacing breast milk with formula, (c) best practice formula preparation/sub-optimal formula preparation, (d) delaying the introduction of solid foods until around six months of age/introducing solids earlier than four months of age, and (e) introducing healthy first foods/introducing unhealthy first foods, and (f) feeding to appetite/use of non-nutritive (i.e., feeding for reasons other than hunger) feeding. The participants’ education level was used as the indicator of socioeconomic disadvantage. Two researchers independently undertook thematic analysis.


          Participants were 29 mothers of infants aged 2–11 months. The COM-B elements of Social and Environmental Opportunity, Psychological Capability, and Reflective Motivation were the key elements identified as determinants of a mother’s likelihood to adopt the healthy target behaviours although the relative importance of each of the COM-B factors varied with each of the target feeding behaviours.


          Interventions targeting healthy infant feeding practices should be tailored to the unique factors that may influence mothers’ various feeding practices, taking into account motivational and social influences.

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          Most cited references54

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          The obesity epidemic in the United States--gender, age, socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and geographic characteristics: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis.

          This review of the obesity epidemic provides a comprehensive description of the current situation, time trends, and disparities across gender, age, socioeconomic status, racial/ethnic groups, and geographic regions in the United States based on national data. The authors searched studies published between 1990 and 2006. Adult overweight and obesity were defined by using body mass index (weight (kg)/height (m)(2)) cutpoints of 25 and 30, respectively; childhood "at risk for overweight" and overweight were defined as the 85th and 95th percentiles of body mass index. Average annual increase in and future projections for prevalence were estimated by using linear regression models. Among adults, obesity prevalence increased from 13% to 32% between the 1960s and 2004. Currently, 66% of adults are overweight or obese; 16% of children and adolescents are overweight and 34% are at risk of overweight. Minority and low-socioeconomic-status groups are disproportionately affected at all ages. Annual increases in prevalence ranged from 0.3 to 0.9 percentage points across groups. By 2015, 75% of adults will be overweight or obese, and 41% will be obese. In conclusion, obesity has increased at an alarming rate in the United States over the past three decades. The associations of obesity with gender, age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status are complex and dynamic. Related population-based programs and policies are needed.
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            Parental influence on eating behavior: conception to adolescence.

            The first years of life mark a time of rapid development and dietary change, as children transition from an exclusive milk diet to a modified adult diet. During these early years, children's learning about food and eating plays a central role in shaping subsequent food choices, diet quality, and weight status. Parents play a powerful role in children's eating behavior, providing both genes and environment for children. For example, they influence children's developing preferences and eating behaviors by making some foods available rather than others, and by acting as models of eating behavior. In addition, parents use feeding practices, which have evolved over thousands of years, to promote patterns of food intake necessary for children's growth and health. However in current eating environments, characterized by too much inexpensive palatable, energy dense food, these traditional feeding practices can promote overeating and weight gain. To meet the challenge of promoting healthy weight in children in the current eating environment, parents need guidance regarding alternatives to traditional feeding practices.
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              Worldwide trends in childhood overweight and obesity.

              Obesity has become a global epidemic but our understanding of the problem in children is limited due to lack of comparable representative data from different countries, and varying criteria for defining obesity. This paper summarises the available information on recent trends in child overweight and obesity prevalence. PubMed was searched for data relating to trends over time, in papers published between January 1980 and October 2005. Additional studies identified by citations in retrieved papers and by consultation with experts were included. Data for trends over time were found for school-age populations in 25 countries and for pre-school populations in 42 countries. Using these reports, and data collected for the World Health Organization's Burden of Disease Program, we estimated the global prevalence of overweight and obesity among school-age children for 2006 and likely prevalence levels for 2010. The prevalence of childhood overweight has increased in almost all countries for which data are available. Exceptions are found among school-age children in Russia and to some extent Poland during the 1990s. Exceptions are also found among infant and pre-school children in some lower-income countries. Obesity and overweight has increased more dramatically in economically developed countries and in urbanized populations. There is a growing global childhood obesity epidemic, with a large variation in secular trends across countries. Effective programs and policies are needed at global, regional and national levels to limit the problem among children.

                Author and article information

                BMC Pediatr
                BMC Pediatr
                BMC Pediatrics
                BioMed Central (London )
                21 May 2016
                21 May 2016
                : 16
                : 69
                [ ]Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia
                [ ]Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
                © Russell et al. 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                : 21 July 2015
                : 10 May 2016
                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100001151, Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute, Australian National University (AU);
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2016

                infant,feeding behaviour,pediatric obesity,weight gain,vulnerable populations,mothers
                infant, feeding behaviour, pediatric obesity, weight gain, vulnerable populations, mothers


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