How does maternal and child feeding behavior relate to weight gain and failure to thrive? Data from a prospective birth cohort

Pediatrics. 2006 Apr;117(4):1262-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.2005-1215.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to study the influences of child and maternal feeding behavior on weight gain and failure to thrive in the first year of life.

Methods: The Millennium Infant Study recruited a population birth cohort in Northeast England shortly after birth and studied them prospectively to the age of 13 months. Parents completed questionnaires at 6 weeks and 4, 8, and 12 months. Appetite was rated on a 5-point scale at each age, and a core group of questions was used to generate scores of oromotor dysfunction, avoidant eating behavior, maternal feeding anxiety, and response to food refusal. Routinely collected weights were used to assess weight gain using the thrive index (TI); weight faltering was defined as TI below the 5th percentile from birth to age 6 weeks or 4, 8, or 12 months.

Results: Of 923 eligible infants, 75% of the mothers returned at least 1 questionnaire and > or =2 weights. Weight gain to 6 weeks was independently related to appetite and oromotor dysfunction rated at 6 weeks. Appetite rated at 6 weeks and 12 months both independently predicted weight gain to 12 months. Some avoidant eating behavior was seen in most children by 12 months old, but there was no relationship with weight gain or faltering after adjustment for appetite. However, the extent to which caregivers responded to food refusal was a significant inverse predictor of weight gain, even after adjustment for appetite.

Conclusions: Inherent child appetite characteristics seem to be an important risk factor for weight faltering and failure to thrive, but high maternal promotion of feeding may also have an adverse influence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Appetite
  • Cohort Studies
  • Failure to Thrive / etiology*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Growth
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Weight Gain