Maternal decisions about the initiation and termination of infant feeding

Appetite. Mar-May 2008;50(2-3):333-9. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2007.08.010. Epub 2007 Sep 18.


Caregiver responsiveness to infant hunger and fullness cues is thought to play a role in the development of overweight during infancy, but this aspect of infant feeding has received little study. This research used a qualitative approach to understand aspects of feeding responsiveness involving maternal perception and interpretation of infant feeding cues by asking mothers about factors they used to initiate and terminate infant feeding. Participants were 71 ethnically diverse mothers of healthy, term infants at 3, 6, or 12 months of age. Mothers were asked three questions about feeding initiation and termination. Qualitative content analysis was used to derive major themes. Results revealed that the extent to which infant cues were prominent in maternal approaches to feeding was variable. Some mothers focused on amount consumed or eating schedule whereas others reported sole orientation to infant state and/or oral behaviors. Other themes involved the range of intensity and specificity of the infant cues that prompted feeding initiation and termination. The qualitative findings suggest that mothers may differ in the extent to which they perceive and rely upon infant hunger and fullness cues to initiate and terminate feeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Decision Making
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Overweight / etiology
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Weaning