Background: Primary prevention of childhood overweight is an international priority. In Australia 20-25% of 2-8 year olds are already overweight. These children are at substantially increased the risk of becoming overweight adults, with attendant increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Early feeding practices determine infant exposure to food (type, amount, frequency) and include responses (eg coercion) to infant feeding behaviour (eg. food refusal). There is correlational evidence linking parenting style and early feeding practices to child eating behaviour and weight status. A focus on early feeding is consistent with the national focus on early childhood as the foundation for life-long health and well being. The NOURISH trial aims to implement and evaluate a community-based intervention to promote early feeding practices that will foster healthy food preferences and intake and preserve the innate capacity to self-regulate food intake in young children.
Methods/design: This randomised controlled trial (RCT) aims to recruit 820 first-time mothers and their healthy term infants. A consecutive sample of eligible mothers will be approached postnatally at major maternity hospitals in Brisbane and Adelaide. Initial consent will be for re-contact for full enrolment when the infants are 4-7 months old. Individual mother- infant dyads will be randomised to usual care or the intervention. The intervention will provide anticipatory guidance via two modules of six fortnightly parent education and peer support group sessions, each followed by six months of regular maintenance contact. The modules will commence when the infants are aged 4-7 and 13-16 months to coincide with establishment of solid feeding, and autonomy and independence, respectively. Outcome measures will be assessed at baseline, with follow up at nine and 18 months. These will include infant intake (type and amount of foods), food preferences, feeding behaviour and growth and self-reported maternal feeding practices and parenting practices and efficacy. Covariates will include sociodemographics, infant feeding mode and temperament, maternal weight status and weight concern and child care exposure.
Discussion: Despite the strong rationale to focus on parents' early feeding practices as a key determinant of child food preferences, intake and self-regulatory capacity, prospective longitudinal and intervention studies are rare. This trial will be amongst to provide Level II evidence regarding the impact of an intervention (commencing prior to age 12 months) on children's eating patterns and behaviours.
Trial registration: ACTRN12608000056392.