Maternal infant feeding behaviors and disparities in early child obesity

Child Obes. 2014 Apr;10(2):145-52. doi: 10.1089/chi.2013.0140. Epub 2014 Mar 25.


Background: Although disparities in child obesity exist during infancy, the underlying mechanisms are unclear. Assessing dissimilarities in feeding practices, styles, and beliefs may provide a better understanding of these mechanisms. This study sought to identify modifiable maternal-infant feeding behaviors that may contribute to disparities in early child obesity.

Methods: This study is a cross-sectional analysis comparing mothers with infants (2 weeks to 6 months old) in a low-risk group of high-income white mothers to a high-risk group of low-income Hispanic mothers. Regression analysis was used to explore relationships between each group and (1) infant feeding practices, including breastfeeding, giving juice, and adding cereal to bottles, (2) controlling feeding styles, (3) beliefs about infant hunger and satiety, and (4) infant weight status.

Results: The sample included 412 mothers (low-risk group, n = 208; high-risk group, n = 204). The high-risk group was less likely to exclusively breastfeed (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.43; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.22-0.83), more likely to introduce juice (AOR, 12.25; 95% CI, 3.44-43.62), and add cereal to the bottle (AOR, 10.61; 95% CI, 2.74-41.0). The high-risk group exhibited greater restrictive and pressuring feeding styles and was more likely to believe that mothers can recognize infant hunger and satiety and less likely to believe that infants know their own hunger and satiety. High-risk infants were more likely to have a weight-for-length percentile >85th percentile (AOR, 2.66; 95% CI, 1.10-6.45).

Conclusions: Differences in infant feeding behaviors may contribute to disparities in early child obesity. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine the effect of these differences on child obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / psychology
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula / statistics & numerical data*
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • New York City / ethnology
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity / ethnology
  • Pediatric Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Perception
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Weaning* / ethnology