Impact of an early-life intervention on the nutrition behaviors of 2-y-old children: a randomized controlled trial

Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Sep;102(3):704-12. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.111823. Epub 2015 Jul 29.


Background: Despite an extensive well-child health service, 30% of New Zealand's 2- to 4-y old children are overweight or obese. This suggests that additional intervention is necessary to establish healthy nutrition behaviors.

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the effect of intervention from 0 to 18 mo of age on food and nutrient intake, eating behaviors, and parental feeding practices in 18- to 24-mo-old children.

Design: In total, 802 families with healthy infants were randomly allocated to 1 of 4 groups: Usual Care (UC); Food, Activity, and Breastfeeding (FAB); Sleep; or FAB and Sleep (Combination). All groups received standard "well-child" care. The FAB intervention comprised 7-8 additional contacts for education and support around breastfeeding, food, and activity. The Sleep intervention comprised 2 additional contacts for guidance about sleeping habits. Combination families received both interventions. A validated food-frequency questionnaire assessed food intake at 2 y. A questionnaire assessed eating behaviors and parental feeding practices at 18 and 24 mo.

Results: At 2 y, there were no statistically significant differences in food and nutrient intake or eating behaviors in the groups receiving the FAB intervention (FAB, Combination; 325 children) compared with the groups who did not (Sleep, UC; 341 children). With the use of a 5-point scale, small but statistically significant differences in parental feeding practices were observed in the groups receiving the FAB intervention: greater child control over eating (difference: 0.14; 95% CI: 0.02, 0.26) and less pressure to eat (difference: 0.18; 95% CI: 0.04, 0.32) at 18 mo, as well as greater encouragement of nutrient-dense foods at 24 mo (difference: 0.16; 95% CI: 0.03, 0.30). No statistically significant differences were observed between the groups who received the Sleep intervention (Sleep, Combination; 313 children) and those who did not, except higher meat intake in the former (11 g/d).

Conclusion: Additional education and support for parents from birth did not improve nutrition behaviors in this population at 2 y of age. This trial was registered at as NCT00892983.

Keywords: food; infants; intervention; nutrition; toddlers.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Linear Models
  • Mothers
  • New Zealand
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Parenting
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Sleep
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data