Nutrition Provided to Infants in Licensed Childcare Centers and Homes: A Descriptive Study

Matern Child Health J. 2020 Jul;24(7):932-942. doi: 10.1007/s10995-020-02929-z.


Background: Infant nutrition can influence development, eating behaviors and obesity risk. Nearly half of infants in the U.S. are in non-parental care where they consume much of their daily nutrition. Because little is known about the quality of infant nutrition in childcare, the study objective was to characterize the foods and beverages provided to infants in childcare in California.

Methods: From a randomly selected sample of 2,400 licensed childcare in California, 736 responded to a 2016 survey; a subset of 297 cared for infants. Differences in 26 foods and 7 beverages provided between centers and homes, and by CACFP participation, were assessed using logistic regression models adjusted for CACFP participation and whether the site was a center or home, respectively.

Results: Several differences between centers and homes were identified. One the day prior to the survey, more centers than homes ever provided cow's milk (25.1% vs 13.0%, p = 0.02) and whole grains (76.7% vs 62.9%, p = 0.03), and fewer centers than homes provided frozen treats (1.4% vs 10.3%, p = 0.003). When comparing difference by CACFP participation, fewer CACFP than non-CACFP sites usually provided breastmilk (32.6% vs 54.2%, p = 0.0004) and ever provided cow's milk (14.2% vs 37.1%, p < 0.0001). On the day prior to the survey, more CACFP than non-CACFP provided vegetables (91.0% vs 80.8%, p = 0.02), fruit (centers only) (97.2% vs 80.8%, p = 0.0003), and infant cereals (86.0% vs 61.2%, p < 0.0001). Fewer CACFP than non-CACFP provided sweetened yogurt (14.8% vs 36.7%, p < 0.0001).

Conclusions for practice: Childcare centers and CACFP participants tended to serve nutritious foods more than childcare homes and non-CACFP participants, respectively. Additional education and policies for childcare providers on appropriate foods and beverages for infants is recommended.

Keywords: Breastmilk; Childcare; Infant; Nutrition.

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Child Day Care Centers / organization & administration
  • Child Day Care Centers / standards*
  • Child Day Care Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Diet Surveys
  • Diet Therapy / methods
  • Diet Therapy / standards*
  • Diet Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status*