The prevalence of overweight among infants and toddlers has increased dramatically in the past three decades, highlighting the importance of identifying factors contributing to early excess weight gain, particularly in high-risk groups. Parental feeding styles and the attitudes and behaviors that characterize parental approaches to maintaining or modifying children's eating behavior are an important behavioral component shaping early obesity risk.
Design and Methods:
Using longitudinal data from the Infant Care and Risk of Obesity Study, a cohort study of 217 African-American mother-infant pairs with feeding styles, dietary recalls, and anthropometry collected from 3 to 18 months of infant age, we examined the relationship between feeding styles, infant diet, and weight-for-age and sum of skinfolds.
Longitudinal mixed models indicated that higher pressuring and indulgent feeding style scores were positively associated with greater infant energy intake, reduced odds of breastfeeding, and higher levels of age-inappropriate feeding of liquids and solids, whereas restrictive feeding styles were associated with lower energy intake, higher odds of breastfeeding, and reduced odds of inappropriate feeding. Pressuring and restriction were also oppositely related to infant size with pressuring associated with lower infant weight-for-age and restriction with higher weight-for-age and sum of skinfolds. Infant size also predicted maternal feeding styles in subsequent visits indicating that the relationship between size and feeding styles is likely bidirectional.
Our results suggest that the degree to which parents are pressuring or restrictive during feeding shapes the early feeding environment and, consequently, may be an important environmental factor in the development of obesity.