Maternal Feeding Practices Become More Controlling After and Not Before Excessive Rates of Weight Gain




It is unclear whether controlling maternal feeding practices (CMFPs) lead to or are a response to increases in a child's BMI. Our goal was to determine the direction of this relationship. Data were obtained from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Child BMI z-score (zBMI) was calculated from measured weight and height. CMFP was defined by, “Do you let your child eat what he/she feels like eating?”. Change in child zBMI was calculated between 4–7 years and 7–9 years, and dichotomized into “increasing” vs. “no change or decreasing”. Change in CMFP was calculated over the same time periods, and dichotomized into “more controlling” vs. “no change or less controlling.” Multiple logistic regression, stratified by gender and controlling for race, maternal education, maternal weight status, and baseline child weight status, was used for analysis. A total of 789 children were included. From 4 to 9 years, mean zBMI increased (P = 0.02) and mothers became more controlling (P < 0.001). Increasing CMFP between 4 and 7 years was associated with decreased odds of increasing zBMI between 7 and 9 years in boys (odds ratio = 0.52, 95% confidence interval = 0.27–1.00). There was no relationship in girls. Increasing zBMI between 4 and 7 years was associated with increasing CMFPs between 7 and 9 years in girls (odds ratio = 1.72, 95% confidence interval = 1.08–2.74), but not boys. Early increases in CMFP were not associated with later increases in zBMI for boys or girls. However, early increases in zBMI among girls were associated with later increases in CMFP. Clarifying the relationship between maternal feeding practices and child weight will inform future recommendations.