Mothers' working models of infant feeding: description and influencing factors


Karen F. Pridham, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, 600 Highland Ave., Madison, WI 53792, USA.


This study examined four aspects of mothers’ working models of infant feeding: (1) infant behaviour that cues feeding decisions; (2) infant self-regulative behaviour; (3) importance of infant self-regulative behaviour and maternal effort directed to it; and (4) maternal effort and value given to task-oriented and efficient feeding. The relation of these aspects to maternal experience, age, formal education, family income, and feeding method was also explored. Subjects were 122 mothers of healthy, term infants between 14 and 60 days old. A telephone interview obtained demographic and attribute data and assessed the four aspects with 30 scaled items. Crying before and sleepiness during feeding were relatively compelling cues for maternal action. Most mothers gave only moderate ratings to the importance of infant self-regulative behaviour and to task-oriented and efficient feeding. Parity and feeding method affected response to specific items, with primiparae more concerned about length and regularity of feedings. Mothers who bottle-fed their infants were more concerned about maintaining a feeding once initiated than mothers who breast-fed their infants. Four-factor analysis yielded two item clusters with good internal consistency: Cluster a. Maternal Effort to Accomplish Feeding Goals; and Cluster b. Importance of Infant Self-Regulative Behaviour.

Cluster a. and b. were strongly correlated. Feeding method influenced both clusters, and the interaction of parity and feeding method had an effect on Cluster a. Mothers with lower family income had higher scores on Cluster b; multiparae with lower family income on Cluster a. How and when infant self-regulation develops as a goal is a question in need of study.