Submitted to: Appetite
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/30/2007
Publication Date: 9/18/2007
Citation: Hodges, E.A., Hughes, S.O., Hopkinson, J., Fisher, J.O. 2007. Maternal decisions about the initiation and termination of infant feeding. Appetite. 50(2-3):333-339. Interpretive Summary: The findings of this research provide an initial description of the variations in infant cues that mothers perceive and interpret as hunger and fullness indications during the first year. The variable intensity, specificity, and prominence of cited infant cues suggest that mothers may differ in the extent to which they perceive infant hunger and fullness cues and use them when initiating and terminating feeding. Insight into the types of infant cues that mothers perceive as salient to their feeding decisions underscores opportunities for interventions with mothers, which may improve their ability to differentiate hunger and fullness cues from other types of cues over the course of their child's development, thereby improving feeding responsiveness. This may, in turn, ultimately lead to increased facilitation of healthy growth and development and a decreased incidence of early childhood obesity.
Technical Abstract: Caregiver responsiveness to infant hunger and fullness cues is thought to play a role in the development of overweight during infancy, but this aspect of infant feeding has received little study. This research used a qualitative approach to understand aspects of feeding responsiveness involving maternal perception and interpretation of infant feeding cues by asking mothers about factors they used to initiate and terminate infant feeding. Participants were 71 ethnically diverse mothers of healthy, term infants at 3, 6, or 12 months of age. Mothers were asked three questions about feeding initiation and termination. Qualitative content analysis was used to derive major themes. Results revealed that the extent to which infant cues were prominent in maternal approaches to feeding was variable. Some mothers focused on amount consumed or eating schedule whereas others reported sole orientation to infant state and/or oral behaviors. Other themes involved the range of intensity and specificity of the infant cues that prompted feeding initiation and termination. The qualitative findings suggest that mothers may differ in the extent to which they perceive and rely upon infant hunger and fullness cues to initiate and terminate feeding.