Learning to eat: Behavioral and Psychological Aspects

Speaker: L. Birch Presented at: 2014 85th Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop

Summary

Leann Birch (Department of Foods and Nutrition, University of Georgia) cautioned that many infants and young children are learning about food in obesogenic environments where feeding practices can promote maladaptive behaviours. Such practices include feeding as a default response to crying, and inappropriate portion size and feeding frequency. Responsive parenting, in contrast, fosters the development of infant self-regulation, and promotes cognitive, social and emotional development. One study investigating the association between sleep duration and lower weight status found that using feeding as a default practice to sooth an infant predicts higher infant body mass index at 6 months than comforting infants in other ways. Educational intervention strategies show promise, with some evidence that teaching obese mothers how to prevent obesity in their offspring leads to a reduction in weight compared with controls. Additionally, infants of mothers who received advice around appropriate food and eating practices were better at self-regulating than those who did not receive an intervention.