Publication Date:
Author(s): Elizabeth L. Adams, Michele E. Marini, Timothy R. Brick, Ian M. Paul, Leann L. Birch, Jennifer S. Savage
Publisher: BioMed Central
Publication Type: Academic Journal Article
Journal Title: International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Volume: 16
Issue: 1

Background: Use of food to soothe infant distress has been linked to greater weight in observational studies. We used ecological momentary assessment to capture detailed patterns of food to soothe and evaluate if a responsive parenting intervention reduced parents' use of food to soothe. Methods: Primiparous mother-newborn dyads were randomized to a responsive parenting intervention designed for obesity prevention or a safety control group. Responsive parenting curriculum included guidance on using alternative soothing strategies (e.g., swaddling), rather than feeding, as the first response to infant fussiness. After the initial intervention visit 3 weeks after delivery, mothers (n = 157) were surveyed for two 5-8 day bursts at infant ages 3 and 8 weeks. Surveys were sent via text message every 4 h between 10:00 AM-10:00 PM, with 2 surveys sent at 8:00 AM asking about nighttime hours. Infant fusses and feeds were reported for each 4-h interval. Food to soothe was defined as "Fed First" and "Not Fed First" in response to a fussy event. Use of food to soothe was modeled using random-intercept logistic regression. Results: The control group had greater odds of having Fed First, compared to the responsive parenting group at ages 3 and 8 weeks (3 weeks: OR = 1.9; 95% CI = 1.4-2.7; p < 0.01; 8 weeks: OR = 1.4; 95% CI = 1.0-2.1; p = 0.053). More responsive parenting mothers reported using a responsive parenting intervention strategy first, before feeding, than controls at ages 3 and 8 weeks (3 weeks: 58.1% vs. 41.9%; 8 weeks: 57.1% vs. 42.9%, respectively; p < 0.01 for both). At both ages combined, fewer fusses from responsive parenting infants were soothed best by feeding compared to controls (49.5% vs. 61.0%, respectively; p < 0.01). For both study groups combined, parents had greater odds of having Fed First during the nighttime compared to the daytime at both ages (3 weeks: OR = 1.6, 95% CI = 1.4-1.8; p < 0.01; 8 weeks: OR = 2.1; 95% CI = 1.7-2.6; p < 0.01). Conclusions: INSIGHT's responsive parenting intervention reduced use of food to soothe and increased use of alternative soothing strategies in response to infant fussiness. Education on responsive parenting behaviors around fussing and feeding during early infancy has the potential to improve later self-regulation and weight gain trajectory. Trial registration: NCT01167270. Registered July 21, 2010.