Obese Mothers More Likely To Rely On TV To Soothe Babies
January 9, 2013

Obese Mothers More Likely To Use The Television To Soothe Fussy Babies

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

A new study from the University of North Carolina (UNC) reveals that fussy infants are more likely to spend a greater amount of time in front of the television to help soothe and entertain them.

The study focused on mothers, particularly those who were obese, and their parenting of babies that were fussier or more active. The researchers believe that the results of the study could better help them understand the increasing number of obese children and the lack of physical activity for them. The study is also helpful in pinpointing ways that clinicians and policymakers can help mothers change their parenting habits.

Featured in a recent edition of the journal Pediatrics, the project focused on how mother and child behaviors could possibly be connected.

“In the past, studies have focused on maternal factors for obesity and TV watching, but this is the first time anyone has looked at infant factors and the interaction between maternal and infant characteristics in shaping TV behavior across infancy,” explained the study´s first author Amanda Thompson, an assistant professor and biological anthropologist at the College of Arts and Science at UNC, in a prepared statement.

The project is considered the first to look at the relationship of maternal and infant risk factors in terms of leading to more TV watching for children. The team of investigators observed 217 first-time black mothers who were of low income status. These females had their children in North Carolina and were included in a study that determined the obesity risk in infants over a five-year period. The scientists measured TV exposure, infant temperature data, and sociodemographics data at three, six, nine, 12, and 18 months. During that time, the researchers recorded the number of times the television was on, found out whether the television was placed in the baby´s room, and tracked down whether there was a television turned on with meals. They also interviewed the mothers to better understand the child´s activity level, fussiness, and general mood.

Based on the findings, the scientists discovered that mothers who were obese tended to watch much more television and, when their child was fussy, they were more likely to place their infant in front of the television. At the 12-month mark, almost 40 percent of the babies had exposure to over three hours of television on a daily basis; this time took up one-third of the hours that they were awake. For mothers who did not have a high school diploma, active children were more likely to be fed in front of the television.

“Feeding infants in front of the TV can limit a mom´s responsiveness in terms of examining infant cues, such as when an infant is telling mom he is no longer hungry,” noted the study´s principal investigator Margaret Bentley, an associate dean of global health and a professor of nutrition at UNC, in the statement. “This work has helped us design intervention strategies that will help teach moms how to soothe their babies, without overfeeding them or putting them in front of a TV.”

The researchers plan to continue to study this topic, with Bentley conducting a project on home-based parenting strategic for infants to better understand factors necessary for healthy development and growth.