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Associations Between Feeding Problems and Maternal Sensitivity Across Infancy: Differences in Very Preterm and Full-Term Infants

Bilgin, Ayten PhD*; Wolke, Dieter PhD, Dr rer nat h.c.*,†

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: September 2017 - Volume 38 - Issue 7 - p 538–544
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000466
Original Articles

Objective: To determine the influence of maternal sensitivity on infant feeding problems in very preterm/very low birth weight (VP/VLBW) and full-term (FT) infants.

Methods: Longitudinal study of 178 infants (73 VP/VLBW and 105 FT). Feeding problems and maternal sensitivity were assessed at term, 3 and 18 months. A cross-lagged path model was tested to assess the longitudinal associations.

Results: The direction of the association between maternal sensitivity and feeding problems differed among VP/VLBW and FT infants. In VP/VLBW infants, higher feeding problems at term and 3 months were associated with less maternal sensitivity at 3 months (β = −.27, p < .05) and at 18 months (β = −.36, p < .05), respectively. In FT infants, a reciprocal relationship of feeding problems and maternal sensitivity over time was found. Feeding problems at 3 months were associated with decreased maternal sensitivity at 18 months (β = −.32, p < .05), whereas decreased maternal sensitivity at 3 months was related to increased feeding problems at 18 months (β = −.25, p < .05).

Conclusion: Feeding problems are frequent in VP/VLBW infants and subsequently are associated with poorer maternal sensitivity. In FT infants, poorer levels of maternal sensitivity were both predicted by feeding problems but also were associated with more feeding problems over time.

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*Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom;

Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom.

Address for reprints: Dieter Wolke, PhD, Dr rer nat h.c., Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom; e-mail:

Ayten Bilgin is supported by a PhD scholarship from the Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Education. Ayten Bilgin and Dieter Wolke have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Received October , 2016

Accepted May , 2017

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