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Infant Feeding Practices of Young Mothers

Karp, Sharon M. PhD, RN, CPNP; Lutenbacher, Melanie PhD, APRN, FAAN

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: March-April 2011 - Volume 36 - Issue 2 - p 98–103
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0b013e31820558bf
Feature Article

Purpose To specifically examine infant feeding practices in a sample of young mothers.

Study Design and Methods A cross-sectional, descriptive/exploratory design with author-developed measures was used to assess maternal demographics, and knowledge of and practices related to infant (6–12 months of age) feeding.

Results Numerous inappropriate feeding practices were identified in this sample of predominately low-income, African American young mothers (n = 67). More than half (52%) of the mothers had a BMI ≥ 25, with 27% having a BMI ≥ 30. Most mothers attempted to breastfeed (53%), but only 25% breastfed beyond 6 months. Inappropriate food choices for infants (such as french fries), practices such as putting cereal in their babies' bottles (82%), and starting solid foods before 6 months of age (64%) were reported. In this study, a shift from a balanced diet including adequate fruits and vegetables toward less nutrient-dense foods occurred when infants were approximately 7 to 9 months of age.

Clinical Implications Most mothers in this study were overweight themselves, and had initiated less than optimal feeding practices in their young children. Given the identified relationship between a mother's diet and her infant's diet over time, it is clear that nurses should consider developing interventions to both promote early healthy infant feeding practices and assist young mothers to improve their nutrition simultaneously. Nurses can also target grandmothers and other family members who provide infant care in attempting to improve family nutrition.

Young mothers in this study were found to be feeding their infants inappropriate foods such as French fries and cereal in bottles.

Sharon M. Karp is an Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University, Schools of Nursing and Medicine (Pediatrics). She can be reached via e-mail at

Melanie Lutenbacher is an Associate Professor, Vanderbilt University, Schools of Nursing and Medicine (Pediatrics).

This research was funded by a grant from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Iota Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International.

The authors have disclosed that there are no financial relationships related to this article.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.