Excess weight gain in infants: an exploration of the beliefs and behaviours of socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers

Russell, C.G., Taki, S, Azadi, L, Campbell, KJ, Laws, R, Elliott, R, Denney-Wilson, E.
Publication type: 
Conference presentation
Stream 1 Families with young children

Population Health Conference, Hobart

This paper is available here. Please note that the title in the paper is slightly different to the title provided in the conference program (which is the title used here)


Children and infants from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds experience greater rates of overweight and obesity yet are more challenging to reach in health programs. We aimed to explore the precursors of key obesity promoting behaviours in socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers.


We utilised a qualitative study design employing one–on–one semi-structured telephone interviews. The interview guide was developed around the Michie et al (2011) Capability Opportunity Motivation Behaviour framework and applied to parental feeding behaviours associated with infant weight gain: initiating and prolonging breastfeeding, best practice formula feeding, introducing healthy first foods, delaying the introduction of solid foods and feeding to appetite. Two researchers independently undertook thematic analysis.


Interviews (n = 29) were conducted with socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers of infants aged 2 – 11 months. Opportunity (e.g. advice, support, social norms), Capability (e.g. knowledge, confidence) and Motivation (e.g. plans, desires, beliefs about consequences, emotions) were all important determinants of feeding behaviours yet they differed in their relative importance across the target behaviours. For instance delaying the introduction of solid foods was affected by Motivation (e.g. beliefs about the consequences, desire to do what was best for the baby) whereas initiating breastfeeding was affected by Capability (e.g. physically being able to breastfeed well, mental toughness) as well as Opportunity (e.g. advice and support).


Obesity prevention interventions targeting infant feeding behaviours may benefit from tailoring behaviour change strategies to the unique determinants of the various feeding behaviours.