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

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

Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society Annual Scientific Meeting

This presentation is available here.


Children and infants from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds experience greater rates of overweight and obesity yet are more challenging to reach in health programs. In young children, parents are key to developing and maintaining healthy eating and feeding behaviours.  In this resaerch, we explored the precursors of key obesity promoting behaviours in socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers.


This study used a qualitative design employing one–on–one semi-structured telephone interviews. The interview guide was developed around the Michie et al (2011) Capability Opportunity Motivation Behaviour (COM-B) 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. Interviews were conducted by two members of the team, and 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.