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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Intervention for First-Time Moms and Their Infants Improves Child Weight

Newborn baby with mother

An intervention designed to help first-time mothers respond to their infant's cues significantly improved the body mass index.

Photo: NiDerLander/iStock

An intervention designed to help first-time mothers effectively respond to their infant’s cues for hunger, sleep, feeding and other infant behaviors significantly improved the body mass index (BMI) z-scores of the child through age 3 years compared with the control group.

Results of the study, called Intervention Nurses Start Infants Growing on Healthy Trajectories (INSIGHT), were published Aug. 7 online in JAMA.

Funded by NIDDK, INSIGHT randomly assigned first-time mothers and their infants into two groups to determine if an intervention in “responsive parenting” delivered during infancy and early childhood promoted healthy weight gain leading to improved BMI z-scores through age 3 compared to a control group who did not receive the responsive parenting intervention. The 279 mothers who participated were an average of 28 years old, mostly white, married, well-educated and privately insured, although INSIGHT researchers aimed for a racially and economically diverse study population. Overall, retention over 3 years was 83 percent.

First-time mothers assigned to the “responsive parenting” group were educated on how to respond to their infant’s needs across four behaviors: feeding, sleep, interactive play and emotional regulation. Responsive parenting encourages parents to interact with their child in a way that is appropriate for their age and meets the child’s needs. This group also learned such strategies as how to put infants to bed drowsy, but awake and avoid feeding infants to sleep; anticipate and respond to infants waking up at night; when to introduce solid foods; how to use growth charts; and how to limit sedentary time.

The control group received a home safety intervention. Both groups received 4 home visits from a research nurse during infancy, followed by annual research center visits at 1, 2 and 3 years old.

“Educating first-time mothers about responsive parenting practices can promote healthy weight gain,” said Dr. Voula Osganian, director of NIDDK’s pediatric clinical obesity program. “By helping parents to understand how to respond to their infant’s cues when drowsy, sleeping, fussy and alert, we can help them to instill healthy behaviors in the child during a critical period of development.”

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