Food insecurity and obesogenic maternal infant feeding styles and practices in low-income families

Rachel S. Gross, Alan L. Mendelsohn, Arthur H. Fierman, Andrew D. Racine, Mary Jo Messito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: We explored the relationship between household food insecurity and maternal feeding styles, infant feeding practices, and perceptions and attitudes about infant weight in low-income mothers. METHODS: Mothers participating in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children with infants aged between 2 weeks and 6 months were interviewed. By using regression analyses, the following relationships were examined between food insecurity and: (1) controlling feeding styles (restrictive and pressuring); (2) infant feeding practices, including breastfeeding, juice consumption, and adding cereal to the bottle; and (3) perceptions and attitudes about infant weight. Path analysis was used to determine if perceptions and attitudes about infant weight mediated the relationships between food insecurity and controlling feeding styles. RESULTS: The sample included 201 mother-infant pairs, with 35% reporting household food insecurity. Food-insecure mothers were more likely to exhibit restrictive (B [SE]: 0.18 [0.08]; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.02-0.34) and pressuring (B [SE]: 0.11 [0.06]; 95% CI: 0.001-0.22) feeding styles compared with food-secure mothers. No associations were found with feeding practices. Concern for their infant becoming overweight in the future was associated with food insecurity (adjusted odds ratio: 2.11 [95% CI: 1.02-4.38]). This concern mediated the relationship between food insecurity and both restrictive (P = .009) and pressuring (P = .01) feeding styles. CONCLUSIONS: Increased concern about future overweight and controlling feeding styles represent potential mechanisms by which food insecurity could be related to obesity. Obesity prevention should aim to decrease food insecurity and to reduce controlling feeding styles in families who remain food insecure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-261
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Feeding
  • Food insecurity
  • Hispanic
  • Infant
  • Pressure to eat
  • Restriction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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