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Child Care Health Dev. 2012 Sep;38(5):675-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2011.01283.x. Epub 2011 Jul 13.

Developing a programme for healthy growth and nutrition during infancy: understanding user perspectives.

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MRC Epidemiology Unit, UKCRC Centre of Excellence in Diet and Activity Research, Cambridge, UK.



Avoiding excess energy intake and rapid weight gain during infancy may be effective in preventing childhood obesity. We developed a programme for healthy growth and nutrition in formula milk-fed babies. The aim of this study was to understand users' perspectives about the programme and planned trial.


We conducted three focus group discussions (10 mothers) and nine individual interviews (seven health visitors, one midwife and one mother) discussing the programme materials and trial protocol. All sessions were transcribed verbatim and a thematic analysis was performed using the framework approach.


Mothers reported receiving conflicting messages about infant feeding and were keen for consistent advice. They welcomed the support that the programme would offer to mothers who gave their babies formula milk, but some were sceptical about the feasibility of limiting formula milk quantities. They suggested that recommended quantities should be presented as general guidelines rather than rigid rules. Some mothers said that it was too early to intervene to prevent obesity, that babies could not be overfed and that the risks of formula milk feeding had been exaggerated. Because of the routine advice to feed on demand, babies were fed in response to crying, and crying was equated with 'hunger'. Some mothers said that growth was genetically determined so they ignored the growth charts. Health visitors used the growth charts to assess adequate weight gain rather than to identify excess weight gain. Health visitors said that mothers would need a lot of education and support to limit formula milk quantities.


Efforts to prevent childhood obesity by avoiding excess weight gain during infancy have to address mothers' beliefs that babies cannot be overfed, that crying always signals hunger and that growth is determined by genes rather than nutrition. Mothers and healthcare providers have different motivations and understanding these are important in the development of any intervention.

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