This study investigated whether infants’ temperament at 18 months is associated with the feeding of foods and drinks that may increase the risk for later obesity.
This was a cross-sectional study of mothers and infants (N = 40,266) participating in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Data were collected by questionnaire. Predictor variables were: infants’ temperament at 18 months (internalizing, externalizing, and surgency/extraversion), and mothers’ negative affectivity. Outcomes variables were feeding of sweet foods, sweet drinks, and night-time caloric drinks at 18 months (all dichotomized). Confounders were child’s gender, weight-for-height at 18 months, breastfeeding, and mother’s level of education.
After controlling for confounders, infant temperament dimensions at 18 months were significantly associated with mothers’ feeding of potentially obesogenic foods and drinks independent of mothers’ negative affectivity. Infants who were more internalizing were more likely to be given sweet foods (OR 1.47, CI 1.32–1.65), sweet drinks (OR 1.76, CI 1.56–1.98), and drinks at night (OR 2.91, CI 2.54–3.33); infants who were more externalizing were more likely to be given sweet food (OR 1.53, CI 1.40–1.67) and sweet drinks (OR 1.22, CI 1.11–1.34); and infants who were more surgent were more likely to be given drinks at night (OR1.66, CI 1.42–1.92).
The association between infant temperament and maternal feeding patterns suggests early mechanisms for later obesity that should be investigated in future studies.