University of North Carolina researchers found that many of these “obesogenic” behaviors were highly prevalent among all of the parents, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
Black parents were more likely to put children to bed with a bottle and report TV watching, while Hispanic parents were more likely to encourage children to finish feeding and to report less “tummy time” — when a baby lays on her belly to play while a parent supervises.
“These results from a large population of infants — especially the high rates of television watching — teach us that we must begin obesity prevention even earlier, ” said pediatrician Eliana M. Perrin, M.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study.
The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The study included a large, diverse sample of 863 low-income parents participating in Greenlight, an obesity prevention trial taking place at four medical centers: University of North Carolina, New York University, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Miami.
Fifty percent of the parents were Hispanic, 27 percent were black, and 18 percent were white. Most of the parents in the sample (86 percent) were on Medicaid.
Among all of the parents, behaviors that are thought related to later obesity were highly prevalent. For example, exclusive formula feeding was more than twice as common (45 percent) as exclusive breastfeeding (19 percent).
Twelve percent had already introduced solid food, 43 percent put infants to bed with bottles, 23 percent propped bottles instead of holding the bottle by hand (which can result in overfeeding), 20 percent always fed when the infant cried, and 38 percent always tried to get their children to finish their milk.
In addition, 90 percent of the infants were exposed to television and 50 percent actively watched TV (meaning parents put their children in front of the television in order to watch).
“What this study taught us is that we can do better. While we don’t know the exact causes of obesity, families of all races and ethnicities need early counseling to lead healthier lives,” said Perrin.
Researchers emphasize that parental counseling should be culturally tailored with suggestions and recommendations consistent with ethnic and racial child-rearing practices.
Source: University of North Carolina