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MSU researcher receives $1.5 million grant for childhood obesity intervention study

EAST LANSING, Mich. Healthy infant feeding can help stem the staggering rise in childhood obesity, according to a Michigan State University nursing professor who will use a $1.5 million federal grant to start a new three-year infant feeding program.

Mildred Horodynski of MSU's College of Nursing will work with mothers of infants from birth to 4 months old to promote appropriate and responsible feeding style and practices, known as infant-centered feeding.

Her three-year project, "Healthy Babies Through Infant-Centered Feeding," takes place in Michigan and Colorado. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"One of the key factors contributing to childhood obesity is poor feeding practices during infancy," she said. "Because mothers are primarily responsible for infant feeding and have profound influences on growth patterns, they need support in learning how to appropriately feed their infants."

More than 10 million U.S. children are overweight, according to federal health figures, leading to $117 billion in annual health-related costs. Many mothers, particularly those in low-income families, struggle when feeding infants by misinterpreting hunger and fullness cues, often pressuring infants to finish everything on their plates during feeding times and introducing solid foods and sweetened beverages too early.

"Our earlier research shows that while many mothers have some knowledge about infant nutrition, they continue to rely on inappropriate indicators of satiation, such as sleeping through the night and advice of extended family members," she said.

Focusing on early and effective interventions can promote healthy eating habits in infancy and defray a large amount of health care costs related to later problems such as diabetes and hypertension, Horodynski added.

As part of the project, mothers over a six-week period will receive six healthy feeding lessons by trained paraprofessionals, focusing on appropriate feeding practices. The lessons address maternal responsiveness, feeding styles and feeding practices as infants transition to solid food. Data then will be collected three times at the beginning of the study, when the infant is 6 months old and at 12 months and compared against mothers in a control group.

"We expect study participants will demonstrate improved responsiveness to infant feeding cues, such as waiting until the infant is 4 to 6 months old to begin introducing solid foods, feeding styles, such as letting the baby decide how much to eat, and feeding practices, such as providing appropriate portion sizes," Horodynski said.

"The long-term goal is to identify an intervention that can be translated state-wide and beyond to improving the nation's nutrition and health by promoting the development of healthy eating habits at an early age."


Contact: Jason Cody
Michigan State University

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MSU researcher receives $1.5 million grant for childhood obesity intervention study
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