MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Many babies spend almost three hours in front of the TV each day, a new study finds, especially if their mothers are obese and TV addicts themselves, or if the babies are fussy or active.
"Mothers are using television as a way to soothe these infants who might be a little bit more difficult to deal with," said senior study author Amanda Thompson, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill.
Other studies have shown that TV watching at such an early age can be harmful, she said, adding that TV can delay important developmental milestones.
The report was published online Jan. 7 and in the February print issue of the journal Pediatrics.
For the study, Thompson's team looked at more than 200 pairs of low-income black mothers and babies who took part in a study on obesity risk in infants, for which families were observed in their homes.
Researchers found infants as young as 3 months were parked in front of the TV for almost three hours a day. And 40 percent of infants were exposed to TV at least three hours a day by the time they were 1 year old.
Mothers who were obese, who watched a lot of TV and whose child was fussy were most likely to put their infants in front of the TV, Thompson's group found. TV viewing continued through mealtime for many infants, the researchers found. Mothers with more education were less likely to keep the TV on during meals.
Obese mothers are more likely to be inactive or suffer from depression, Thompson said. "They are more likely to use the television themselves, so their infants are exposed to more television as well," she said.
Thompson is currently doing a study to see if play and other alternatives can help these moms get their babies away from the television.
Another expert said the study sheds more light on the issue of TV
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