More TV time for fussy babies

UNC-CHAPEL HILL (US) — Cranky babies spend more time in front of the TV, particularly if their mothers are obese, a study finds.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study is the first to examine the interplay of maternal and infant risk factors that lead to TV watching in infants.

“In the past, studies have focused on maternal factors for obesity and TV watching, but this is the first time anyone has looked at infant factors and the interaction between maternal and infant characteristics in shaping TV behavior across infancy,” says Amanda L. Thompson, biological anthropologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and first author of the study. “And that’s important, because mom and infant behaviors are inextricably linked.”


Bentley’s team looked at 217 first-time, low-income black mothers and babies from central North Carolina who were part of a five-year study of obesity risk in infants.

The researchers followed the mothers and babies in their homes at 3, 6, 9 12 and 18 months of age, looking at TV exposure, sociodemographic, and infant temperament data.

They asked how often the TV was on, if a TV was in the baby’s bedroom, and whether the TV was on during meal times. Researchers also interviewed the mothers about how they perceived their children’s mood, activity levels, and fussiness.

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. By 12 months, nearly 40 percent of the infants were exposed to more than 3 hours of TV daily—a third of their waking hours.

Households where infants were perceived as active and whose mothers did not have a high school diploma were more likely to feed their infants in front of the TV.

“Feeding infants in front of the TV can limit a mom’s responsiveness in terms of examining infant cues, such as when an infant is telling mom he is no longer hungry,” says nutritionist Margaret Bentley, principal investigator and a professor of nutrition in UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

“This work has helped us design intervention strategies that will help teach moms how to soothe their babies, without overfeeding them or putting them in front of a TV.”

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Source: UNC-Chapel Hill