Mother knows best? Feeding styles and child obesity

Your role as an advocate

Nothing we’ve said here offers a “quick fix” for the problem of overweight in children. What we have done is to raise points for discussion with mothers who often don’t recognize their child’s overweight. The pediatrician’s goal in raising these topics may not be to change a mother’s mind; most parents have strong opinions about the way they feed their children, and are steadfast to change.

Rather, what the pediatrician can do is encourage mothers to think about feeding her child in ways she may not have considered before. The non-confrontational “sometimes” statements (“sometimes mothers say…” or “sometimes parents feel…”) suggested as conversation starters throughout this article allow parents a variety of ways to think about a problem, and perhaps reconsider their original view. Indeed, the questions highlighted throughout this article encourage Mom (and Dad) to reflect on their parenting styles and beliefs, and come to their own conclusions about what works and what doesn’t.


1. Faith MS, Berkowitz RI, Stallings VA, et al: Parental feeding attitudes and styles and child body mass index: prospective analysis of gene-environment interaction. Pediatrics 2004;114:e429

2. Birch LL, Fisher JO, Davison KK: Learning to overeat: maternal use of restrictive feeding practices promotes girls’ eating in the absence of hunger. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:215

3. Spruijt-Metz D, Lindquist CH, Birch LL, et al: Relation between mothers’ child-feeding practices and children’s adiposity. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:581

Publish date: Jan 1, 2008
By: Julie C. Lumeng, MD

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