Mothers often miss the signs of satiety in their infants, and, thus, overfeed them - this behavior has been blamed for the obesity epidemic that is gripping children today.
In the study involving 96 low-income black and Hispanic mothers, the researchers analysed infant weight gain from birth to 6 months, and looked at the number of feeds per day along with mothers' sensitivity to their infants' satiety cues.
They found that the number of feeds per day at 6 months approached significance in predicting weight gain from 6 to 12 months, and maternal sensitivity to the infants' signals reached predictive significance, but in a negative direction-indicating that mothers who were less sensitive to satiety cues had infants who gained more weight.
"More frequent feedings, particularly with formula, are an easy culprit on which to assign blame," wrote researchers John Worobey, Maria Islas Lopez, and Daniel J. Hoffman.
"But maternal sensitivity to the infant's feeding state, as reflected by the Feeding Scale scores, suggests that an unwillingness to slow the pace of feeding or terminate the feeding when the infant shows satiation cues may be overriding the infant's ability to self-regulate its intake," they added.
"Feeding an infant is a primal behaviour, and to suggest to a new mother that she is feeding her infant too often, too much, or worse yet, is not very good at reading her infant's signals, would require an extremely skilled," they added.
The article appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour.