Development and evaluation of interventions in infant feeding

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Infancy is a period of rapid growth and weight gain and obesity prevention during this period may be effective. Nutrition and growth during infancy may also have long term effects by altering eating behaviours and risks of obesity and obesity-related disorders in later life.

Researchers have been working with mothers and healthcare professionals to develop a feeding programme which aims to avoid excess weight gain in formula-milk fed babies. Our research and other studies show that parents who give their babies formula-milk as part of their everyday diet need more information and support. The programme we have developed aims to support parents who formula-milk feed their baby in order to achieve a healthy pattern of growth and weight gain.

The results of the study will help to inform infant feeding guidelines in the UK and will also help us understand the links between infant feeding, behaviour, appetite and growth.

Programme lead: Dr Rajalakshmi Lakshman

Programme studies

Programme publications

Scientific summary

The aim of this research programme is to develop and evaluate early-life interventions to prevent childhood obesity. A key foundation of this programme is the Baby Milk Trial. This evaluates a multi-component, theory-based behavioural intervention to reduce formula-milk intake, promote protective feeding practices and avoid excess weight gain in infancy.

A comprehensive range of maternal and child behavioural, growth and nutritional data across 4 time points from birth to one year are being collected. In addition to quantifying the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the intervention, prospective follow-up of this trial cohort will provide a greater understanding of the role of infant nutrition in programming long-term health. The Baby Milk intervention was developed using the 2008 MRC Framework for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions.

Previously we conducted systematic reviews of determinants of non-recommended infant feeding practices (early weaning and early introduction of cow’s milk) (Wijndaele JADA 2009) and mothers’ experiences of formula milk feeding (Lakshman ADC 2009). We have developed and validated a questionnaire to assess maternal attitudes to infant feeding and growth (Lakshman IJBNPA 2011.)

In collaboration with Prof Summerbell (Fuse), we are undertaking a suite of systematic reviews on determinants/correlates of obesity-related dietary and physical activity behaviours in preschool children to inform intervention development in this age group (NIHR SPHR funded.) We have also collaborated internationally (Karolinska Institute, Linkoping University and Huazhong University) to pool and harmonise datasets enabling the influence of maternal education on growth of 4-5 year old children in different settings.