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College of Science and Mathematics

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Cal Poly Study Finds Mothers Distracted During Breast and Bottle Feeding

Alison VenturaMothers are distracted nearly half the time they’re breast or bottle feeding their infants, according to a study by Cal Poly kinesiology Professor Alison Ventura published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 

More than one in four mothers reported distractions from electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets and televisions.

At a time when attention is at a premium due to the technological advances, Ventura and her research team are interested in understanding the effects that distraction during feeding has on infants. Determining how often distraction occurs is just the start.

“Virtually no studies have been done to assess the prevalence of distracted feeding, so I felt it was important to get a sense of how often this was happening,” Ventura said. “Documenting how often it happens is an important first step toward understanding whether or not distracted feeding impacts the quality of feeding interactions in the short term and infant socioemotional development in the long term.”

For this study, 75 mothers who were already participating in infant-feeding studies were asked to keep a diary of feeding patterns for one to six days. Mothers also completed a questionnaire on infant behavior, mothers’ engagement, and mothers’ perception of infants’ eating.

Mothers with more than one child or an infant with a larger appetite were distracted more often. Other factors associated with lapses in attention were mothers’ racial or ethnic demographic, feeding style, younger infant age, and infants’ appetite and response to food.

“Further research is needed to better understand why distracted feeding might be associated with these characteristics and what impact, if any, distracted feeding has on feeding outcomes,” Ventura said.

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