Comparison of early feeding practices in mother– father dyads and possible generalisation of an efficacious maternal intervention to fathers’ feeding practices: a secondary analysis Academic Article uri icon


  • To compare feeding practices within mother–father dyads and explore whether outcomes of an efficacious intervention for mothers generalised to fathers’ feeding practices. The NOURISH RCT evaluated an early feeding intervention that promoted positive feeding practices to support development of healthy eating habits and growth. The intervention was delivered to first-time mothers via 2 × 12 week modules commencing when children were 4 and 14 months. Mothers self-reported feeding practice outcomes at child age 2 years using validated scales (1 = low to 5 = high) from the Child Feeding Questionnaire (CFQ). Nine months later, an independent cross-sectional descriptive study to investigate fathers’ feeding practices was initiated. Fathers were recruited by contacting (via letter) mothers participating in two pre-existing studies, including the NOURISH trial. Fathers completed a feeding practices questionnaire, similar to that used for NOURISH outcome assessments. Seventy-five fathers recruited via the NOURISH cohort (21% response) returned questionnaires. Response data from this subset of fathers were then linked to the corresponding NOURISH maternal data. Complete data were available from 70 dyads. Compared with mothers, fathers self-reported higher concern about child overweight (2.2 vs. 1.3), restriction (3.6 vs. 2.9) and pressure (2.6 vs. 2.1), all p < 0.001. Fathers whose partners were allocated to the intervention group used less pressure (mean difference 0.46, p = 0.045) and were more willing to let the child decide how much to eat (−0.51, p = 0.032). Fathers’ higher concern about child weight and more frequent use of non-responsive feeding practices, when compared with mothers, identify them as potentially potent contributors to child feeding. This preliminary evidence for modest generalisation of an efficacious maternal intervention to apparent effects on some paternal feeding practices speaks to the importance and promise of including fathers in early feeding interventions.

publication date

  • 2020