Expectant mothers can help prevent childhood obesity early by adopting healthy screentime habits even before the child is born.
That’s the overriding conclusion of a new study presented this week at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Vancouver, where researchers said that women who ate in front of the TV during meal times while they were pregnant were five times more likely to expose their infants to TV during feeding times than their counterparts.
"Reinforcing healthy media habits during pregnancy may help reduce infants' mealtime media exposure and impact long-term media habits in children," said lead author Mary Jo Messito.
For their study, researchers analysed data from an early childhood obesity prevention programme conducted for low-income Hispanic families at Bellevue Hospital Center/NYU School of Medicine in New York.
Mothers were followed until the babies were three years old. During their third trimester, 71% of the 189 participants reported watching TV during “some” meal times (compared to options like “never", "often" and "always”) while 33% of mothers said their three-month-olds were also exposed to TV during feedings.
"Identifying specific maternal behaviours and characteristics associated with child TV viewing during meals will help early childhood obesity prevention efforts seeking to promote responsive feeding and limit TV exposure during infancy."
The latest research builds on a body of work that has shown a link between increased screen time, poor eating habits and obesity.
Likewise, a major study that looked at 41,133 women in Arkansas found that those who gained excessive weight during pregnancy also predisposed their babies to childhood obesity. The research was published in PLoS last October. – AFP/Relaxnews, May 9, 2014.