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Feeding Patterns and Emotional Care in Breastfed Infants


A number of studies have suggested breastfed infants have improved bonding and attachment or cognitive development outcomes. However, mechanisms by which these differences might develop are poorly understood. We used maternal time use data to examine whether exclusively breastfeeding mothers spend more time in close interactive behaviors with their infants than mothers who have commenced or completed weaning. Mothers (188) participating in a time use survey recorded infant feeding activities for 24 h over a 7 day period using an electronic device. Tracking was conducted at 3, 6, and 9 months postpartum. Data was collected for maternal activities including infant feeding and time spent in emotional care. The mothers of exclusively breastfed infants aged 3–6 months fed them frequently and total time spent in breastfeeding averaged around 17 h a week. Maternal time spent in emotional care was also substantial, and found to correlate positively with time spent breastfeeding. Exclusively breastfed infants received greatest amounts of emotional care from their mother, and exclusively formula fed infants the least. Mixed fed infants received more emotional care time than formula fed infants, but less than fully breastfed infants. These findings may help explain the differential cognitive developmental outcomes reported in the medical literature for breastfed and non breastfed infants.

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Correspondence to Julie P. Smith.

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Smith, J.P., Ellwood, M. Feeding Patterns and Emotional Care in Breastfed Infants. Soc Indic Res 101, 227–231 (2011).

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  • Infant development
  • Time use, parent–infant interaction
  • Cognitive development
  • Attachment
  • Emotional care
  • Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, infant feeding