WIC mothers' depressive symptoms are associated with greater use of feeding to soothe, regardless of perceived child negativity

Jennifer S. Savage, Leann L. Birch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Maternal symptoms of depression are related to suboptimal parenting practices and child well-being; women with elevated symptoms tend to be less responsive to their children. Objective: The objective is to explore how maternal depressive symptomatology is related to childhood obesity-promoting parenting behaviours, and whether depressive symptomatology moderates the association between perceived child negativity and the use of food to soothe among low-income mothers. Methods: There is a cross-sectional sample of 60 mothers and their formula fed infants/toddlers participating in the Special Supplemental Woman, Infants and Children Program. Measures included the Infant Behaviors Questionnaire, Baby's Basic Needs Questionnaire, the feeding problem assessment form and Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Results: Depressive symptoms exceeded the clinical screening cut-off for 38% of women. Mothers with depressive symptoms perceived their child to be more negative and were more likely to use food to soothe, add cereal to the bottle and put baby to bed with bottle than mothers without depressive symptoms. Generalized linear models revealed that child negativity was associated with greater use of food to soothe but that this effect was moderated by maternal depression: negativity was positively associated with food to soothe among non-depressed but not depressed mothers. Conclusions: A high proportion of low-income mothers reported elevated depressive symptoms; depressive symptomatology was positively associated with perceived child negativity and greater reported use of controlling feeding practices. Screening for maternal depressive symptoms may help in providing more individually tailored counselling on responsive feeding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-162
Number of pages8
JournalPediatric Obesity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Health Policy
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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