Eating and Activity Behaviors of New Mothers: Baseline Findings from ReadNPlay for a Bright Future

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The family, being the first immediate surroundings of children, plays an important part in forming children's’ habits. The presence of at least one overweight parent triples the likelihood that a child will be overweight. Parents influence a child’s weight by modelling healthy behaviour and controlling food availability, feeding practices, and physical activity opportunities. For instance, higher parental TV viewing is associated with an increased risk of high levels of TV viewing for children, which in turn is positively correlated with adiposity. Women who live in rural areas and mothers in particular may be less likely to be physically active compared with other women. The current study uses data from ReadNPlay for a Bright Future, a primary care initiative with community linkages promoting healthy active living in families with young children being piloted in Appalachian Northeast Tennessee. Clinical counselling is being centred around novel tools provided to parents and discussed during each well child visit from birth through 18 months, the ReadNPlay Baby Book and Healthy Active Living Tips booklet. Provider training in brief motivational interviewing and behavioural counselling, use of social media, project posters placed in community settings, and participation incentives (e.g., free children’s books) are being used to promote healthy active living behaviours. The purpose of the current research is to describe baseline maternal reports of TV/screen time, fruit, vegetable, and sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) intake, and exercise and perceived barriers to exercise for this project. Forty mothers with infants aged 9-12 months (younger) and forty mothers with infants aged 13-24 months (older) attending well child visits at a paediatric clinic in Northeast Tennessee completed anonymous surveys. The participants of the study were primarily Caucasian families of lower socio-economic status, with 71% of participants receiving WIC. Over 80% of mothers of both younger and older infants reported that they wished that they could get more exercise. The most significant barriers to getting exercise in both samples were 1) Not having enough time to exercise and 2) The mother would rather spend the time with the child(ren) than exercise. The mean consumption of servings of fruit &/or vegetables was 3 servings per day for both samples; the previously reported average among US women is 3.5 servings per day. The mean consumption of SSB was 18 oz per day for mothers of younger babies & 22 oz per day for mothers of the older babies, amounting to approximately 250 calories per day, greater than the American Heart Association’s recommendation of a maximum daily intake of added sugars of 100 calories per day for women. This research adds to limited data on healthy active living behaviours of new mothers. Future work will examine how data may be used to drive and track improvements in counselling to promote healthy active living in new mothers and families with young children.


Johnson City, TN

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