Background

The objective of this cross-sectional study was to describe the extent to which mothers are distracted by technology during mother-infant interactions and to explore associations between maternal distraction, maternal feeding practices and styles, infant eating behaviors, and infant weight gain.

Methods

Mothers (n = 332) of healthy, term infants between 2 to 6 months of age were recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk, a crowd-sourcing platform, to participate in an online survey. Participants were asked to answer a series of questionnaires that assessed technological distraction during infant feeding and care interactions, family demographics, feeding practices and styles, perceptions of infant eating behaviors, and infant weight gain.

Results

Breastfeeding mothers reported significant greater levels of technological distraction than formula-feeding mothers (p = .03). Greater technological distraction was associated with greater use of food to soothe (β =.18, p = .0013), greater adherence to laissez faire (β = .42, p < .0001) and pressuring (β = .22, p < .0001) feeding styles, and lower adherence to a responsive feeding style (β = -.11, p = .324). With respect to mothers’ perceptions of infant eating behaviors, greater technological distraction was associated with greater perceived infant enjoyment of food (β = -.13, p = .0214), food responsiveness (β = .31, p < .0001), satiety responsiveness (β = .17, p = .0027), and appetite (β = .22, p < .0001). Maternal distraction was associated with greater weight-for-length z-score change from birth to study participation for formula-fed, but not breast-fed, infants.

Conclusions

This study highlights novel associations between maternal distraction and early feeding and weight outcomes, but more research is needed to better understand the mechanisms and long-term consequences of these associations.