Associations Between Feeding Problems and Maternal Sensitivity Across Infancy: Differences in Very Preterm and Full-Term Infants

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To determine the influence of maternal sensitivity on infant feeding problems in very preterm/very low birth weight (VP/VLBW) and full-term (FT) infants.


Longitudinal study of 178 infants (73 VP/VLBW and 105 FT). Feeding problems and maternal sensitivity were assessed at term, 3 and 18 months. A cross-lagged path model was tested to assess the longitudinal associations.


The direction of the association between maternal sensitivity and feeding problems differed among VP/VLBW and FT infants. In VP/VLBW infants, higher feeding problems at term and 3 months were associated with less maternal sensitivity at 3 months (β = −.27, p < .05) and at 18 months (β = −.36, p < .05), respectively. In FT infants, a reciprocal relationship of feeding problems and maternal sensitivity over time was found. Feeding problems at 3 months were associated with decreased maternal sensitivity at 18 months (β = −.32, p < .05), whereas decreased maternal sensitivity at 3 months was related to increased feeding problems at 18 months (β = −.25, p < .05).


Feeding problems are frequent in VP/VLBW infants and subsequently are associated with poorer maternal sensitivity. In FT infants, poorer levels of maternal sensitivity were both predicted by feeding problems but also were associated with more feeding problems over time.

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