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Background: Approximately 10% of infants and toddlers in the U.S. are already overweight. One modifiable factor that may impact weight is physical activity (PA). Historically, society has thought that infants (0-1 year of age) are “active enough” and not in need of efforts to promote PA to expend energy. However, increases in technology have led to less PA in children of all ages. There is a vital need to improve knowledge about factors that may impact the promotion of PA to infants. Since parents are the primary caregivers for infants, their beliefs about weight and PA may influence the amount of time infants are given to be active or time spent in restrictive devices.

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to explore parents’ perceptions of: 1) the weight status of their infant and 2) promoting PA to their infant.

Methods: Parents who participated in a pilot study examining the relationship between infant PA and postural control in normal weight and overweight infants took part in a semi-structured interview (n=25). Interview questions explored parents perceptions of their child's weight as well as knowledge and beliefs of promoting PA. Data were analyzed by two trained researchers using the process of immersion/crystallization.

Results: Overall, all parents felt their child was a healthy size and many thought infants could be overweight due to overfeeding and/or formula. Over half of mothers had heard comments from others about the large size of their infant and most thought these comments were positive. A majority of mothers thought infants could be physically active and described PA in terms of general mobility. When discussing how they planned to promote PA to their child as they grow, parents discussed promoting outdoor activities, sports, and general play. Conclusion: Results provide preliminary evidence that parents do not believe their infants can be overweight but may be aware of how to promote PA in early childhood. Additional research is needed to see if similar results are found with parents who are not currently active and who primarily formula-feed their child.


SBM 2016