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Mothers' recall of early childhood feeding guidance from health care providers is inconsistent

Philadelphia | November 4, 2022

New study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior shows mothers are least likely to recall being told to limit meals in front of electronic devices

Health care providers (HCPs) usually conduct 14 wellness visits with children before the age of five and are often a trusted source of information for mothers. A research articleopens in new tab/window featured in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavioropens in new tab/window, published by Elsevier, discusses mothers' recollection of key feeding guidance recommendations that can affect children's long-term health.

"Many studies have looked at the nutrition guidance shared by HCPs with the families of young children, but few studies have described what guidance parents recall receiving," according to author Andrea McGowan, MPH, who was affiliated with the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, at the time this study was conducted. "This study fills that gap by analyzing the specific topics mothers remember and what factors influenced that recall."

Data for this analysis come from the 2017-2019 National Survey of Family Growth conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. Among the 6,141 women who participated in the study, 1,632 had a child aged six months to five years in their home at the time of the survey. These women were asked to recall their child's HCP discussing when to introduce solid foods and guidance on the specific feeding topics referenced in the American Academy of Pediatrics Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents. The study asked questions related to offering foods with many different tastes and textures, not forcing a child to finish food or bottles, offering a variety of fruits and vegetables, limiting foods and drinks with added sugar, and limiting eating meals in front of the television or other electronics.

Woman with young child at doctor's appointment

New study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior reports on mothers' recall of early childhood feeding guidance from health care providers (Credit: AnnaStills /

Among mothers who recalled their HCPs talking about the introduction of solid foods, 37% recalled being told to introduce solid food before six months, when the recommendation is to wait until about six months of age and not before four months. More than half of mothers recalled an HCP discussing between four and five topics on early feeding guidance, with 31% recalling only two or three topics.

Mothers with higher education levels or older mothers were more likely to recall these feeding discussions. Of the five nutrition topics, offering a variety of fruits and vegetables had the highest percentage of recall, while less than half of the mothers recalled the recommendation to limit meals in front of the television or other electronic devices.

"Pediatricians report spending an average of 18 minutes with children and their parents during wellness visits with many health topics covered during that limited time," states McGowan. "Innovative strategies tailored to families' needs might alleviate the HCP burden and could enhance parental recall, especially when messaging is culturally relevant and personalized."


Notes for editors

The article is "Patterns in Mothers’ Recollection of Health Care Providers’ Young Child Feeding Recommendationsopens in new tab/window," by Andrea McGowan, MPH; Ellen O. Boundy, ScD; Jennifer M. Nelson, MD; and Heather C. Hamner, PhD ( in new tab/window). It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 54, issue 11 (November 2022), published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is also available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628 or [email protected]opens in new tab/window to obtain a copy. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Andrea McGowan at [email protected]opens in new tab/window.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Ms. McGowan and other information for journalists are available at in new tab/window. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media with permission from Eileen Leahy.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB)

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavioropens in new tab/window (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the Society's efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policymakers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

About Elsevier

As a global leader in scientific information and analytics, Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. We do this by facilitating insights and critical decision-making with innovative solutions based on trusted, evidence-based content and advanced AI-enabled digital technologies.

We have supported the work of our research and healthcare communities for more than 140 years. Our 9,500 employees around the world, including 2,500 technologists, are dedicated to supporting researchers, librarians, academic leaders, funders, governments, R&D-intensive companies, doctors, nurses, future healthcare professionals and educators in their critical work. Our 2,900 scientific journals and iconic reference books include the foremost titles in their fields, including Cell Press, The Lancet and Gray’s Anatomy.

Together with the Elsevier Foundationopens in new tab/window, we work in partnership with the communities we serve to advance inclusion and diversity in science, research and healthcare in developing countries and around the world.

Elsevier is part of RELXopens in new tab/window, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. For more information on our work, digital solutions and content, visit



Eileen Leahy


+1 732 406 1313

E-mail Eileen Leahy