Newswise — PHILADELPHIA, PA, July 6, 2017 – As innovation expands the accessibility of technology, the potential for distraction increases as well. A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior assesses the level and type of distractions that affect mothers during infant feeding and discusses the potential impact on mothers and babies. Researchers found that distractions occurred in close to half of feedings, with ~60% of distractions attributable to technological devices.

There is emerging interest in understanding how technology may impact parent-child interactions, but few studies have examined this issue during infant feeding interactions. Therefore, researchers from California Polytechnic State University created a study to explore maternal distraction in breastfeeding and bottle-feeding participants enrolled or not in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC) and to examine whether maternal or infant characteristics were associated with distracted feeding.

For this study, 75 mothers participating in infant-feeding studies were asked to keep a diary of feeding patterns for one to six days. Mothers were 18 to 40 years old and had not experienced gestational diabetes or complications during pregnancy or birth. The infants were all healthy, born full-term, no older than six months, and not yet introduced to solid food. Mothers recorded information about feeding length, feeding breastmilk or formula, amount fed, and what else they were doing while feeding. Questionnaires were also completed by mothers to gauge infant behavior, mothers’ engagement, and mothers’ perception of infants eating.

“Distractions were reported during 43% of feedings for the group data, with mothers reporting technological distractions during 26% of feedings and non-technological distractions during 17% of feedings,” lead author Alison Ventura, PhD, said.

Technological distractions included watching television or using a smartphone, tablet, computer, or other technology.

At the individual level, 92% of mothers reported a distraction during one or more feedings and 83% reported a technological distraction during one or more feedings. More frequent engagement in any type of distraction was predicted by having more than one child and having an infant with a larger appetite; more frequent engagement in technological distraction was predicted by mothers’ racial or ethnic minority status, feeding style, younger infant age, and infant food responsiveness and appetite. However, feeding mode, mothers’ WIC enrollment, education, and BMI, as well as infant sex, weight status, and temperament were not significant predictors of distraction.

“Although WIC enrollment was not predictive of distraction, mothers enrolled in WIC reported their infants had significantly lower levels of negative affect, satiety responsiveness, and slowness in eating, and greater enjoyment of food,” Ventura added.

The findings of the Cal Poly study should inspire future research to determine what impact, if any, distracted feeding has on the quality and outcome of feeding interactions in the short-term, and on infants eating behaviors and self-regulatory abilities in the long-term. This and future research should help elucidate the effects of caregiver distraction and help caregivers understand and attend to their infants’ cues.


Notes for Editors

The article is “Maternal Distraction During Breast- and Bottle Feeding Among WIC and non-WIC Mothers,” by Alison K. Ventura, PhD; Simone Teitelbaum, BS ( It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 49, issue 7, supplement 2 (July 2017) published by Elsevier. The Supplement, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) – Breastfeeding, is available at

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732-238-3628 or [email protected] to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Dr. Alison Ventura, Assistant Professor, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, at +1-805-756-5693 or [email protected].

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Dr. Alison Ventura, and information specifically for journalists are located at Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (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 an 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, policy makers, 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 occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a global information analytics company that helps institutions and professionals progress science, advance healthcare and improve performance for the benefit of humanity. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, more than 35,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray’s Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics for professionals and business customers across industries.