Infant difficulty and early weight gain: Does fussing promote overfeeding?

John Worobey, Jamila Peña, Isabel Ramos, Carolina Espinosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Authors have recently suggested that difficult temperament in infancy may be associated with rapid weight gain, but no previous studies actually report associations between temperament and feeding as a response to infant distress. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether greater infant difficulty elicits more feeding, which in turn leads to more rapid weight gain in early infancy. One hundred fifty-four mother-infant pairs were visited at 3 and 6 months in their homes. Besides anthropometric measures, mothers kept a 24-h diary of their infants' sleep, cry and feed patterns, and answered questions regarding feeding and infant difficultness. The results showed that feeding occurred as a response to nearly half (48%) of the crying intervals recorded, though it more often occurred in the absence of crying (83%). Mothers were most likely to report holding or rocking their infant as the first strategy they would employ if their baby fussed or cried. A regression analysis that included crying, feeding, weaning, sleep and infant weight revealed maternal reports of numbers of feeds per day as the only variable that predicted weight gain from 3 to 6 months. Infant crying is often followed by feeding, and more frequent feeding may promote more rapid weight gain. However, feeding frequency in the first few months appears to be more a matter of maternal discretion than a yoked response to temperamental difficulty. This does not preclude the possibility that overfeeding in later infancy could be tied to temperamental difficulty and subsequently related to overweight in early childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-303
Number of pages9
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • Formula
  • Infant difficulty
  • Infant feeding
  • Weight gain


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