Breastfeeding and maternal eating behaviours are associated with child eating behaviours: findings from the ROLO Kids Study

Type Article

Journal Article


C. A. Yelverton; A. A. Geraghty; E. C. O'Brien; S. L. Killeen; M. K. Horan; J. M. Donnelly; E. Larkin; J. Mehegan; F. M. McAuliffe

Year of publication



European journal of clinical nutrition








Background: Child eating behaviours can negatively contribute to the development of childhood obesity. This study investigated associations between breastfeeding habits, maternal eating behaviours and child eating behaviours, in 5‐year‐old children. Methods: Secundigravida women were recruited to the ROLO dietary randomised controlled trial (Dublin, Ireland) and were followed up with their children to 5 years of age. Breastfeeding exposure and duration were obtained at postnatal and infant follow‐up at 2 and 6 months and 2 and 5 years. At 5 years, maternal and child eating behaviours were measured using the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire and the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire, respectively. Regression determined associations between breastfeeding habits and maternal eating behaviours with child eating behaviours, controlling for RCT group, maternal education level, maternal BMI at 5 years, childcare exposure and child BMI centile at 5‐year follow‐up. Results: There were 230 mother and child pairs analysed. One hundred and fifty‐eight mothers had initiated breastfeeding. Median breastfeeding duration was 22 (IQR 33) weeks. Children who were never breastfed were more likely to express a desire to drink (B = −1.01, p = 0.022). Longer breastfeeding duration was associated with lower food responsiveness (B = −1.71, p = 0.003). Maternal uncontrolled eating was positively associated with child food responsiveness, emotional overeating and emotional undereating (B = 0.21, p < 0.001; B = 0.14, p = 0.005; B = 0.14, p = 0.005, respectively). Maternal emotional eating was associated with child emotional overeating and undereating (B = 0.27, p < 0.001, B = 0.29, p = 0.004, respectively). Conclusion: Not breastfeeding and short breastfeeding duration may contribute to the development of obesogenic eating behaviours in children, alongside maternal eating behaviours including uncontrolled and emotional eating. These ‘food approach’ eating behaviours may increase risk of overweight/obesity as they are associated with increased energy intake, hence the importance of research surrounding eating behaviours.