Child Care Centers and the Infant and Toddler Feeding Environment: The Importance of Examining Feeding Practices Separately from Nutrition Guidelines

Jean Hamilton, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Heather Wasser, Durham County Health Department, North Carolina
Margaret Bentley, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The rising rates of obesity in the United States have led to an examination of nutrition policy and practices across institutions. With a significant percentage of mothers in the labor force, more than half of infant and toddlers are in non-parental care including child care centers. This study uses a sample of child care centers in North Carolina to examine the quality of the feeding environment of infant and toddlers. We find that it is important to examine feeding practices separately from compliance with nutrition guidelines. In our analysis of the determinants of quality, we find insignificant results when using a measure of quality that includes compliance. However, when compliance is excluded, higher feeding quality is found in centers with higher staff/infant ratios and better educated teachers. This result implies that to address obesity risks in child care, researchers and policymakers need to understand differing mechanisms determining the feeding environment.

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Presented in Poster Session 3