British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Dietary patterns in infancy: the importance of maternal and family influences on feeding practice

Siân Robinsona1 c1, Lynne Marriotta1, Jason Poolea1, Sarah Croziera1, Sharon Borlanda1, Wendy Lawrencea1, Catherine Lawa2, Keith Godfreya1, Cyrus Coopera1, Hazel Inskipa1 and The Southampton Women's Survey Study Groupa1

a1 MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK

a2 Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, University College London, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK


It is not known what constitutes an optimal diet in infancy. There are relatively few studies of weaning practice in the UK, and there is a need for prospective data on the effects of infant diet and nutrition on health in later life. We describe the dietary patterns, defined using principal components analysis of FFQ data, of 1434 infants aged 6 and 12 months, born between 1999 and 2003. The two most important dietary patterns identified at 6 and 12 months were very similar. The first pattern was characterised by high consumption of fruit, vegetables and home-prepared foods (‘infant guidelines’ pattern). The second pattern was characterised by high consumption of bread, savoury snacks, biscuits and chips (‘adult foods’ pattern). Dietary pattern scores were correlated at 6 and 12 months (r 0·46 ‘infant guidelines’; r 0·45 ‘adult foods’). These patterns, which reflect wide variations in weaning practice, are associated with maternal and family characteristics. A key influence on the infant diet is the quality of the maternal diet. Women who comply with dietary recommendations, and who have high intakes of fruit and vegetables, wholemeal bread and rice and pasta, are more likely to have infants who have comparable diets – with high ‘infant guidelines’ pattern scores. Conversely, women whose own diets are characterised by high intakes of chips, white bread, crisps and sweets are more likely to have infants who have high ‘adult foods’ pattern scores. The effects of these patterns on growth and development, and on long-term outcomes need to be investigated.

(Received November 08 2006)

(Revised March 09 2007)

(Accepted April 10 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Siân Robinson, fax +44 2380 704021, email


Abbreviations: PCA, principal components analysis; SWS, Southampton Women's Survey