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Nutrition & Feeding

Distracted Moms Multitask While Feeding Their Babies

A new study finds most moms are doing something else as they breast- or bottle-feed their infants

No one needs to tell you that moms are champions at juggling. After all, you’re probably reading this right now as dinner simmers in the Instapot, you guide your preschooler in the fine art of salad spinning, and you keep a watchful eye as the baby plays in the corner.

So it may come as no surprise that moms are often doing something else as they feed their infants, according to a study of just published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Some takeaways:

Nearly all moms multitask. Researchers asked 75 moms with babies younger than six months to keep a log of their feedings over several days and record what else they did as they bottle- or breastfed their infants. Ninety-two percent confessed that their minds were on other things at least during one feeding—and 83 percent interacted with technology, like watching TV or looking at their phone or computer.

Breastfeeding moms were as distracted as bottle feeders. Income, age, and education didn’t affect how often moms were tempted to do other things. And neither did the baby’s gender, temperament, or size.

On average, moms multitasked during slightly less than half the feedings. That means they were engaged with their cuties about 59 percent of the time. During their more distracted moments, they were engaged with their devices (26 percent, including TV), schmoozing on the phone with another adult (4 percent), snoozing (4 percent), listening to music (2 percent), or eating (1 percent).

Moms with more than one child were the biggest jugglers. Makes sense, right? Your older kids always want something when you’re feeding the baby. But more surprisingly, these veteran moms whose babies had bigger appetites also tended to be the ones who were most likely to do other things while feeding—even if it was housework. “We don't know for sure why this is,” explains Alison Ventura, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology at the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA and the lead author of the study. “It could be that these mothers feel that these feedings are taking too long or that they’re feeding too frequently and are more tempted to turn to something distracting.”

Don’t worry if your mind or eyes wander. “Moms definitely need breaks and often they need to get things done while also caring for their baby,” says Dr. Ventura. “However, we also want moms to be conscious about how distracted they are—by phones, TVs, or something else.” Her advice: Take your cue from your baby. If your little one wants to coo or stare at you as she eats, then give her plenty of attention. But if your cutie is focused on feeding or even drowsy, go ahead and scroll through Instagram. “Bottom line is that we really need more research to help parents understand where that balance is. So I would tell parents to ‘proceed with caution’ and be aware of their level of distraction, especially with high-tech devices,” adds Dr. Ventura.