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The influence of maternal socioeconomic and emotional factors on infant weight gain and weight faltering (failure to thrive): data from a prospective birth cohort
  1. C M Wright1,
  2. K N Parkinson2,
  3. R F Drewett3
  1. 1Department of Child Health, University of Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Department of Child Health, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  3. 3Department of Psychology, University of Durham, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr C M Wright
    Senior Lecturer/Consultant in Community Child Health, PEACH Unit, QMH Tower, Yorkhill Hospitals, Glasgow G3 8SJ, UK; charlotte.wright{at}


Aims: To study the influence of maternal socioeconomic and emotional factors on infant weight gain and weight faltering (failure to thrive) in the first year of life.

Methods: The Gateshead Millennium Baby Study is a population birth cohort in northeast England studied prospectively from birth, via parental questionnaires and a health check aged 13 months. Data were collected on maternal education, deprivation, eating attitudes, and depression, using the Edinburgh Post Natal Depression Scale (EPDS) at 3 months. Weight gain was assessed using change in weight SD score, conditional on birth weight (Thrive Index); weight faltering was defined as conditional weight gain below the 5th centile.

Results: Of 923 eligible infants born at term, 774 (84%) had both weight and questionnaire data. Replicating a previous finding, both the highest and the lowest levels of deprivation were associated with weight faltering; this was independent of the type of milk feeding. No relation was found with maternal educational status. Maternal eating restraint was unrelated to weight gain. Infants of mothers with high depression symptom scores (EPDS >12) had significantly slower weight gain and increased rates of weight faltering up to 4 months (relative risk 2.5), especially if they came from deprived families, but by 12 months they were no different from the remainder of the cohort.

Conclusions: In this setting, social and maternal characteristics had little influence on infants’ weight gain, apart from a strong, but transient effect of postnatal depression.

  • failure to thrive
  • postnatal depression
  • eating disorders
  • socioeconomic deprivation

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  • Published Online First 5 January 2006

  • Funding: Henry Smith Charity and Sport Aiding Research in Kids (SPARKS)

  • Competing interests: none