Australian researchers from Sydney Medical School and the University of Sydney studied more than 600 first-time mothers and their children.
The mothers received eight home visits from community nurses before and after their child was born. Visits were designed to coincide with early childhood development milestones at one, three, five, nine months during their first year and at 12, 18 and 24 months.
During the visits they looked at the children’s BMI, feeding habits and how much television they watched. Nurses taught mothers healthy eating and exercise habits for their children and used the following key intervention messages: breast is best, "no solids for me until six months", "I eat a variety of fruit and vegetables everyday", "only water in my cup" and "I am part of an active family".
The researchers found that children whose parents received the visits from the community nurses were, at 24 months, less likely to be overweight or obese and more likely to eat one or more servings of vegetables a day.
They were also less likely to eat in front of the television and spend less time watching television programmes.
Mothers who took part in the research were more likely to eat more than two servings of vegetables a day and spend 150 minutes or more exercising per week.
In light of the findings, the authors recommend that health promotion programmes start as early as possible and be family focused in order to improve children’s weight.
- The study ‘Effectiveness of home based early intervention on children’s BMI at age two: randomised controlled trial’, is published online in the British Medical Journal.