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The influence of eating disorders on mothers’ sensitivity and adaptation during feeding: a longitudinal observational study

Claire Squires1*, Christophe Lalanne2, Nasha Murday3, Vassiliki Simoglou3 and Laurence Vaivre-Douret456

Author Affiliations

1 Université Paris-Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, CRPMS, EA 3522, Hôpital Cochin-Port-Royal, Paris, France

2 Département de Recherche Clinique, Hôpital Saint-Louis, Paris, France, Inserm Unit UMR-SO 669, Université Paris Sud, Paris Descartes, Paris, France

3 Université Paris Diderot, CRPMS, EA 3522, Paris, France

4 Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, France, Inserm Unit UMR-SO 669, Université Paris Sud, Paris Descartes, Paris, France

5 Département de Pédiatrie, AP-HP, Paris Centre Hospitalier Port Royal-Cochin, Paris, France

6 Département de Psychiatrie Infantile, Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades, Paris, Paris, France

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:274  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-274

Published: 14 August 2014



Parents with past and current eating disorders (ED) have been shown to report troubles nourishing their infants. This could increase the risk of infant feeding problems linked to maternal anxiety and depression. It is not clear how mothers’ eating difficulties before pregnancy and at the time of birth can affect infant’s feeding. We aimed to specify the impact of eating disorders on mothers’ adaptation and sensitivity to their offspring during feeding, by comparing a population of mothers with eating disorders and controls.


Twenty-eight women agreed to participate in interviews and filmed mother-baby interactions. Pregnant women consulting at an obstetric unit for care follow-up were screened and tested for symptoms of eating disorders with the EDE-Q Questionnaire (Eating Disorders Examination Questionnaire) and the EDE Interview (Eating Disorders Examination Interview). Infant functional troubles and mothers’ sensitivity were investigated through the Symptom Check List. Reciprocal adaptation during feeding with their new-borns was filmed and analysed with the Chatoor Infant Feeding Scale. Before pregnancy, two women suffered from anorexia, three suffered from bulimia, three had binge eating symptoms and two were diagnosed with EDNOS (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified).


Mothers suffering from ED tended to show more difficult interactive patterns in terms of dyadic reciprocity when feeding their babies compared with mothers with no symptoms of eating disorders. In the interviews, other than the behavioural data gathered, ED mothers expressed feeling more dissatisfaction and uneasiness during feeding.


Pregnancy seems to be an useful period for interviewing women on eating disorders, allowing for the design and implementation of prevention programmes based on mothers’ narratives and infant/mother observations and treatment.

Eating disorders; Pregnancy; Eating disorder questionnaire; Symptom Check-List; Mother-infant feeding scale; Maternal sensitivity