Interventions to prevent childhood obesity increasingly focus on infant feeding, but demonstrate inconsistent effects. A comprehensive qualitative evidence synthesis is essential to better understand feeding behaviours and inform intervention development. The aim of this study is to synthesize evidence on perceptions and experiences of infant feeding and complementary feeding recommendations.
Databases CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Academic Search Complete, SocIndex and Maternity and Infant Care were searched from inception to May 2017. Eligible studies examined parents' experiences of complementary feeding of children (<2 years). Data were synthesized using thematic synthesis.
Twenty-five studies met inclusion criteria for review. Four key themes emerged. ‘Guidelines and advice’ highlights variety and inconsistencies between sources of complementary feeding information. ‘Stage of weaning’ describes infant feeding as a process involving different stages. ‘Knowing and trying’ outlines parents' engagement in feeding approaches based on instinct, prior experience or trial and error. ‘Daily life’ highlights problematic cost and time constraints for parents.
Parents predominantly understand and want to engage in healthy feeding processes. Consideration of infant feeding as a process that changes over time is necessary to support parents. Provision of clear, consistent information and guidance from trusted sources on when, what and how to feed is also essential.