Exploration of child feeding practices in Indigenous Australians

Understanding child feeding practices in Indigenous Australians

Type 2 diabetes is the fastest growing preventable chronic disease and is currently the second leading underlying cause of death among Indigenous Australians. The increased prevalence of diabetes developed during pregnancy among Indigenous women is an additional concern as it places their offspring at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

Diet plays an important role in preventing many chronic conditions such as diabetes. Along with the quality of diet, the time to introduce a healthy diet is of equal importance. Evidence suggests that shaping healthy eating behaviours early in the life cycle for a child is of utmost importance especially for those at risk of developing diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Parents and care-givers and the home environment primarily shape the eating patterns and habits of infants and children. In order to intervene effectively in such a population, a thorough knowledge and understanding of existing child feeding practices within the home environment is essential.

A preliminary study that our team has led interviewed 30 Indigenous women across 4 remote and 2 urban communities in the Northern Territory about child feeding practices. Our preliminary findings indicated that many Indigenous parents allow their child autonomy over their diet.

This style of parenting however is causing tension when the child is exposed to foods that are not healthy, particularly soft drink consumption. Some parents have managed to put in place strategies to restrict their child’s consumption of less healthy foods. Most parents however were at a loss of what to do to encourage their child to not consume these foods.

This proposed study aims to provide an in-depth understanding of child feeding practices in Indigenous settings. This increased understanding will address the current evidence gap and help inform practice and policy to better support parents to facilitate the culturally appropriate child feeding practices needed for a healthy diet.


  • Dr Athira Rohit

  • Associate Professor Louise Maple-Brown

  • Menzies School of Health Research

  • July 2017 - July 2018

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