INFANT

Healthy eating and active play

Supporting families from the start of life

For parents and caregivers

What is INFANT?

INFANT is designed to help parents and families with healthy eating and active play from the start of their baby’s life. INFANT consists of four group sessions for parents/caregivers led by a nurse or other practitioner, with content reinforced via a mobile app called My Baby Now. INFANT promotes healthy eating, increased active play and reduced screen time for babies from birth until 2 years of age.

 

A guiding principle of INFANT is that parents and caregivers are provided with information before it is needed – this is referred to as anticipatory guidance. INFANT also provides an opportunity for parents to support each other’s learning through shared experiences, tips and strategies and through social connection

The four group sessions run for around 90 minutes and are delivered when infants are 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. INFANT sessions are delivered by staff such as Maternal and Child Health Nurses, Dietitians, and Health Promotion Officers who have received INFANT facilitator training. INFANT facilitators provide contemporary, evidence-informed information that is tailored to the parents and families who attend their groups, while also promoting group dynamics and sharing of ideas.

The My Baby Now app and website is the result of 5 years of research with parents and health professionals. My Baby Now complements the face-to-face group sessions and extends support for parents from their baby’s birth and into the toddler years. It includes reinforcing messages for parents, personalised just for them and their baby’s age and stage of development. It also provides opportunities for INFANT facilitators to tailor content delivery and link parents to content outside of the face-to-face sessions.

All the information has been developed and reviewed by experts including Maternal and Child Health Nurses, dietitians and health behaviour specialists. The sessions align with Victoria’s universal Key age and stage visits and all messages are consistent with national dietary and physical activity guidelines.

Getting started with INFANT

INFANT has structured content and resources to guide facilitators but there is flexibility with how INFANT is embedded into services, who facilitates it, where it is held and how long it takes to establish. 

Why INFANT?

Promoting healthy lifestyle habits early in life is important for optimal growth and development as well as the prevention of chronic diseases later in life.

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Health trajectories for the whole of our lives are established in the first 1000 days of life. It makes good sense to ensure the best trajectories for all children.

New parents are responsive to parenting information and support that helps them to promote healthy eating, active play and in turn, healthy development of their child

The main influences on infant’s and children’s health behaviours in their first year of life are the family, home environment, and health services.

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Offering INFANT as routine practice within local health services maximises the opportunity to support families at this critical time of their infant’s life.

The benefits of INFANT

INFANT is based on more than 10 years of research undertaken within the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Deakin University. In 2008, INFANT was delivered as a research trial with 540 families across 14 Victorian local government areas. INFANT uptake was high and had significant effects for families taking part.

INFANT helps children
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Reduce sedentary time (children watched 25% less television)
Campbell KJ, Lioret S, McNaughton SA, et al. A parent-focused intervention to reduce infant obesity risk behaviors: a randomized trial. Pediatrics. 2013;131(4):652–660.
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Mothers consistently reported high levels of program usefulness and relevance
Campbell KJ, Lioret S, McNaughton SA, et al. A parent-focused intervention to reduce infant obesity risk behaviors: a randomized trial. Pediatrics. 2013;131(4):652–660.
See all | Cross ref
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Improve diet (children consumed 25% fewer sweet snacks and had improved dietary quality)
Spence AC, McNaughton SA, Lioret S, Hesketh KD, Crawford DA, Campbell KJ. A health promotion intervention can affect diet quality in early childhood. J Nutr. 2013;143(10):1672–8.
See all | Cross ref
INFANT helps parents
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Improve dietary patterns of mothers
Lioret S, Campbell KJ, Crawford D, Spence AC, Hesketh K, McNaughton SA. A parent focused child obesity prevention intervention improves some mother obesity risk behaviors: The Melbourne infant program. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012;9:100.
See all | Cross ref
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Improve mothers’ knowledge and self-efficacy
Spence AC, Campbell KJ, Crawford DA, McNaughton SA, Hesketh KD. Mediators of improved child diet quality following a health promotion intervention: The Melbourne InFANT Program. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2014;11:137.
See all | Cross ref
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Improve infant feeding practises Spence AC, McNaughton SA, Lioret S, Hesketh KD, Crawford DA, Campbell KJ. A health promotion intervention can affect diet quality in early childhood. J Nutr. 2013;143(10):1672–8. See all
Cross ref
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Connect with other parents and services locally

INFANT is engaging
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Mothers consistently reported high levels of program usefulness and relevance Campbell KJ, Lioret S, McNaughton SA, et al. A parent-focused intervention to reduce infant obesity risk behaviors: a randomized trial. Pediatrics. 2013;131(4):652–660
See all Cross ref
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68% of participants attended the majority (4 or more) of intervention sessions
Campbell KJ, Lioret S, McNaughton SA, et al. A parent-focused intervention to reduce infant obesity risk behaviors: a randomized trial. Pediatrics. 2013;131(4):652–660.
See all
| Cross ref
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Parents often found the group sessions important for support and social connections
Love P, Laws R, Litterbach E, Campbell KJ.Factors Influencing Parental Engagement in an Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Program Implemented at Scale: The Infant Program. Nutrients. 2018;10(4)
See all
| Cross ref
INFANT health outcomes are sustained
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After participating in the INFANT program, the benefits for children continue at age 3.5 and 5 years
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Sustained improvement in child diet (more veg and fruit, less sweet drinks)
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Maintained reduced screen time (less TV)
INFANT enhances service delivery
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Increased health professionals’ confidence to integrate healthy eating and active play messages into routine consultations with parents

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Reduced the need for additional consultation with parents to address food-related issues e.g. introducing solids, fussy eating

INFANT impact: policy

As a result of the successful trial and proof of concept of small-scale translation, INFANT has been recommended in key state and national health policies, including:
  • Healthy kids, Healthy futures – the Victorian Government’s five-year action plan to support children and young people to be healthy, active and well. INFANT is included in Priority 3 as a priority action.
  • INFANT has been recommended in The Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan (2019-2023)
  • The 2019 consensus statement for obesity prevention, A Healthier Start for Victorians, released by VicHealth’s Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) roundtable. INFANT is an example listed under Recommendation 4: Implement initiatives to improve family diets, particularly in children’s early years
  • INFANT has been endorsed by the Victorian Department of Health who are providing additional implementation support funding for enhancing implementation 2020-2022.
  • INFANT has been included in the new HEAS resource for Healthy Eating and Oral Health in Victorian Early Childhood Services, published online
  • INFANT has been included in Victorian Department of Health summary report on Co-benefits of a healthy lifestyle for mental wellbeing, published online
  • INFANT is now included in The Australian Institute of Family Studies guidebook on evidence-based programs. INFANT is approved for use under the 50% requirement for Communities for Children Facilitating Partners for organisations running programs funded by the Department of Social Services (DSS).
  • INFANT is listed on the VegKit registry, an interactive online library of evaluated initiatives that promote children’s vegetable intake.

From 2020, INFANT is available to all Victorian local governments. Participating organisations have access to online facilitator training, a virtual community of practice and all INFANT resources. Offering INFANT as routine practice within local health services maximises the opportunity to support families at this critical time of their infant’s life.

  • INFANT continues to be embedded in local council health policies. For example, Swan Hill Public Health and Wellbeing Plan. Refer to page 28, strategy 12. Support and educate parents of young children to develop healthy habits in early years. 

Contact us

Interested in integrating INFANT into your community health offerings?

Please email us at
infant-study@deakin.edu.au

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