Objective: To describe the early feeding, weaning, and oral hygiene practices of children with early childhood caries (ECC), their parents’ knowledge and attitudes regarding infant feeding, and the feeding-related challenges faced by the parents. Methods: This descriptive qualitative study involved parents of children with ECC who sought dental treatment at an academic dental college in India. Data were collected though focus groups conducted with the 27 parents of children with ECC, using a focus group discussion guide. Data were analyzed using the content analysis method. Results: Community norms, such as learning from the older women in the families or neighborhoods, guided the feeding method, duration of feeding, and weaning. Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding at bedtime beyond 12 mo of age and feeding sugary drinks during weaning were standard practices, despite knowing the risk for dental caries. Parents faced multiple challenges regarding weaning and were unaware of the significance of infant oral hygiene practices. Conclusion: In children with ECC, infant feeding practices included prolonged breastfeeding or bottle-feeding beyond the required age, feeding at bedtime, and feeding sugary drinks. Although the parents knew that these feeding habits could increase the risk for caries, they lacked the self-efficacy to translate their knowledge into action during weaning. Also, they lacked awareness regarding infant oral hygiene practices. Knowledge Transfer Statement: The study provides information on the feeding habits of infants that can increase the risk for caries, the challenges faced by the parents of these children in altering these risky habits, and their lack of knowledge on infant oral hygiene practices. Policy/decision makers can advocate for pediatricians and pediatric dentists to incorporate anticipatory guidance or motivational interviewing techniques to tailor the preventive program for ECC for Indian children.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes