Nursing caries and buying time: an emerging theory of prolonged bottle feeding

Ruth Freeman (Lead / Corresponding author), Anne Stevens

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Nursing caries is considered to be problematic by dental health professionals. In their zealousness to solve the nursing caries problem dental health professionals forgot to ask the question: 'Why do mothers persist in prolonged bottle feeding?' Aim: To use grounded theory procedures and techniques to analyse the qualitative data obtained from mothers and to generate an emerging theory of prolonged bottle feeding. Method: A series of individual in-depth interviews were conducted with 34 mothers of children with nursing caries. The children were aged between 3 and 4 years. Data were analysed using the grounded theory procedures and techniques of open and selective coding. Results: The core category or the mothers' main concern that emerged from the data was conceptualized as 'buying time'. The feeding bottle bought time away from crying children by silencing them but also bought extra time with the child. Therefore, two different behavioural styles or categories of buying time emerged. These were: (i) to buy time away from the demands of their crying toddlers (instant solutions) and (ii) to buy extra time with their 'toddler-babies' (double-binding). The feeding bottle acted as an 'instant solution' as on seeing the bottle the child would instantly 'stop crying' and peace would reign. Double-binding described how the feeding bottle was used to buy extra time for 'babyhood closeness' between mother and child while exposing the mothers' harsh rejecting behaviours. Discussion: An understanding of the time concerns that the mothers experienced when caring for their young children and how they resolve them provides an important insight into the reasons for prolonged bottle feeding.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)425-433
    Number of pages9
    JournalCommunity Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008


    • early childhood caries
    • preschool children
    • infant feeding
    • qualitative research


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