Forget whether or not it’s better for moms to bottle feed versus breast feed their newborns. New findings show childhood obesity may be linked to infants having a bad relationship with their mothers in their first three years of life, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics and reported by Time Healthland.

For the study, Ohio State University researchers followed 977 children born in 1991 who participated in the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Findings showed those kids who had poor ties with their mothers were more than twice as likely to suffer from obesity by age 15 compared with children who enjoyed strong bonds with their moms.

The relationship between teens tipping the scales and negative early childhood experiences with their moms may be rooted in areas of the brain that regulate emotion and stress response hormones as well as the sleep-wake cycle, appetite and other metabolic functions, suggested Sarah Anderson, PhD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University, and the study’s lead author.

If infants have good emotional relationships with their mothers, this increased the chances these kids would have a secure pattern of attachment and develop a healthy response to stress, Anderson explained. “A well-regulated stress response could in turn influence how well children sleep and whether they eat in response to emotional distress —just two factors that affect the likelihood for obesity,” she added.

Currently, teen anti-obesity efforts focus almost exclusively on diet and exercise. But these findings could help address the teen obesity problem by helping scientists design interventions to better mother-child relationships at an early stage in kids’ lives, Anderson said.

These interventions would use the concept of “sensitive parenting” to help mothers recognize their children’s emotional state and respond with comfort, consistency and warmth. And the result? Securely attached kids well prepared to adapt to stressful situations of all kinds without succumbing to overeating.

Did you know regular sitdowns with the family at mealtime may also help reduce kids’ risk of obesity? Click here to read more.