Why are babies weaned early? Data from a prospective population based cohort study
- 1Department of Child Health, University of Glasgow, UK
- 2Department of Child Health, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
- 3Department of Psychology, University of Durham, UK
- Correspondence to:
Dr C M Wright
Senior Lecturer/Consultant in Community Child Health, PEACH Unit, QMH Tower, Yorkhill Hospitals, Glasgow G3 8SJ, UK;
- Accepted 2 December 2003
Background: The recommended age of introduction of solids food to the diet of infants (weaning) has recently been increased in the UK to 6 months, but most babies are still weaned before the age of 4 months.
Aims: To examine what predicts the age of weaning and how this relates to weight gain and morbidity using data from a population based cohort.
Methods: Parents of 923 term infants born in a defined geographical area and recruited shortly after birth were studied prospectively using postal questionnaires, weaning diaries, and routinely collected weights, of whom 707 (77%) returned data on weaning.
Results: The median age of first weaning solids was 3.5 months, with 21% commencing before 3 months and only 6% after 4 months of age. Infants progressed quickly to regular solids with few reported difficulties, even when weaned early. Most parents did not perceive professional advice or written materials to be a major influence. The strongest independent predictors of earlier age at weaning were rapid weight gain to age 6 weeks, lower socioeconomic status, the parents’ perception that their baby was hungry, and feeding mode. Weight gain after 6 weeks was unrelated to age of weaning. Babies weaned before 3 months, compared to after 4 months, had an increased risk of diarrhoea.
Conclusions: Social factors had some influence on when weaning solids were introduced, but the great majority of all infants were established on solids before the previously recommended age of 4 months, without difficulty. Earlier weaning was associated with an increased rate of minor morbidity.
- complementary foods
- breast feeding
- weight gain
- failure to thrive
- maternal attitudes
- socioeconomic deprivation
Grant support: Henry Smith Charity, SPARKS