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Why are babies weaned early? Data from a prospective population based cohort study
  1. C M Wright1,
  2. K N Parkinson2,
  3. R F Drewett3
  1. 1Department of Child Health, University of Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Department of Child Health, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  3. 3Department of Psychology, University of Durham, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr C M Wright
    Senior Lecturer/Consultant in Community Child Health, PEACH Unit, QMH Tower, Yorkhill Hospitals, Glasgow G3 8SJ, UK;


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
  • infant
  • breast feeding
  • weight gain
  • failure to thrive
  • maternal attitudes
  • socioeconomic deprivation

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  • Grant support: Henry Smith Charity, SPARKS

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