British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Dietary Surveys and Nutritional Epidemiology

Factors associated with weaning practices in term infants: a prospective observational study in Ireland

Roslyn C. Tarranta1, Katherine M. Youngera1, Margaret Sheridan-Pereiraa2, Martin J. Whitea2 and John M. Kearneya1 c1

a1 School of Biological Sciences, Dublin Institute of Technology, Kevin Street, Dublin 8, Republic of Ireland

a2 The Department of Paediatrics, The Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Dublin 8, Republic of Ireland


The WHO (2001) recommends exclusive breast-feeding and delaying the introduction of solid foods to an infant's diet until 6 months postpartum. However, in many countries, this recommendation is followed by few mothers, and earlier weaning onto solids is a commonly reported global practice. Therefore, this prospective, observational study aimed to assess compliance with the WHO recommendation and examine weaning practices, including the timing of weaning of infants, and to investigate the factors that predict weaning at ≤ 12 weeks. From an initial sample of 539 pregnant women recruited from the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Dublin, 401 eligible mothers were followed up at 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum. Quantitative data were obtained on mothers’ weaning practices using semi-structured questionnaires and a short dietary history of the infant's usual diet at 6 months. Only one mother (0·2 %) complied with the WHO recommendation to exclusively breastfeed up to 6 months. Ninety-one (22·6 %) infants were prematurely weaned onto solids at ≤ 12 weeks with predictive factors after adjustment, including mothers’ antenatal reporting that infants should be weaned onto solids at ≤ 12 weeks, formula feeding at 12 weeks and mothers’ reporting of the maternal grandmother as the principal source of advice on infant feeding. Mothers who weaned their infants at ≤ 12 weeks were more likely to engage in other sub-optimal weaning practices, including the addition of non-recommended condiments to their infants’ foods. Provision of professional advice and exploring antenatal maternal misperceptions are potential areas for targeted interventions to improve compliance with the recommended weaning practices.

(Received January 12 2010)

(Revised May 12 2010)

(Accepted May 20 2010)

(Online publication July 05 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr J. M. Kearney, fax +353 1402 4995, email


Abbreviations: PHN, public health nurse