Factors associated with weaning in full term and preterm infants
- 1MRC Childhood Nutrition Research Centre, Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK
- 2School of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, UK
- Correspondence to:
Dr Fewtrell, MRC Childhood Nutrition Research Centre, Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK;
- Accepted 4 September 2002
Background: The optimal age for the introduction of solid foods (weaning) in infants is poorly researched yet may have implications for both short and longer term health. Many parents do not comply with current guidelines.
Objective: To determine and compare the age at weaning in term appropriate size for gestational age (AGA), small for gestational age (SGA), and preterm infants, and factors associated with weaning age in these groups.
Design: Data from > 2000 infants from seven prospective randomised trails conducted between 1990 and 1997 were used to address the objectives.
Results: Most infants, term AGA, SGA, or preterm, received solids before 4 months of age. Only 2% of term infants were exclusively breast fed to 6 months of age. Formula fed infants received solids on average two weeks earlier than breast fed infants. Preterm infants were significantly more likely, and term SGA infants less likely, to receive solids at both 6 and 12 weeks after term than term AGA infants. Weight at 6 weeks of age was a stronger predictor of earlier weaning than either birth weight or weight gain from birth to 6 weeks in term infants. In preterm infants, formula feeding and maternal smoking were associated with earlier weaning.
Conclusions: Infants born in the mid 1990s were weaned on average earlier than the 4 months recommended by the Department of Health. Earlier weaning was associated with less positive health behaviours. Further research is required to provide evidence based weaning guidelines, including specific advice for SGA and preterm infants, and to investigate longer term consequences of weaning practices.