Sources of weaning advice, comparisons between formal and informal advice, and associations with weaning timing in a survey of UK first-time mothers

Public Health Nutr. 2012 Sep;15(9):1661-9. doi: 10.1017/S1368980012002868. Epub 2012 May 28.


Objective: The aim of the present study was to explore knowledge of the UK weaning guidelines and the sources of weaning advice used by UK first-time mothers.

Design: An online survey of UK parents; analysed using mixed methods.

Setting: Participants were recruited from a selection of parenting websites that hosted a link to the survey.

Subjects: In total, 1348 UK first-time mothers were included in the analysis.

Results: Knowledge of the guidelines was high (86 %) and associated with later weaning (P < 0·001), although 43 % of this sample weaned before 24 weeks. The majority of parents used multiple sources of information, the most influential being the health visitor (26 %), the Internet (25 %) and books (18 %). Fifty-six per cent said they received conflicting advice. Younger mothers and those of lower educational attainment were more likely to be influenced by advice from family, which was likely to be to wean earlier. Furthermore, those most influenced by their mother/grandmother were less likely to have accurate knowledge of the guidelines. In this population the Internet was used for weaning advice across all sociodemographic groups and was associated with a later weaning age, independently of sociodemographic factors (P < 0·001). Data from responses to a free-text question are used in illustration.

Conclusions: The study suggests that first-time mothers have a good understanding of the weaning guidelines but seek weaning information from multiple sources, much of which is conflicting. Informal sources of weaning advice appear most influential in younger mothers and those of lower educational attainment, and result in earlier weaning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Diet Surveys*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food
  • Internet
  • Mothers / education
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Software
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • United Kingdom
  • Weaning*
  • Young Adult