In every community there are some ideas, beliefs and practices relating to child rearing that are passed down from parents, especially mother of the next generation (daughter). Weaning is a gradual process, which normally in most cases starts at the age of 4-6 months and in some communities till the age of two years, the time when a child is gradually shifted from breast- feeding or bottle-feeding to an adult diet.
The weaning period is a crucial period in the growth of a child and outcome depends on the timing of weaning, food choices, methods of preparation of food for weaning and feeding ways. Weaning practices varies in different communities and affected by beliefs, family feeding order, attitude towards weaning nutrition, geography, economic status, climate etc. Detailed knowledge of above factors is essential to improve the child nutrition.
The study was conducted on mothers of weaning children of urban and rural area. Simple random sampling technique was adopted for the study purpose. A questionnaire was prepared to evaluate the knowledge, beliefs, customs and dietary habits relating to weaning and effect of economy, demography, literacy etc on the believes, customs and practices. After collection of data, analysis was done to draw the conclusion.
The study showed that 65% children weaned at the age of 4 to 6 months belonged to urban and 50% to rural population. In both populations, middle class weaned their children early. Similarly, education also improved the situation. Weaning before the age of three months existed to some extent in both the populations. Mixed feeding prevalent in both the communities. Trend towards introduction of processed foods was more in both populations. Food fads and taboos were also present, but more prevalent in rural areas and due to these, high energy and protein foods were usually prohibited for a young child. In urban areas, children of working mothers were also affected due to improper look after by the servants and relatives.
The study showed that many children in both rural and urban population did not receive the right food in their early childhood. This resulted in growth retardation and ill health in most children. Predisposing factors included low income of family, literacy, delayed weaning, late introduction of high-energy foods, protein and other nutrients for infant growth.