Perception of Weaning by Mothers and Caregivers in Yaounde

Meangu Elisabeth Falake (
Pediatrics, University of Yaounde I
June, 2016


Introduction: Weaning is introducing a range of foods gradually to a baby who was on exclusive breastfeeding until the baby gets to the point of eating the same foods as adults. Weaning in an adequate manner is performed by introduction of safe and nutritional foods in addition to breastfeeding. These foods are typically provided to children from 6 to 18-24 months of age. Poor weaning results in undernutrition. According to a study carried in Cameroon in the year 2014, 14.8% of children of less than 5 years were moderately to severely underweight (weight for age Z score < -2). Also, 31.7% of children of less than five years were moderately to severely stunted (height for age Z score < -2. Furthermore, 5.2% of these children suffered from moderate and severe emaciation (weight for height Z score < -2). It is well recognized that the period of 6-24 months of age is one of the most critical time periods in the growth of the infant. The incidence of stunting is highest in this period as children have high demand for nutrients and there are limitations in the quality and quantity of available foods, especially after exclusive breastfeeding. The way a mother views weaning is closely related to how she will perform weaning. Therefore this study evaluated the perception of weaning by mothers and caregivers in Yaounde, so as to get their views on weaning and correct their wrong views. This can lead to a reduction in the incidence of childhood undernutrition in our milieu and its effects.
Objectives: The main objective of this study was to describe the perception of weaning by mothers and caregivers in Yaounde. Through evaluating their knowledge, identifying their attitudes and describing their practices with regards to weaning.
Methodology: The study was carried out in a KAP manner and it was quantitative. It was a community based cross-sectional study on 421 mothers and/or caregivers in Yaounde who had had at least one child who had begun or undergone weaning. The study was carried out from February through to March 2016. Mothers and caregivers were selected using multistage clustered sampling. Data was collected with the help of a structured questionnaire administered by a main investigator who moved from house to house in each selected neighbourhood. Data was analysed using SPSS 21.0. Analysis was done following a grading scale.
Results: We recruited 421 mothers and caregivers in our study with ages ranging from 18 years to 75 years. The mean age was 34.8+/- 11 years. Most of them (62.2%) had a secondary level of education. The number of children ranged from one child to 10 children with a mean number of children of 2.9+/- 1.8 children. The majority of mothers and caregivers (63.9%) were self-employed. And 39.4% of mothers and caregivers were married closely followed by 33.0% which were single.
The majority of mothers and caregivers (86.2%) defined weaning as stopping breastfeeding completely. Generally, their knowledge on weaning was average this was despite the fact that more than half of the mothers and caregivers (58.2%) got their information from health personnel.
A large percentage of cultural beliefs concerning weaning were harmful (73.4%). Also, 39.2% had right beliefs about diseases that could be transmitted through breast milk. Furthermore, 72.4% of mothers and caregivers wrongly believed that pregnancy was reason enough to wean a child completely, while 78.9% believed not breastfeeding long causes breast milk to rot. In the same light, 44.7% believed sexual intercourse spoils breast milk. And finally, 40.4% of mothers and caregivers believed traditional drugs should be taken in case of spoilt breast milk while 43.7% said breastfeeding should be ceased in case of spoilt breast milk.
The minimum age of initiation of weaning was at birth and the maximum age was at 18 months. The mean age of initiation of weaning was 4.1+/-2.6 months. Thus 51.3% of mothers and caregivers initiated weaning inadequately. The main reason for weaning was returning to work (43.7%) closely followed by perceived insufficient breast milk (30.2%). Almost all meals were highly represented but they were mostly introduced prematurely. The ages of final weaning ranged from 6 months to 36 months with a mean age of 12+/-5 months.
There was a significant association between knowledge and attitudes (p value 0.028). There was also a significant association between attitudes and practices (p value <0.0001).
Conclusion: In spite of the good knowledge mothers and caregivers in Yaounde have on exclusive breastfeeding, most of these mothers and caregivers have wrong perceptions concerning weaning. Average knowledge on weaning leads to wrong attitudes towards weaning resulting in inadequate practices while weaning.
Recommendation: This study suggests that emphasis should be laid on weaning during health promotion programs.