1.1   Background to the Study

Weaning is the introduction of supplementary food to a child’s diet after the first six months of life. Infant weaning with supplementary feeds of breast milk substitutes, early introduction of complementary feeding and incorrect weaning from breast milk are commonly found practices in communities around the world (Inayati, Scherbaum, Purwestri, Hormann, Wirawan, Suryantan, Hartono, Bloem, Pangaribuan, Biesalki, Hoffmann, & Bellows, 2012). The period of weaning could involve a lot of problems and usually information gap exist in relation to how and when weaning takes place. Adequate nutrition during infancy and early childhood is essential for growth and development of children (Ashmika, Deerajen, Prity & Rajesh, 2013). It has been recognized worldwide that breastfeeding is beneficial for both the mother and child as breastmilk is considered the best source of nutrition for an infant (Ku & Chow, 2010). The World Health Organization (WHO) as said by Hanif (2011 recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months after which complementary foods are introduced along with breastmilk for up to two years of age or beyond. The first two years of life are critical stages for a child’s growth and development. Any damage caused by nutritional deficiencies during this period could lead to impaired cognitive development, compromised educational achievement and low economic productivity (Kimani-Murage, Madise, Fotso, Kyobutungi, Mutau, Gitau & Yatich, 2011).

Poor breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, together with high rates of morbidity from infectious diseases are the prime proximate causes of malnutrition in the first two years of life. Breastfeeding confers both short-term and long-term benefits to a child. It reduces infections and mortality among infants, improves mental and motor development, and protects against obesity and metabolic diseases later in life (WHO, 2010). According to Kimani-Murage et al., (2011), the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months, beginning from the first hour of life, to meet the infant’s nutritional requirements and achieve optimal growth, development and health. The mother is advised to continue breastfeeding up to two years of age or more and begin nutritionally adequate, safe, and appropriately-fed complementary foods at the age of six months in order to meet the evolving needs of the growing infant. Since weaning is a process by which food other than breast milk is introduced gradually into baby’s diet, first to complement the breast milk and then to wean totally off breast milk involve selecting light nutritious food for easy absorption. Then later replace light nutritious food with thicker feed using hygiene practices when preparing them but majority of nutrition problems in rural areas are due to faulty weaning food (Shadia & Bedor, 2013).

Predictors of breastfeeding and weaning practices vary between and within countries. Factors that influence the weaning process include infant feeding problems such as refusal to eat, colic, diarrhoea and vomiting (Ashmika et al., 2013). These factors represent challenges for mothers and in turn may either directly or indirectly influence the feeding pattern. In view of the identified factors, which are early introduction of complementary feeding and incorrect weaning from breast milk, the researcher would carry out a study on infant weaning knowledge and practices among mothers in ikenne local government area, Ogun State.