Optimal bottle weaning should occur between 12 and 15 months of age. We hypothesized that high-risk populations have different parental attitudes, learned behaviors, and knowledge of weaning practices.
To determine whether high-risk populations are less likely to wean their children by 15 months of age than low-risk populations.
A cross-sectional survey using a convenience sample of parents was conducted at 3 community-based pediatric clinics. Spanish- and English-speaking parents with weaned and unweaned children 12 to 36 months of age were included in the study. A self-administered questionnaire was completed at a clinic visit. The questionnaire addressed aspects of parents' sociodemographic characteristics and included feeding history; weaning practices; sources of information about weaning; and parental behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge of age at which the child should be weaned.
One hundred eighty questionnaires were completed. Marital status was related to weaning behavior. Seventy-six percent of single mothers had weaned their children in a timely manner, whereas 48% of married mothers had done so (χ2=7.70; P =.008). Parental education, race, and income were not significantly related to the timeliness of weaning. When respondents rated the helpfulness of multiple sources, only the health clinic was found to be significantly more important for the timely weaning group (t=−2.13; P =.04). Parents with timely weaned children stated that the mean±SD optimal age for weaning is 13.6±3.2 months. Parents with unweaned and late-weaned children stated that the mean±SD optimal age is 19.9±6.6 months. Bedtime bottle feedings were reported in more than 87% of the unweaned group. Sixty-nine percent reported poor dental development associated with delayed weaning.
Married parents are at risk of late weaning. Parents continue to allow their children to sleep with milk bottles in their mouths in bed at night. Parents are not aware of the medical problems associated with late weaning. Late-weaning parents are not knowledgeable about current weaning recommendations. Current approaches are not effective in altering set patterns of inappropriate weaning habits. Additional interventions and innovative parental education methods are needed to improve age-appropriate weaning practices.