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A qualitative study of mothers’ perceptions of weaning and the use of commercial infant food in the United Kingdom

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Background: Commercially produced infant food has a different taste profile and nutritional content to homemade baby food and its consumption is now very widespread. This change in early food experience may lead to a reduced dietary variety and a decreased microbial load exposure.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to gain insight into parental perceptions of complementary feeding, specifically opinions of commercially produced baby food, using qualitative research methods. Methods: Four focus group discussions took place (n = 24), with mothers of infants aged 4-7 months. Half of participants were first time mothers and a third had experience weaning infants with symptoms of cows' milk allergy. Participants were prompted with questions about complementary feeding and shown several different products to stimulate discussion.

Results: Thematic analysis of focus groups indicated that three distinctive groups of mothers exist; "relaxed", "concerned" and "balanced", which may be influenced by parity, socioeconomic status and previous experience of weaning. The majority of mothers commenced the weaning process using homemade foods, but transitioned to include commercial baby foods after 3-6 weeks. Commercial baby food was perceived as more convenient to homemade baby food by the majority and as superior and "safer" by some mothers. Although there were concerns raised about the identity of ingredients, few concerns were expressed regarding nutritional quality or allergen content, even by mothers with experience of weaning an infant with food allergic symptoms.

Conclusion: Overall complementary feeding was viewed as a natural process with the goal of enjoyment of food and development of a broad palate. Opinions on readymade baby food were influenced by parity, education level and previous experience of weaning
Original languageEnglish
Article number1000103
JournalMaternal and Pediatric Nutrition
Volume1
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2015

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