There is a direct correlation between weaning and diarrhea.
Infants are at the greatest risk of diarrhea when foods other than breast milk are first introduced. Diarrhea is more prevalent at this time because weaning infants are being exposed to food borne germs for the first time. At the same time they are losing the immune protection of breast milk which has antiviral and antibacterial properties.
High levels of contamination are often found in animal milks and other traditional weaning foods, especially cereal grains. Escherichia coli (E. Coli) causes at least 25 per cent of all diarrhea in developing countries, is commonly found in weaning food.
Feeding bottles and nipples or rubber teats are particularly difficult to clean. This bottle feeding paraphernalia is a breeding grounds for germs.
The need for infants older than 6 months to receive more than just breast milk in order to grow well, balanced against the risk that this will result in diarrhea, has been called ‘the weaning dilemma’.
It is important for health workers to work with local communities to identify and encourage safe weaning practices and to improve infants’ nutrition to increase their resistance to infections such as diarrhea.