The Weaning Project
Weaning is the
transitional time when a young child's diet gradually changes
from breastmilk alone to a diet that includes what the family
eats. During weaning, a child is gradually introduced to foods
other than breastmilk. The child should continue to receive
breastmilk since this is an important source of nutrients.
During the weaning period, the incidence of diarrhea and
malnutrition often increase, putting the child at greater risk
of severe illness and death.
Weaning Project (1984-89) was undertaken to find low-cost,
nutritionally sound and sustainable solutions to nutrition
problems of the weaning age child. The project was supported
by the Office of Nutrition, USAID.
The Weaning Project
developed a protocol for exploring young child feeding
practices and refined it in six countries. The protocol, first
implemented in Indonesia and Cameroon, included a large amount
of foreign technical assistance. Later, in Swaziland, Ecuador
and Zaire, the most salient pieces of the multi-step protocol
were chosen, modified and implemented primarily by
host-country researchers with periodic technical assistance.
After these experiences, there was an opportunity to utilize
the protocol in Ghana. The protocol was streamlined and
implemented with only brief orientation from expatriate
The protocol included the following
Assessment of current practices:
Identify critical problems impeding the proper feeding and
care of weaning-age children and the resources available to
alleviate or solve these problems. The assessment phase
combined market, anthropological and nutrition research
Formulation of program strategies:
Determine feasible intervention strategies—including plans for
legislation, training, food products, communications and other
activities. A creative strategy was developed and materials
were developed, tested and produced.
Implementation: Apply the creative strategy and
develop a workable intervention. Special attention was given
to training counterparts and program staff in communication
skills, particularly in counseling.
For each demonstration project, the evaluation found
significant improvements in knowledge, attitudes, practices
and anthropometric measurements.
learned: The lessons have been applied in subsequent
projects and include:
- Build partnerships with host-country institutions so the
partner organization "owns" the project
- Begin training for institutionalization early in the
project and look at public-private collaboration
- Do not compromise the qualitative research. Continue to
probe into people's motivations and resistances and to bring
their voices to program planning
- Use the research for broad program planning to
facilitate behavior change.
The Weaning Project: Final Report (1992) [260KB