Weaning: This is how you wean gently and without complications

Weaning can be a difficult time for both mother and child. Nevertheless, there are a few tips and tricks that can make your time easier. You can find everything about weaning here!

The types of weaning

First of all, there is no rule book that specifies when you should stop breastfeeding. This is something that every mother has to decide individually. So give yourself as much time as you and your baby need and don’t let yourself be influenced by others who think “it’s about time”.

There are mothers who have to stop breastfeeding after three weeks because of breast problems. There are also those who breastfeed for several years. Which “category” you belong to is up to you. However, it would be ideal if you breastfeed your child for at least seven months, as recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization). Breast milk has the great advantage that it strengthens your baby’s immune system and builds up its intestinal flora. Both are things that you should not neglect. The WHO also recommends that breastfeeding be stopped by the age of two, but there are enough mothers who breastfeed longer than that.

First of all, a distinction is made between primary, secondary and gradual weaning.

Primary weaning means that the mother has never breastfed, either because she wanted to or because of other circumstances, such as being eligible for adoption, a serious medical condition in the mother (e.g. HIV, kidney, lung, liver or heart disease). ), stillbirth, use of dairy drugs or because the baby has a rare metabolic disorder, galactosemia. With this disease, the child cannot break down galactose, the milk sugar.

Secondary weaning describes weaning that happens as quickly as possible because breastfeeding is associated with major complications. These include breast infection (mastitis), infant death, postpartum psychosis, abscesses and unsuccessful abstinence from drugs. 

So-called prolactin inhibitors are often used here. These suppress the hormone prolactin in the body, which is responsible for milk production, so that milk is not produced unnecessarily by the mammary glands. The drugs should be taken as soon as possible after the birth, as they are less well tolerated the longer the child has been born. Side effects are common chest pain and depression.

The healthy, natural way is to wean yourself off gradually. Weaning is done gently and leisurely so that mother and child can slowly get used to the new situation. In the 5th-7th Month can be started to give the first porridge . Little by little, you give more and more solid food and replace the breastfeeding meals with it. How quickly this can be done depends entirely on you and your child. Take the time you need for this.

This is how weaning works

It is important that you continue to maintain physical and emotional contact with your child, even if you stop breastfeeding. You can compensate for the “lost” closeness by cuddling, stroking or playing. 

The best way to stop breastfeeding is to slowly and gradually introduce baby food into your child’s diet (between the 5th and 7th month). Baby food is not only important for your child’s development, but also because your child needs more energy than it gets from drinking alone. Start slowly, eg only partially replace a meal at the beginning and slowly get your child used to eating a complete meal without additional breastfeeding. You then gradually do this with all breastfeeding meals. At some point your child will have completely switched to solid food.

Of course, there are children who are more easily persuaded to accept solid food, while some prefer to continue breastfeeding. With them, it can be helpful if your partner or a relative takes over feeding the porridge. Babies react to smell. They associate yours with the breastfeeding meal, but not those of the other people. This is often a good weaning trick for babies and allows your partner to spend more time with the child.

Patience is always important, your child will feel stress and make it restless. Weaning always depends on the child AND the mother. Both must be satisfied.

Help with chest pain

Physiologically, it takes about four weeks after the last feed for the breast to stop producing milk. This time can be problematic for the mother because the breast is swollen and painful. The breast is under a lot of stress and any  engorgement that may occur can lead to mastitis. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can help prevent these problems.

  • Tie your breasts up so the fluid doesn’t pool in one place. A tight but comfortable bra is also good.
  • Squeeze your breasts to drain excess milk. But never empty it completely or even pump it out! This will only stimulate milk production again.
  • Peppermint and sage tea can help prevent inflammation and drain fluid. Cold sage tea can also be used as a compress. 20 minutes a day is enough.
  • Cool pads with quark, cold water or white cabbage can also be helpful.
  • Drinking less can also help. However, do not drink less than a liter per day.

Many mothers suffer from breastfeeding pain or sore nipples, which often leads to early weaning. But note here: Permanent pain while breastfeeding is not normal and must be taken seriously. Here you will find a lot of information about sore nipples .

Early weaning (before 5 months)

If you stop breastfeeding before the 5th month, you have to switch to bottle feeding and milk powder. However, milk powder lacks the positive properties of breast milk, children may later be prone to allergies and they may have a weaker immune system. If breastfeeding is stopped very early in the 4th to 6th week after birth, the prolactin level often drops so quickly that psychological problems can also arise. In that case, talk to your gynecologist or midwife. For these reasons, it is best to avoid weaning too early whenever possible.

Fast weaning with and without tablets

Drugs that help wean breastfeeding quickly affect dopamine levels and prolactin levels. Dopamine is a hormone that lowers prolactin levels and allows breast milk to stop. At the same time, it is also the antagonist to serotonin, the happiness hormone, which in turn is important for healthy sleep because it is converted to melatonin, the sleep hormone, in the dark.

Drugs that artificially increase dopamine levels often lead to mood swings and depression because serotonin levels drop. The same applies to prolactin inhibitors. Also, these medications need to be taken for a long time because if they are taken too short, the flow of milk can start again.

The only way to stop breastfeeding quickly without medication is to quickly replace the breastfeeding meals with bottled or porridge meals (depending on the child’s age). Still, it’s not that easy. The bottle is new to the children and is often not accepted. In addition, stopping breastfeeding too quickly can be traumatic for the child. It is also a heavy burden for you as a mother.

Be sure to give your child enough closeness so they don’t feel left alone and neglected. If you have chest pain, redness or even fever, you should definitely see your doctor.

Gordon’s Nocturnal Weaning (10 Night Plan)

This gentle method goes back to the American doctor Dr. Jay Gordon, which is designed to gently wean your child from breastfeeding at night. The following requirements must be met:

  • Your child must be at least one year old and healthy. 
  • Both parents must want the situation to change. 
  • Both should be convinced of the method. 
  • A quiet time should be chosen for this. No important appointments, teething flare-ups or developmental flare-ups should fall into this period.
  • It has to feel right. Cancel the process if it feels wrong or you have concerns.

Instructions for nights 1-3:

  • Choose 7 hours when you want to sleep. This can be set individually, eg 11:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m. 
  • Breastfeed your child just before bedtime. It doesn’t matter where it sleeps. It may be quiet in the family bed or in the same room.
  • If it cries at night, give it a quick feed, but don’t let it fall asleep while feeding. Put him back in bed awake and put him to sleep by petting, cuddling, rocking, patting or talking. Your partner’s work is also required here: it is often easier for them to put the child to sleep without breastfeeding because the baby does not associate them with breastfeeding.
  • After the seven hours, you can breastfeed as usual.

Instructions for nights 4-6:

  • The beginning is the same: select seven hours and shortly before that long breastfeeding.
  • There is now a ban on breastfeeding in the seven hours. The child may be picked up, cuddled or stroked, but not breastfed. Don’t worry, your child won’t go hungry. It’s old enough that it doesn’t need any more food during those seven hours.
  • Be prepared that your baby will not like this at first. It will scream and rage. Some children get used to it quickly, some will need up to an hour of coaxing. As hard as it is, be adamant and by no means shut up.
  • After the seven hours, breastfeeding resumes as normal.

Instructions for nights 7-10:

  • Note that the 10-night rule is a guide, this step may take longer.
  • From the 7th night you are no longer allowed to hold your baby in your arms. He must now be able to cope with petting, coaxing, humming, or holding hands for reassurance.
  • If special circumstances (time difference, illness, etc.) make it necessary to hold your child again at night, continue with the usual step after the interruption.

This method is so good because it means less stress for mother and child and also puts less pressure on the child. The child does not have to be left alone, as is the case with other methods. This guarantees a stress-free solution from the breast.

Whatever decision you make about weaning, remember to listen to your gut. We hope our tips can help you a little bit.

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