Weaning - what's the best way to do it?


If breastfeeding is no longer possible or no longer desired, breastfeeding is carried out. This is understood as the gradual weaning of the child from breast milk. Ideally, this is accompanied by a decrease in breast milk production. A distinction is made between primary weaning immediately after birth and secondary weaning after a certain period of breastfeeding. In addition to the temporal component, reasons for weaning can also be illnesses of the mother and associated medication intake, or illnesses of the child that make breastfeeding no longer possible.

Read more on the subject at:

  • Problems in breastfeeding in the child
  • Problems during breastfeeding in the mother

When is the best time to wean?

A distinction is made between primary and secondary weaning.

Primary weaning takes place immediately after the birth. The newborn should, however, be created once so that it can take in the first milk, which contains many immune substances, and the mammary gland is emptied once.

Secondary weaning takes place after a certain period of breastfeeding. A so-called real weaning, which starts with the child, is very individual and may only be desirable after years. As the child develops, the need for breast milk decreases. Most of the time, however, the time of weaning is based on medical guidelines and is based on the mother.

According to the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), an infant should ideally be breastfed during the first 6 months of life. Thereafter, at the request of the mother or child, breastfeeding can continue until the child is 2 years old. The start of complementary food should not take place before the 5th and not after the 6th month of life.

What are the options?

Weaning can be designed in a variety of ways. Basically, a distinction is made between natural weaning, which starts with the child, and gentle weaning, which starts with the mother.

As the child develops, the need for breast milk decreases and the desire for other food increases. As the child demands less breast milk, the milk production in the breast gradually decreases. This process can often drag on for years, so that mothers often start weaning on their own initiative. This should be done slowly in order to get both the child and the mother's breast used to the new situation. With the use of complementary foods, the breastfeeding amount can be slowly reduced. The complementary food should not replace breast milk immediately, but should be given in addition. To support this, it makes sense to no longer actively offer the breast, but also not to deny it to the child.

Read more on the subject at: Baby nutrition - the recommendation for babies.

Another approach is the Gordon nocturnal weaning. There are also some natural aids or medications that can aid weaning.

Gordon weaning

The Gordon method describes weaning at night. This should be done from the first year of life. The aim is to wean the child from nightly meals and thus encourage them to sleep through the night. The child should no longer be fed to sleep, but learn to fall asleep in other ways. In contrast to normal weaning, you can continue to breastfeed during the day.

A nightly breastfeeding break of approx. 7 hours is planned. The period from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. is ideal. The process is divided into several phases.

  • During the first three nights, the child should be breastfed around 11 p.m. and thus accompanied to sleep. If it wakes up before 6 a.m., it can be breastfed briefly, but without being brought to sleep. Caressing and affection can be helpful in getting the child back to sleep. This process is repeated every night you wake up.
  • On nights 4 to 6, the child is not breastfed on awakening. It can be comforted and caressed, but it should be laid awake and managed to fall asleep without breast milk.
  • On nights 7 to 10, the child should not be breastfed or picked up when waking up. Calming through touch and speaking gently are the methods of choice. Over time, the child will get used to being alone for 7 hours at night and will begin to sleep through the night.

The cravings for milk and affection will decrease without affecting the bond. The success of this method and the time required are very individual.

Weaning tablets / medication

Some drugs can be used to provide medical support when weaning. The principles of action are mainly based on the inhibition of prolactin. This is the hormone that is released during breastfeeding and that maintains the flow of milk.

The active ingredients cabergoline (Dostinex®) and bromocriptine (Pravidel®, Parlodel®) imitate the effect of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, which has an inhibitory effect on prolactin production. This stops milk production. Another active ingredient is metergolin (Liserdol®), which also increases the effect of dopamine, but also inhibits the effect of the prolactin-promoting messenger substance serotonin.

If there is a desire to support weaning with medication, this should be discussed with a doctor. The tablets are tolerated differently from person to person. Common side effects of these drugs include difficulty sleeping, headache, dizziness, and nausea.

Home remedies

Some home remedies can make weaning easier. Tying the chest up, e.g. with a tight bra, and felt the cooling. Quark wraps can also help with weaning. The quark has an anti-inflammatory and cooling effect. It can be applied directly to the skin or on a cloth and left in for a few hours. Furthermore, a weaning tea, e.g. made from sage or peppermint.

Weaning tea

If you want to stop breastfeeding naturally, you can use sage or mint tea to help. These plants have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic and calming effects. They are also said to have a milk production-reducing effect. It is best to drink two to four cups throughout the day.

There are also ready-made "weaning teas" for sale. These usually also contain walnut leaves and hop cones. To make 100g of still tea yourself, you can mix 20g walnut leaves, 30g hop cones and 50g sage leaves. Two teaspoons of the tea mixture are used for one cup. After pouring boiling water, the tea should steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

What can you do about weaning pain?

When weaning, the breasts can often be plump and painful. First of all, you can try simple home remedies to get relief. Cold quark wraps or cabbage leaves can be pleasant. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can also help (see: Painkillers During Pregnancy).

On a homeopathic basis, "Phytolacca decandra“Often application. The so-called pokeweed can have a beneficial effect on inflamed, painful and swollen breasts. However, if the pain gets worse or an inflammation becomes noticeable, you should ask a doctor for advice as soon as possible.

Read more on the subject at:

  • Chest pain in pregnancy - therapy
  • Painful breastfeeding

Problem milk congestion

Milk congestion is an incomplete, painful emptying of the breast. This can occur at any time during breastfeeding. The most common causes of this are breastfeeding periods that are too short or infrequent or obstructions to drainage. Furthermore, stress, lack of sleep, incorrect breastfeeding technique, or overproduction of milk can trigger a milk jam. Tears on the nipple allow bacteria to penetrate the mammary glands and multiply easily due to the congestion. A congestion of the milk should therefore be treated as soon as possible, as this otherwise results in a painful breast inflammation (Puerperal mastitis) can pass.

Symptoms of blocked breasts are a bulging, painful, and sometimes reddened breast. The surface of the skin can be shiny. It can also lead to a disturbed milk flow. As a rule, the symptoms appear on both sides and are accompanied by a rise in temperature.

The therapy of the milk congestion consists in emptying the breast as often and completely as possible. Before putting on painkillers such as Ibuprofen or paracetamol or moist warm compresses on the chest may be helpful. Slight pressure can be applied to the hardened area during application to facilitate milk drainage. After emptying, the breast tissue can be loosened up a little with a light massage. Drug treatment of the blocked milk is also possible. On the one hand, you can reduce milk production (e.g. with bromocriptine or cabergoline) or, on the other hand, promote milk delivery by means of the so-called "milk donation reflex" with an oxytocin spray.

Read more on the subject at: Milk Obstruction - What Can You Do?

Duration of weaning

Weaning should be gentle and can drag on for weeks to months. The amount of milk and the frequency of breastfeeding are slowly reduced and replaced with complementary foods. An abrupt change should be avoided. However, if sudden weaning is necessary, it is important to substitute emptying of the breast, e.g. by expressing with a breast pump and then slowly reducing it so as not to cause milk congestion. Sudden weaning can often lead to so-called milk fever, which should go away within 3 to 4 days.

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What hormonal changes occur when weaning?

During breastfeeding, women produce increased levels of the hormone prolactin. This hormone promotes milk production and simultaneously suppresses the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Therefore, cycle irregularities can occur during breastfeeding. If the breastfeeding stimulus ceases, the prolactin level drops again and the sex hormones can be released again unhindered. However, it can take some time for the hormonal balance to return to normal.

Read more about this under: Menstrual Period.

Weaning and your period - what is the relationship?

The woman's cycle is created through the interaction of various sex hormones. The estrogen level rises in the first half of the cycle and builds up the lining of the uterus. In addition, a short-term sharp rise in estrogen causes ovulation. After ovulation, the hormone progesterone increases to enable a fertilized egg to implant. If this does not happen, the hormone levels drop again and the lining of the uterus is shed. The period comes.

During breastfeeding, the baby's breastfeeding causes the hormones prolactin and oxytocin to be released. These in turn inhibit the release of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. For this reason, there is usually no regular cycle during breastfeeding. Ovulation and pregnancy should therefore also not occur while breastfeeding. However, this mechanism differs from woman to woman, which is why breastfeeding is not a safe method of contraception. After weaning, it takes some time for the hormonal cycle to return to normal.