Weaning – how do I do it best?


If breast-feeding is no longer possible or not desired, breast-feeding is stopped. This means weaning the baby gradually from breast milk. Ideally, this is accompanied by a decrease in the production of breast milk. A distinction is made between primary weaning immediately after birth and secondary weaning after a certain period of breastfeeding. Reasons for weaning can be, apart from the time component, diseases of the mother and the associated medication, or diseases of the child which make breastfeeding impossible.

When is the best time for weaning?

A distinction is made between primary and secondary weaning. Primary weaning takes place immediately after birth. However, the newborn baby should be applied once so that it can absorb 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. So-called real weaning, which starts with the baby, is very individual and may only be desired after years. The need for breast milk decreases as the child develops.

In most cases, however, the time of weaning is determined by medical guidelines and is initiated by the mother. According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), an infant should ideally be breastfed during the first 6 months of life. After that, breastfeeding can be continued at the request of the mother or the child until the age of 2. Supplementary feeding should not begin before the 5th and not after the 6th month of life.

What are the options?

Weaning can be arranged in a variety of ways. A basic distinction is made between natural weaning, which starts with the baby, and gentle weaning, which starts with the mother. As the child develops, the desire for breast milk decreases and the desire for other food increases.

As the baby demands less breast milk, the milk production in the breast gradually decreases. However, 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 accustom both the baby and the mother’s breast to the new situation.

The amount of breastfeeding can be slowly reduced with the use of complementary foods. The complementary food should not immediately replace breast milk, but should be given as a supplement. To support this, it is advisable not to actively offer the breast, but also not to deny it to the baby.

Another approach is the nightly weaning according to Gordon. There are also some natural aids or medicines that can support weaning. Another approach is Gordon’s nocturnal weaning.

There are also some natural remedies or medicines that can support weaning. Gordon’s method refers to nocturnal weaning. This should be done from the first year of life.

The aim is to wean the child from nightly meals and thus encourage him or her to sleep through the night. The child should no longer be breastfed to sleep, but should learn to fall asleep in other ways. In contrast to normal weaning, breastfeeding can continue as normal during the day.

A nightly breastfeeding break of about 7 hours is planned. Ideally, the period from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. is recommended. The process is divided into several phases.

The desire for milk and affection will decrease without the attachment suffering. However, the success of this method, as well as the time required, is very individual. – During the first three nights, the child should be breastfed around 11 p.m. and thus accompanied to sleep.

If the baby wakes up before 6.00 a.m., he or she may be breastfed briefly, but without being put to sleep. To bring the child back to sleep, caressing and affection can be a helpful method. This process is repeated every time the child wakes up at night.

  • In the nights 4 to 6, the child is not breastfed when awakening. He can be comforted and caressed, but he should be laid down awake and manage to fall asleep without breast milk. – In nights 7 to 10, the baby should not be breastfed when he wakes up and should not be picked up.

Calming by touch and gentle speech are the methods of choice. Over time, the child will get used to being alone at night for 7 hours and will begin to sleep through the night. Some medications can be used to support the weaning process.

The principles of action are mainly based on the inhibition of prolactin. This is the hormone that is released during breastfeeding and maintains the flow of milk. The active ingredients cabergoline (Dostinex®) and bromocriptine (Pravidel®, Parlodel®) imitate the effect of the messenger substance dopamine in the brain, which has an inhibitory effect on prolactin production.

This stops milk production. Another active ingredient is metergoline (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 are sleep disturbances, headaches, dizziness and nausea. Some home remedies can make weaning easier.

It is pleasant to tie up the breasts, e.g. with a tight bra, and to cool them down. Quark compresses can also help with weaning. Quark has an anti-inflammatory and cooling effect.

It can be applied directly to the skin or to a cloth and left on for a few hours. Furthermore, a weaning tea, e.g. made of sage or peppermint, can be used. If you want to wean naturally, you can use sage or peppermint tea as a support.

These plants have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic and calming properties. They are also said to reduce milk production. It is best to drink two to four cups spread over the day.

Furthermore, there are already ready-made teas available for purchase. These usually also contain walnut leaves and hop cones. To make 100g of such a tea yourself, you can mix 20g walnut leaves, 30g hop cones and 50g sage leaves. For one cup use two teaspoons of the tea mixture. After infusing with boiling water the tea should steep for 10 to 15 minutes.