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Weaning – How long should you Breastfeed?

The breastfeeding period is usually a wonderful phase for mother and child. Learn how to wean in harmony with the needs of mother and baby.

If possible, breastfeed exclusively for six months

Breastfeeding is essential for the health and development of the child in many ways. Experts, therefore, recommend solely breastfeeding a child for the first six months of life, but at least until the beginning of the fifth month. This also applies to children at risk of allergies.

For most infants, exclusive breastfeeding (except for water and, if necessary, medications, vitamins, and minerals) is sufficient nutrition for the first four to six months of life. Some infants with a disability or disease, such as a heart defect, need more energy and a more substantial diet. This is not a reason for weaning, but it may mean “supplementing” feeding earlier in consultation with the doctors treating the child.

The introduction of complementary foods is advisable at the beginning of the seventh month of life at the latest. The first oatmeal starts the weaning process. Gradually, complementary foods then supplement breastfeeding. Continue breastfeeding while your baby gets used to the new food. You and your baby alone determine the total duration of breastfeeding.

Weaning requires time and special care

Breastfeeding means a special physical closeness. If this is eliminated by weaning, this is new and unfamiliar for your child and you. Therefore, you should show your child special affection and play and cuddle with them often during the weaning phase.

If weaning is done gradually, your milk will slowly decrease, and you will not need to do anything else. Should your breast still hurt, extract some milk by hand or pump some in between.

In case you want to wean more quickly for health or other reasons, it is advisable to contact a doctor.

No reason to stop breastfeeding

As long as you and your baby are satisfied, there is little reason to wean the baby from the breast prematurely.

For example, it is rarely necessary today to wean because of a medical condition. If you are unclear about this, you should consult your doctor.

However, weaning is often done too early for other reasons – sometimes out of ignorance – without it being necessary.

No good reason for weaning is:

  • A breast inflammation – the inflammation is even worsened by an overfull breast, and the milk is not bad for the baby.
  • The eruption of teeth.
  • The onset of the monthly menstrual period.
  • A new pregnancy, unless you are not healthy.
  • Medication use. If you are sick and need to take medications, you should get medical advice about which breastfeeding-tolerant medications you can take. In most cases, some medicines can be taken while continuing to breastfeed.
  • Personal reasons include conflicts in the partnership due to breastfeeding or fears of unwanted changes in the body. During early midwife visits, these problems can typically be addressed quickly.

Reasons for weaning on the mother’s side can be, for example, certain illnesses themselves or the associated use of medication that could harm the child. Supplementary feeding may be necessary if a child cannot suckle sufficiently due to disease and therefore receives too little nourishment during breastfeeding. With many disabilities and lip malformation, babies can usually be adequately breastfed.

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