For many mothers and their children, the breastfeeding period is a particularly intense time. But how long should children be breastfed at all and when should weaning begin in order to switch to complementary feeding?? These questions not only occupy many mothers, but are also the subject of many discussions.
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How long should mothers breastfeed?
The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the National Breastfeeding Commission agree: Provided mother and child are healthy, breast milk is the best food for infants. Therefore, it is recommended to breastfeed the child at least in the first days immediately after birth. The colostrum, which is produced in the first seven days of the baby’s life, contains many antibodies, nutrients and growth factors. They support the development of the child’s digestive tract and protect the child from infectious diseases.
But there are different opinions about how long the breastfeeding period should last. Even in the first weeks and months of life, the child benefits from the nutrients contained in the mother’s milk. At the same time, breastfeeding fulfills other functions: It strengthens the mother-child bond and helps with the involution of the uterus. WHO, UNICEF and the National Breastfeeding Commission advise breastfeeding fully for at least six months and then slowly starting to add other foods. If mothers and children want it, the National Breastfeeding Commission advises to continue breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods until the end of the first year of life.
When is the right time to stop breastfeeding?
There is no general answer to the question of the right time to start breastfeeding. The end of breastfeeding depends on many factors and therefore varies from individual to individual. Breastfeeding problems such as breast infections, pain during breastfeeding, lack of milk, taking certain medications or resuming work are just a few reasons for mothers to stop breastfeeding.
But children can also determine the timing of weaning themselves by suddenly refusing the breast or showing increased interest in other foods. There is no way to predict when this will happen. For some children, this happens after several months, for others only after their first birthday. The baby’s decreasing interest in the breast is what doctors call natural weaning.
How to wean naturally
How to wean: Natural weaning
The so-called natural weaning is the easiest way to wean, because it is based on the needs of the child. By refusing the breast, it shows its waning interest and readiness for new food. This solidifies over time and manifests itself in an increasingly frequent rejection of the breast, which can last for several days or even weeks. At some point the child will refuse the breast completely.
How to wean: Gentle weaning
Another form of weaning is so-called gentle weaning. Here, the mother determines when she wants to stop breastfeeding. It is important that this weaning is also done slowly and over several weeks. This is because the baby’s digestive system, which was previously only used to breast milk, must have sufficient time to adjust to the new food.
Depending on when you want to start weaning, you should first replace one meal with bottle feeding or complementary food (baby food). Sometimes it can help to finish the meal with some breast milk. Put your baby to this again following the bottle or porridge. Some children find the transition easier this way. Initially, replace only one meal a day and give your child time to get used to it. After about a week, you can replace a second meal a day with other food. After another week, substitute another meal. You should continue this rhythm, but keep the evening breastfeeding until the end. For many children, breastfeeding before bedtime has a calming effect that makes it easier to fall asleep afterwards.