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Breastfeeding is more than just providing nutrition. It is a ritual of unparalleled closeness. As such, many mothers and their children experience it as something beautiful. And yet, this time does come to an end. But when is the right time to stop breastfeeding? When you — you and your child — are ready. This is a very personal decision!
Speak to your lactation consultant or paediatrician about the right time for you and the best way to approach it.
As a general rule, breast milk is no longer sufficient as the sole source of food as your baby enters the 5th to 7th months of age because the energy and iron requirements of your little one steadily increase at this age. Learn more about starting solid foods here.
Plenty of questions about weaning and the transition to solids?
For how long should I exclusively breastfeed my child?
Experts recommend that every baby should be exclusively breastfed for at least the first four months and until no later than the beginning of their 7th month. This is particularly important for babies with a higher risk of allergies.
After the 6th month, your baby has a higher need for energy and iron that will need to be covered by complementary food. Even if you gradually replace each feed from the breast with baby mash and later transition to a balanced family diet, your baby continues to need breast milk or formula for the entire first year. How long you choose to supplement the increasing meals of baby mash with breastfeeding is entirely up to you.
If you have to or want to stop breastfeeding earlier, there are a variety of baby foods* available that are all specifically tailored to the age of your child. It is best to speak to the paediatrician or your midwife if you want to begin weaning.
How does weaning work?
If your baby demands less milk, your milk production adapts accordingly and lessens naturally by itself.
Usually after the 4th month you can begin to introduce complementary foods. However, your baby will continue to need milk feeds during the first year for their development.
If you would like to stop breastfeeding, please consult your midwife or paediatrician first about which nutrition you can use as an alternative to breast milk.
In order to provide your baby with optimal nutrition even after you have stopped breastfeeding, certified nutrition* is available. You can then replace one of the feeds from the breast with a bottle of formula. You can gradually start replacing each feed if your baby takes to the new nutrition well.
If your baby initially rejects the bottle, you can ask another trusted person to take over from you — even if that is not easy for you to do as a mother.
Our tip: The most important thing with weaning is patience. Don't put yourself under pressure. Listen to your body and above all, make the transition at your own pace.
When do I introduce solids?
Normally your child is sufficiently developed to start having their first baby porridge in addition to their milk at the beginning of the 5th month or, at the latest, by the beginning of the 7th month. Usually, the first solids are introduced at lunchtime, before being breastfed or having a bottle. If you would like to learn more about the introduction of complementary foods, read more here.
How can I tell when my baby is ready for complementary food?
There are several signs that your little sunshine is ready for solids.
- They watch you avidly while you eat — following every spoonful that goes to your mouth with their eyes.
- They open their mouths, smack their lips and move their head towards the spoon.
- They begin to chew and their tongue thrust reflex weakens — i.e. they reach for food and chew on it without reflexively pushing the solid food back out again.
- They chew endlessly on their hands and toys, and dribble a lot.
- The baby becomes increasingly impatient between feeds and the gap in between them gets shorter.
Do you want to learn more about complementary foods? Then read more here.
Breastfeeding provides your baby the ultimate nutrition
The German specialist associations and research institutions such as DGKJ, DGE and FKE recommend that infants be fed exclusively with breast milk for the first four months of their first half-year of life.** Even partially breastfeeding is worthwhile. Speak to your paediatrician or midwife if you want to stop breastfeeding, want to use an infant formula, or start feeding solids before the 6th month.
** DGKJ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kinder- und Jugendmedizin); DGE (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung); FKE (Forschungsinstitut für Kinderernährung).