Can Bitter Leaf Gourd/Dongoyaro Leaves Help With Weaning Babies?


Weaning is yet another big milestone for mother and baby. And like most milestones in motherhood, it is not at all rosy. Your baby may cry nonstop, confused at the fact that you are cutting off the feeding and comfort routine they are accustomed to.


Your breasts would likely become engorged with milk, which can hurt like hell.


This article will discuss the two popular herbs that have helped women successfully wean their babies. 



When is the best time to wean your baby?


There is no rule for this. Depending on your energy level or schedule, you might want to completely wean your baby at six months even.


However, it is important to note that the American Academy of Paediatrics advises mothers to breastfeed exclusively for six months. And Dr. Sridhar K, consultant neonatologist and paediatrician, UAE, advises to "Never start solids before four months. The baby's body is not ready for that sort of digestion". He added, "Some studies have shown that if you introduce solids before four months, your baby could have a higher risk of obesity". 


Hold these medical facts to your heart while we discuss popular methods some Nigerian mothers employ to wean their babies. 


Bitter gourd as a weaning method 


As mentioned above, many babies have difficulty understanding that they can no longer suckle for milk and comfort. Some babies would cry till their body temperature increases to a fever. 


For women that cannot bear the sight of their babies in distress, these women have devised the method of using bitter herbs around their nipples to make their babies reject breastfeeding even when offered.


Bitter gourd is one such herb. Commonly called bitter melon, this herb plays a major role in many Nigerian women weaning their babies.


Application method 


Ensure every item you use for this process is clean to avoid infections or germs.


  • Wash the bitter gourd thoroughly. 
  • Juice and store in a fridge. 
  • Apply the juice to your nipples. 
  • Offer them alternative milk or food when they refuse to breastfeed. 



Using this method can provide the following benefits for you and your baby. 


  • Easier and more tolerable transition for your baby.
  • The less emotional difficulty for you. 
  • Gradual hormonal change in your body. 

Are there any adverse effects?

There is a risk that bitter gourd can result in low blood sugar. It can also cause stomach upset like nausea or diarrhoea. But there is no danger in the little quantities used for weaning a baby. 


When bitter gourd juice is applied to the skin, it may cause skin rashes and irritation. So do not leave the juice on for too long. 


Is this method effective?

Yes. There is a high chance that this will help you wean your baby.


Dongoyaro leaves as a weaning method 


Dogoyaro leaves are even more effective, according to many mothers' reviews. This is because neem leaves, commonly called dongoyaro, are very bitter. Even the oils produced from the leaves are still effective because of their bitter taste.


Application method 

You can use pure neem oil if it is available in your locality. Just make sure the oil is unadulterated. 


In the absence of neem oil:

  • Wash the dogoyaro/neem leaves properly to remove dirt.
  • Juice the leaves.
  • Apply lightly on your nipples. 

Any adverse effects?

Neem seeds or medium and large quantities of oil can be unsafe for children. It can cause serious side effects within hours of taking it. However, currently, no research shows the quantity used for weaning can be harmful. 


Is it effective?

On several mom forums, here are what some mothers have to say about this method of weaning. 


"My little girl is 22 months old now. I applied neem juice for two days, and she stopped drinking breast milk. She cried for 1 week. After that, she is fine now and takes a good night's sleep" ~ Shobha.


I applied neem oil to my nipple and offered. But he refused because of the bitterness. He cried a lot for the first few days. Then he was ready to drink the cow's milk and sleep. It took one week to wean him completely at 18 months ~ Usanth.


I weaned my younger daughter with neem oil, and it worked. That is a safer option. ~ Jananikrithsan.


Gentle and effective ways to wean a baby


Here are gentle ways to wean your baby. Especially if your baby gets used to the bitterness and refuses to stop breastfeeding. Yes, there's that small possibility. 


Perfect timing

Maybe not a perfect time, but you can choose a time close to perfect. Weaning can be difficult when you initiate it while moving to a new apartment or when your toddler starts school. Those are big transitions.


Choosing to cut your child off breastfeeding at this time can be too much change for him/her to handle. 


Gradual transition

This is the best method if weaning your baby is becoming impossible. The benefit is that your body can adjust, and the risk of breast engorgement is less.


Start by feeding them an alternative milk or solid food during some times of the day you normally breastfeed. Replace more breastfeeding time with solid food or alternative milk over the next few weeks till you stop completely. 



Learn to delay and postpone breastfeeding, especially when you are out. When your toddler asks, postpone and promise a later time for as long as you can. When you do this often, it can become the new normal till you stop completely. 


Weaning your baby is a challenge. Make sure to start slow, and don’t rush yourself. It takes time. Ensure you thoroughly wash both leaves before applying them to your nipples. 

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