Breastfeeding as Birth Control

Breastfeeding as Birth Control 1Fact or Fiction? Breastfeeding will prevent you from getting pregnant.

That's a trick question, actually. It can and does, depending on the circumstances.

Because there are so many rumors and half-truths flying around on the topic, I thought I'd give you a quick look at the facts.

All information is taken from the Ask Dr. Sears website, unless otherwise indicated.

Q. I've heard about something called LAM. What does it stand for?
A. The lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) is a natural birth control technique based on the fact that lactation (breastmilk production) causes amenorrhea (lack of menstruation).

Q. How do I use the LAM method?
A. According to LAM, a mother can rely on breastfeeding for protection from pregnancy if she can answer "no" to the following questions:
1. Have your menstrual cycles returned?

2. Are you supplementing regularly or allowing long periods without breastfeeding, either during the day (more than three hours) or at night (more than six hours)?
3. Is your baby more than six months old?


Q. How effective is LAM?

A. Research shows that LAM's effectiveness in preventing pregnancy is better than 98 percent, a figure that compares well with artificial methods of birth control.

Q. The 6-month mark has passed, but I'm still nursing like crazy. How likely is it that I'll get pregnant?
A. Studies have shown that most mothers who are breastfeeding exclusively remain infertile for more than the six-month period covered by LAM.

Q. My baby is sleeping through the night (six hours or more without nursing). How will this change effect my fertility?
A. The milk-making hormones that suppress ovulation are highest between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. Nighttime nursing is important to the suppression of fertility.

Q. I want to get pregnant, but I'm still nursing my toddler. How much is breastfeeding effecting my fertility?

A. Sometimes women who are nursing older babies or toddlers want to get pregnant and find this difficult while they are breastfeeding. The baby's nursing may continue to affect a woman's fertility even after her periods have returned. This can be very frustrating. Sometimes getting the toddler to cut back a bit on breastfeeding, especially at night, can make it possible for mother to conceive.

Here's a LAM fact sheet by Family Health International that you can print.

*** As always, please consult your care provider if you have further questions about LAM or about birth control options while breastfeeding.

(Photo by: super-structure)

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3 comments on “Breastfeeding as Birth Control”

  1. Just a little about my experience...
    I breastfeed exclusively, but have never made more than a few drops of milk per feeding, so I use a LactAid nursing supplementer filled with formula (or donated mamas milk). My son has been sleeping 12 hours straight at night since 4 1/2 months. He's 7 1/2 months now, eating 3 meals of solids, and I have yet to have a post-baby cycle! (really can't complain about that!) Chalk it up to the mystery of the woman's body... :)

  2. May I give my 2 cents?

    I am currently nursing my sixth baby. In my previous experience I did not begin ovulating until my breastfeeding baby was 9 months old - Makes sense since that was about the time baby was sleeping through the night and eating lots of table foods.

    HOWEVER, I am older now, I had such a different pregnancy this last time around, baby is already so big, and at 5 months he's sleeping through the night. That said, I do not feel like I can trust what has always happened before, and will be a bit more careful than I was when any of my other babies were only 5 months old.

    My best advice for those who would like to count on breastfeeding as a form of birth control is to listen to your body. Do what you do best by providing for that little one and let God worry about the rest!

    ~Christine
    From Dates to Diapers

    P.S. I was planning on posting about this very thing this week. In fact, have most of it written, but was wondering if I can I link to your post?

  3. This is interesting. I've heard of women getting pregnant within a few months of having a baby while exclusively breastfeeding (gasp!), so I've never relied on breastfeeding as a means of birth control. Perhaps they were just one of the few, however.

    I don't know . . . I take this with a grain of salt. I liken it to telling a girl that she can't get pregnant if she hasn't started mentruating, which also is and isn't true. You never know what is going on with your body, hormonally, so I would opt to use a back-up method just in case. That's what my midwife advised anyway . . .

    PS - My SIL got pregnant while breastfeeding. Unfortunately, she had a miscarriage . . .

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