“You know if you just rely on breastfeeding, you’re sure to get pregnant.”
I’ve heard lines like that many times before. The funny thing is that they aren’t true. Breastfeeding CAN be an effective birth control. It’s been used for centuries to space children. In fact, the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) is 98-99.5% effective. However, there is one catch. You must meet certain criteria in order to get that high of a success rate.
That is the problem. Some people think they are covered in the birth control area if they just breastfeed. However, there is a bit more to it.
Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) is only 98-99.5% effective IF:
1. Your menstrual cycles have not yet returned.
2. You baby is less then six months old.
3. Baby is breastfed only. No supplements of any kind. Must nurse every 3-4 hours during the day and at least every 6 hours at night.
If you cannot meet even just one of these “laws” then you will need an alternative form of birth control. My personal recommendation is Natural Family Planning
Chance of Pregnancy by the Months with LAM
0-3 months post-partum = practically 0%
3-6 months post-partum = less then 2%
6 + months (assuming menstrual cycles still haven’t returned) = 6%
Menstrual Cycle Trivia: The average time of menstrual cycles returning is 14.5 months. Mothers whose cycles return early may be infertile for the first few cycles. Mothers whose cycles return later are more likely to ovulate before their first period. (Since it’s possible to ovulate before your first period, I recommend that if you notice any signs of fertility you should begin practicing NFP or another form of birth control)
Increasing the Effectiveness of LAM
1. Nurse on demand. Do not try to put your baby on a feeding schedule.
2. Avoid bottles. Using your breast is preferred as it prevents ovulation more then pumping.
3. Co-sleep. Sleeping with your baby means there is unrestricted feedings at night.
4. Avoid pacifiers. You do not want to pacify the baby if they really want to nurse.
5. Delay introduction of solid foods until at least 6 months of age.
Breastfeeding can be an effective birth control. It just has to be the type and amount of breastfeeding that is best for preventing ovulation. Any amount of breastfeeding will prevent pregnancy but in order to achieve the 98-99.5% success rates you need to follow the LAM rules. I personally have been using LAM for 9 months now with success. Now my daughter is starting solids so I’ll be watching for fertility signs and I’ll incorporate NFP as I see those signs.
Edit: I have used LAM after 2 of my babies and it worked perfectly until my cycle returned (15 months and 18 months). Once my cycle returns, I’m fully fertile again and must be cautious of course.