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“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, breastfeeding as birth control, properly known as 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…
Is Breastfeeding an Effective Birth Control?
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 (NFP).
Chance of Pregnancy by the Months with Lactational Amenorrhea Method
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 Lactational Amenorrhea Method 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 Natural Family Planning as I see those signs.
Edit: I have now used Lactational Amenorrhea Method 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.
My period returned at 3 months PP with EBF and we conceived at 15 months, still nursing but no longer exclusively, and despite using spermicide.
Now I'm tandem nursing (the younger one is EBF and the toddler still nurses frequently) and I'm nagging my husband to get a vasectomy.
I think the reason for the "practically 0%" chance of conceiving when your baby is 0-3 months is – really – who wants to have sex in that time?! 😛
I hear the opposite from people when they hear I'm not using any protection and breastfeeding…"You know that's not true, right?!"
My son is 9 months old too, he eats lots of solids but still nurses every 2-4 hours day and night. I haven't had my period return yet, I know my body and its fertility signs and its no where near ready. What's ironic is that we actually are trying to get pregnant again but breastfeeding "birth control" is doing its natural job 🙂 It's in God's hands and I know it'll happen when its time!
Leah aka Momma O – Yes that is where I'm at. I'm almost worried that I won't get pregnant in the time I want. Anytime between now and when my daughter is 12-13 months is ok; I just don't want a bigger then 2 year gap. However, it's not like there is much I can do. lol
This whole LAM experience is so strange for me though as with my other two kids I wasn't exclusively breastfeeding. In fact, my boys are only 12.5 months apart because I got pregnant at 3 months postpartum. It's strange being on the opposite side this time.
I am in the same boat as you too Brittany and Leah. I would like more kids, and I turn 31 this year so am not getting younger. We just had our first last year, and I am nursing, not exclusively, really just in the AM, at dinner, at night before bed, then if she wakes up at night. But like ALL weekend all she wants to do is nurse. I have had no signs of fertility return either. DD is 11 months old now. Hopefully I will be able to get pregnant again within the next year though. We shall see.
Also note that if your baby is sleeping through the night, regardless of age, you're more likely to have your fertility return. With my first, who never slept, I didn't have my cycle back til 10 months. With my second, who slept through the night from day one (don't be too jealous, it didn't last), I never got a break. One month after lochia stopped, I was back to my regular cycle. (Actually, more regular than before pregnancy, thank you hormones!) The second one is 18 months old now, and no other babies yet, thanks to NFP. And I met all the criteria for LAM.
When I had baby #2 I had two different doctors tell me two different things. One said to trust myself when it came to LAM and NFP. The other told me I have to be put on birth control, no if and or butts. My baby is now 15 months old and believe it or not the LAM and NFP are still going strong. Period free and still enjoying my little nursling night and day. 🙂
I got my PPAF at 15 months. I still don't know how I had such a long break but I love how great of a birth control it was! Of course, now I'm WANTING to get pregnant…. so ….
Well I maybe the 0% because I did get pregnant 3 months after having my 2nd child. I am now 21 weeks along and just found out a week and a half ago. My baby was exclusively not bottlefed. She did not start solids until 6 months. We are super excited and surprised. I had never gotten my period back and still thought I had baby weight to lose so did not even suspect I was pregnant. But now it is very obvious. ha ha!
I am excited to try the raspberry tea because I am still nursing and my milk supply is not very good. Ever since I became pregnant it affected the milk supply. So long story short I have a 3 year old, 8 month old, and one on the way which will be due one year and 11 days after 2nd one. 🙂
Congratulations! Yes breastfeeding can really mess with understanding if you are ovulating or not. Congratulations however! My oldest two are 1 year and 2 weeks apart. 🙂 It was insane in the beginning but it's great for them to have someone so close in age.