We believe it’s just as important to understand your options and feel empowered in your decisions about birth control as it is for giving birth.
In this post we share insight into breastfeeding as a form of birth control, called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM).
Is breastfeeding my baby an effective form of birth control? Let’s break it down.
Ovulation happens BEFORE the bleed, and that is the time when women are most fertile. So, it is possible to become pregnant again well before you know you are fertile. Exclusive breastfeeding is a soft form of birth control. It delays ovulation for a time during exclusive breastfeeding. Notice the word “soft”. This is effective for about the first six months of the breastfeeding relationship. It is only about 98% effective. So that means 2 out of 100 people will have breastfeeding (LAM) fail them as a form of birth control.
When you are feeding a baby exclusively at the breast this tells your body, “Hey sis, don’t get pregnant right now. You have an incredibly needy infant that you are caring for. This is not a good time to have another baby.”
Thank you Mother Nature. She is so wise!
Your baby sleeping longer periods of time or introducing complementary baby foods – means less frequent breastfeeding sessions. This may result in your body ovulating again. Sometimes none of the above are true and despite nursing on demand your body starts ovulating. Suddenly you get your period. I have a close friend that got her period at 6 weeks postpartum while breastfeeding her baby every hour to 1 1/2 hours. It happens.
A great page to follow with helpful information about tracking your menstrual cycle is @menstruationqueen.
If you are breastfeeding AND feeding your baby infant formula, LAM will not a reliable option for birth control for you.
The sheer act of breastfeeding can prevent the actions needed to get pregnant in the first place (if you know what I mean!)
It is typical to hear from your doctor or midwife that you may return to having intercourse around 6-8 weeks after giving birth. However, as a new mom sometimes sex is the last thing on your mind. Functioning on significantly less sleep can really put getting it on, on the back burner. Also, having a baby at your breast can create a small logistical issue when trying to be physically intimate.
Another thing that is not talked about enough when it comes to breastfeeding is that it can cause vaginal dryness. If you think about it, it makes sense. Your baby is drinking copious amounts of fluid from your body and staying properly hydrated is a whole job in itself. Low estrogen levels during the postpartum period also contribute to less natural lubrication. This can make sex uncomfortable and unenjoyable. In this case, water or oil based lube can make a big difference.
Always talk with your healthcare provider about the right form of birth control for you if you’re not planning to have another baby right away. And if you do get pregnant, hit up Buddha Belly Doulas for your birthing and breastfeeding needs!
By: Deidra Washington, IBCLC at Buddha Belly Doulas