Is breastfeeding as birth control effective or not?
Do you want to wait before having another baby? If you're a breastfeeding mom, you don't have to worry about birth control for now thanks to the Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM)—but its success lies on knowing three things.
We’ve all heard it from someone in our family, our friends, and other social groups: that you can use breastfeeding as birth control. But some women say they know this mom who got pregnant within months after giving birth even while breastfeeding. Others say they know this other mom who’s been breastfeeding for years who hasn’t gotten pregnant again.
Breastfeeding as birth control—is it valid?
Anecdotal evidence aside, here’s what doctors have to say about using breastfeeding as birth control:
It is so effective that experts say it has the same effect as modern forms of birth control: 99.5% prevention!
This is quite amazing:
Some mothers experience the birth control benefits up to sixteen months after delivery. It all depends on your own body, hormones, and lifestyle. This is not a guarantee, though—each woman is different.
But there are conditions that must be met if you want to rely on breastfeeding as birth control. If you don’t do it right, then it won't work.
The effectiveness of using nursing as birth control is completely dependent on how much oxytocin (breastfeeding hormone) is in your body.
This hormone is responsible for producing milk and suppressing the hormones that cause you to ovulate.
So what do you have to do?
Click 2 to find out how to use breastfeeding as birth control.
How to use breastfeeding as an effective birth control method
Take a look:
Doctors even have a term for using breastfeeding as a birth control method: Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM).
According to the Department of Health, you can use LAM for preventing pregnancy if the following conditions are met:
1. Your child is under six months of age.
Using breastfeeding as birth control usually works only up to six months of age of your child. Why? Your child can survive on breastmilk alone up to six months. After that, his or her nutritional needs change which may affect your child's eating habits and your nursing.
2. You practice exclusive breastfeeding on demand and continuously.
When babies hit three months of age, their sleep schedule changes so they may require fewer nighttime feedings. To use LAM, however, you have to nurse few hours, without skipping. This means getting up in the wee hours of the morning to breastfeed. Only the continuous production of breastmilk can keep the hormones that suppress ovulation circulating through your system.
3. You should not have had any periods.
Some women may not have their periods for a long time after giving birth. Others may start having periods which means their normal ovulating schedule has begun anew. Since women’s hormonal imbalances differ during and after pregnancy, some women can have periods earlier than others.
As long as these three conditions are satisfied, you can count on breastfeeding as birth control.
Want tips on how to maximize your nursing for birth control? Click 3 to find out more.
Tips for using nursing as a way to prevent pregnancy
Breastfeed on demand and as often as possible.
Skipping feeding sessions lowers oxytocin in your body which increases the risk for pregnancy. It is recommended to feed at least every four hours in the daytime and six at night. Lastly, empty your breasts of milk after feedings.
Breastfeed even through the night.
You may train your child not to sleep through the night if you want to use breastfeeding as birth control. According to experts, the peak hours when oxytocin is released are during 1:00 am to 6:00 am. Take advantage of that time! Also, co-sleeping helps you keep up with feeding on demand.
Your baby should suck exclusively on your breast.
For LAM to be successful, let your child suck from you exclusively. This means no pacifiers or bottles—just your breasts.
Start giving solid food and water at six months and beyond only.
To maximize the ensured efficacy of LAM, your child should only have breastmilk as sustenance up to six months of age. After that, when you have to supplement his nutritional needs with water and solid food, his breastfeeding sessions may begin to lessen which, in turn, may trigger ovulation. After six months, using breastfeeding as birth control is no longer valid.
The bottom line:
If you're a non-menstruating, stay-at-home mom who exclusively breastfeeds a child who is less than six months old, then every day is a safe day! Tip: Tell Daddy about it right now.
Are you thinking about using LAM, mommy? How about other moms who have been doing it already? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dana Santos
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