Natural Family Planning

Can breastfeeding be a method to prevent pregnancy?

I recently stumbled upon this article:  Natural Family Planning during Breastfeeding: LAM – the Lactational Amenorrhea Method

My first reaction is simply, wow!  I realize I know very little about breastfeeding, the affects of it on one’s fertility, and natural family planning.

I am going to get a little personal here…

For those of you who don’t know my story, I am currently pregnant with my second child (due July 30th!) and this baby was likely conceived when my firstborn was about 6 months old.  I was breastfeeding and did not have a menstrual cycle.  Needless to say, I was pretty astonished that I got pregnant.

After reading this article it makes a lot more sense to me how it was possible for me to get pregnant and why I did!  Basically, this article is explaining how exclusive breastfeeding can be an effective use of delaying ovulation. But there are rules to it.  One would have to exclusively breastfeed (that means no pumping, no bottles, no formula and limited offerings of food).  The feeds would have to be no longer than 4 hours apart during the day and no longer than 7 hours apart at night.  Basically, the hormone that produces a good milk supply triggers a delay in ovulation.  So as long as the milk keeps coming, the eggs stay put.

For me, it makes sense to me now that I ovulated when I did because my baby was sleeping 12 hours through the night without waking up for a feeding (maybe fed during the night once a week).  I began to feel a slight decrease in my supply because of the long 12 hour span of no feedings, so I tried to start pumping in order to increase it, and this actually made it worse…  My baby was also eating more food and therefore probably drinking less milk at the breast.  A couple of months of a gradual increase of breastfeeding frustration led to a positive pregnancy test.  I stopped breastfeeding when my baby was about 8 months old and I was just almost done with the first trimester of pregnancy.

Now that I am preparing for life with a delicious duo of offspring I am finally doing some research on the bodies natural ways of suppressing ovulation (exclusive breastfeeding for as long as possible, or as long as you want the method to work or as long as you and baby want to maintain breastfeeding).  Apparently it is possible to effectively practice Natural Family Planning when ovulation and menstrual cycles can be unpredictable during the different phases of breastfeeding, returning of menstrual cycles, and weaning.  Up until now, I thought it was impossible but now I am hopeful that it is possible.

Do I want to try this as a method of child spacing?  Do I want to wake my baby up after 7 hours of sleep when she may sleep longer?  Do I want to give up the option of a night’s sleep here and there by handing my husband a pumped bottle?  I don’t know yet…  what do you think?

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6 thoughts on “Can breastfeeding be a method to prevent pregnancy?”

  1. It works it works it works! Two words: co sleep. I dont look at the clock. Worry about the seven hours. Or anything like that. All my kids are naturally spaced 28 months apart.

  2. Hi! Linked here from Modern Alternative Mama on Facebook! We used LAM for the first 6 months of our baby’s life…and could have used it much longer, but since we wanted to be SURE our babies were spaced further apart, and the efficacy of LAM diminishes after your baby is 6 months old, we also used barrier methods to prevent pregnancy after 6 months. If you are interested in reading more about the efficacy and practice of LAM, try these links: http://www.lalecheleague.org/llleaderweb/lv/lvdec98jan99p128.html and http://kellymom.com/bf/normal/fertility/ AND read the book “Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing” by Sheila Kippley! It’s a fascinating read and really gets into the details.

  3. I have 5 children, I was unable to breast feed my first one because he had a lot of health issues. I breastfed my others and my period started every time when the baby was 3 months old. I didn’t pump or do anything other than exclusively breastfeed. I’m thankful that I didn’t depend on it as a method of birth control, although I still have 5 stairsteps! lol I think if you feel strongly about having your kids a certain amount of time apart, you shouldn’t depend on breastfeeding to prevent ovulation. I’m sure it does work for some people, I have friends who never had a period while breastfeeding, even up past 12 months, but it just didn’t happen for me.

  4. I know it works differently for each person. For me I have noticed a correlation between the return of fertility and when the babies moved into their own beds at night and out of mine. Even if I was nursing throughout the night 3-4 times if they were in their own bed my fertility came back. Each kid stayed longer in our bed and each time my fertility stayed away a bit longer. I also always ovulate on my first cycle. Everyone is different. We are currently expecting our 4the child.

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