Breastfeeding does provide some measure of contraception, as long as your period has not returned, your baby is less than 6 months old, you are breastfeeding around the clock and your baby receives no other food or pacifier. (1) This is called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) method of birth control. (1)
In a nutshell, when you baby sucks, the hormonal signals released decrease your ability to ovulate. The more frequently you breastfeed your baby and the more it continues around the clock, the greater the protection from ovulating. Thus, the amount and frequency of sucking your baby does, is closely related to the continued lack of a period in most women. When baby starts to sleep longer stretches or decreases the frequency of their breastfeeding the chance of ovulation and return of menses increases. (2)
Once the amount of nursing your baby does decrease, whether because they are nursing less frequently (due to longer stretch of sleep or their breastfeeding pattern), or from introducing a bottle or solid foods, your period returns more quickly. You can ovulate before you have a period. If another pregnancy is currently not desired, discuss which birth control method is right for you with your healthcare provider.
Breastfeeding can be impacted by starting on a birth control pill. Those that contain both estrogen and progesterone are more likely to cause difficulties in breastfeeding women (1). Typically they reduce milk supply. Progestin-only birth control pills do not appear to interfere with breastfeeding. However, progesterone given as an injection should wait to be used until your milk supply is well established. (1)
Intrauterine Devices (IUD’s) can pose problem for breastfeeding women, in that, uterine contractions can expel them and if the IUD’s contain hormones, that can decrease milk supply. (1)
There are many other forms of birth control, not mentioned here, just be aware to ask the question–“How will this effect breastfeeding?” so you can make an informed decision about what will work best in your situation.
- Mannel, R, Marten, PJ, Walker, M, Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice, 3rd edition, Burlington, MA, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013, pp 71-72.
- Lawrence, RA, Lawrence, RM, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Professional, 7th edition, Maryland Heights, MO, Elsevier Mosby, 2011, pp 670-71.