Breastfeeding as Effective Birth Control

Is breastfeeding an effective method of birth control?

Mother breastfeeding baby in living room
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Breastfeeding is up to 98 percent effective as a natural contraceptive for up to six months after childbirth if your period has not returned. This method of birth control is called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM).

Can I Really Rely on LAM To Prevent an Unplanned Pregnancy?

LAM is most effective when you can also answer "Yes" to the following questions:

Do you plan to breastfeed fully for at least 6 months after the birth of your baby?

Breastfeeding fully means that at least nine out of 10 feedings are breast feedings. Breastfeeding women who depend upon LAM to prevent pregnancy should limit the number of supplemental feedings given to their infants to no more than 5 to 10 percent for the best contraceptive results.

Do you plan to breastfeed your baby at least once every four hours during the day and every six hours during the night? The most significant impact on fertility is achieved when feedings are spaced out no more than four hours during the day and six hours during the night.

Can Pumping and Using Bottles of Breast Milk Still Be Effective?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), direct breastfeeding is the most effective method for women using LAM. Other feeding methods may "reduce the vigor and frequency of suckling and the maternal neuroendocrine response," which in turn may increase the probability of ovulation returning.

Additional contraception is recommended for women who are unable to directly breastfeed during the majority of feedings.

How Does LAM Really Work?

LAM works because the hormone required to stimulate milk production prevents the release of the hormone that triggers ovulation. If no egg is released, you can't get pregnant!

The advantages of this (albeit temporary) method of birth control include the following:

  • has no side effects
  • is convenient and free
  • does not affect a woman's natural hormone balance
  • requires no prescription or medical supervision
  • is immediately effective
  • reduces bleeding after delivery
  • allows for greater sexual spontaneity, as nothing needs to be put in place before intercourse

Breastfeeding also offers many health advantages for the baby, including:

  • increased body contact, which leads to enhanced comfort for the infant and bonding between mother and child
  • protection against the development of allergies
  • allows for the passage of some of the mother's antibodies, which can protect the baby from certain infections
  • provides the baby with the best nutrition available

As perfect as it sounds, though, relying upon LAM for contraceptive purposes does carry some drawbacks:

  • no protection against sexually transmitted infections
  • can only be relied upon for six months after delivery
  • may lessen vaginal lubrication
  • exclusive breastfeeding may be difficult to accomplish
  • some report that breastfeeding may make the breast seem less sexual

More About Breastfeeding and Contraception

Factors to Consider Regarding the Effectiveness of Contraception. The reliability of any contraceptive method depends upon whether it's used consistently and correctly. That being said, the failure rates of some methods are significantly higher than others. You need to decide what level of effectiveness is most acceptable to you.

Breastfeeding and Birth Control. When it comes to breastfeeding and birth control, a new mommy has many contraceptive options to choose from.

Natural Birth Control Methods. Natural birth control methods include specific actions that people can naturally do to help prevent an unintended pregnancy.

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