Does Breastfeeding Prevent Pregnancy?
Does breastfeeding prevent pregnancy?
Exclusive breastfeeding can extend ‘infertility’ by suppressing ovulation. This is called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). The advantage to LAM is that it is free and immediately available.
How does it work?
Suckling at the breast disrupts the release of certain hormones involved in ovulation. The frequency of breastfeeding and the duration of breastfeeding sessions can impact the effectiveness of LAM.
How effective is LAM?
It can be up to 98% effective for the first 6 months IF you:
-Exclusively breastfeed, both day and night
(*pumping or hand expression does not provide the same protection against pregnancy. It has to be exclusive breastfeeding for LAM to work)
-Have not experienced your first postpartum period
-Your baby is 0-6 months old
Once you introduce complementary foods to baby at 6 months the effectiveness of LAM decreases. At this point I would recommend another form of birth control if you want to avoid pregnancy.
At the 6-month mark it’s important for you to consider another form of contraception as you can ovulate before seeing a period. There are other options to consider if you desire to continue on a non-hormonal method.
Other non-hormonal birth control options include:
Paragard IUD: 99% effective, lasts for 10 years.
Female or Male Condoms: 95-98% effective if used perfectly with each use.
Cervical cap: 77% effective overall, 86% effective in women who have never given birth if used perfectly with each use
Withdrawal method: 78% effective
Fertility Awareness-Based Methods- although, I would not recommend this method after childbirth as menstrual cycles are not regular. It can be difficult to track your cycle prior to having regular cycles, making it an unreliable method of contraception.
Hatcher R, Trussell J, Stewart F, et al. Contraceptive Technology, 17th Revised edition. New York, NY: Irvington Publishers Inc, 1998.