Breastfeeding as Birth Control

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Breastfeeding as Birth Control

Breastfeeding as Birth Control

Topic Overview

Breastfeeding can be used as a method of
birth control, called the lactational amenorrhea
method (LAM). But three conditions must be met to ensure its
effectiveness:

  • Your baby must be 6 months of age or younger.
    After your baby is 6 months old, you are much more likely to become pregnant
    and need to use another method of birth control to prevent
    pregnancy.
  • You must fully breastfeed your infant, meaning that
    the baby receives only breast milk. Also, breastfeeding must be maintained
    with both day and night feeding, and no long intervals can occur between
    feedings. It's best if you don't go longer than 4 hours between feedings during the day and no more than 6 hours between feedings at night.
  • You must not have a period (amenorrhea). When your
    periods start, use an additional birth control method.

When these conditions are met, LAM has been shown to be about 98%
effective.footnote 1 But many doctors recommend that you
also use another method of birth control.

After 6 months, even if
you are breastfeeding exclusively and your period has not returned, you must
use an additional form of birth control if you do not want to get pregnant. You
can get pregnant before your first period. This is
because you
ovulate, then have your period.

At any
point during breastfeeding, use a reliable method of birth control if you do
not want to get pregnant. Many methods are safe to use while you are
breastfeeding, although some are more reliable than others. Options
include:

  • Progestin-only birth control pills. The estrogen-progestin methods
    of birth control are not recommended in early breastfeeding because they may
    reduce the milk supply.
  • The shot, such as Depo-Provera, which does not affect milk production.
  • The hormonal implant, such as Nexplanon, which
    provides extremely effective birth control for 3 years.
  • Barrier
    methods, such as condoms or diaphragms. To increase their reliability, use them
    with spermicide or foam.
  • An
    intrauterine device (IUD), which is placed inside your
    uterus by a health professional.

Fertility awareness is not recommended
for birth control during breastfeeding. This method is less reliable and
harder to manage than other forms of birth control, especially with the
sporadic ovulation that may occur while you are breastfeeding.

For more information, see the topic Birth Control.

References

Citations

  1. Kennedy KI, Trussel J (2007). Postpartum contraception and lactation. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 19th ed., pp. 403–431. New York: Ardent Media.

Credits

ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofFebruary 6, 2018