- Pregnancy & Childbirth
- Attachment Parenting
- Family Nutrition
- Family Wellness
"I've heard that breastfeeding can keep me from getting pregnant. Is this true?"
Yes, as long as you nurse according to the rules of natural child spacing. The same hormones that make milk suppress the release of reproductive hormones. While breastfeeding full-time most mothers do not ovulate and do not have menstrual periods. This means that you can't get pregnant, at least for a while. It's as if your body is telling you, "Nourishing one baby is all you can handle at the moment. It's too soon for a sibling."
When parents feel uneasy about having their baby in bed with them, I suggest the Arm's Reach® Co-Sleeper®. This crib-like bed fits safely and snuggly adjacent to parent's bed. The co-sleeper® arrangement gives parents and baby their own separate sleeping spaces yet, keeps baby within arm's reach for easy nighttime care. To learn more about the Arm's Reach® Co-Sleeper® Bassinet visit www.armsreach.com.
If you follow these rules, you may enjoy a period of lactation amenorrhea (no menstrual periods) that lasts thirteen to sixteen months. In fact, research has shown that women who practice natural mothering according to the above rules will average 14.5 months without a period following childbirth. Remember, this is only an average. A few mothers will experience a return of menstrual periods by six months, others not until two or three years.
When menstrual periods return, the first one is often anovulatory, meaning that it is not preceded by ovulation (the release of an egg), and thus you could not have gotten pregnant before this first period. However, about 5 percent of women do ovulate before having their first period, and the longer you have gone without having periods, the more likely this is to happen. Thus it's possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding, even if you are not menstruating. Once your periods resume, you should assume that it is possible for you to get pregnant, and you should take precautions if you don't want to add another child to your family in the near future. This might be a good time to learn about natural family planning methods, which enable you to determine exactly when you are ovulating and could become pregnant. Or you may decide to use another method of birth control as breastfeeding's effect on your fertility fades. See Couple to Couple League International at www.CCLI.org.
Sometimes women who are nursing older babies or toddlers want to get pregnant and find this difficult while they are breastfeeding. The baby's nursing may continue to affect a woman's fertility even after her periods have returned. This can be very frustrating. Sometimes getting the toddler to cut back a bit on breastfeeding, especially at night, can make it possible for mother to conceive.