There's a lot of misinformation out there about breastfeeding and fertility. For moms who want to refrain from getting pregnant, they might think that breastfeeding means you don't have to worry about birth control. But moms who want to get pregnant might hear that breastfeeding throws away your chances of getting pregnant. So how does breastfeeding affect your fertility? Is it a reliable form of birth control? Will it prevent you from getting pregnant?
According to La Leche League International, breastfeeding does provide a natural delay to your fertility, but the amount of time can vary from woman to woman. In fact, Kelly Mom noted that there are two major myths about your fertility and breastfeeding — you absolutely can't get pregnant while breastfeeding and that you can't rely on breastfeeding to prevent pregnancy.
According to Kelly Mom, your fertility comes back in a few stages. The first stage can include your body experiencing follicular activity and/or a period without ovulating. Then, ovulation happens without luteal competency, which means your body's uterine lining may not be ready for fertilization after an egg is released. The third, and final stage, is when everything is back to full luteal competency — you have your period, you ovulate, and your uterine lining is adequate for implantation. This is when you are considered fully fertile.
But how long that takes can depend on your breastfeeding experience. La Leche League International noted that if a woman is fully breastfeeding her baby, her menstrual cycle most likely won't return until she's six months postpartum. Fully breastfeeding means that is literally the only thing your child has for the first six months of their life — no solids, no skipping feedings, and no bottles. You use your breasts to comfort your baby, you co-sleep so they can nurse throughout the night, you avoid feeding schedules, and you never do anything that restricts breastfeeding or keeps you away from your baby.
This is what you can consider a reliable form of birth control — if you're following the rules. It even has a name — Lactational Amenorrhea Method, or LAM. Developed by Miriam Labbok, LAM is considered 99 percent effective when used correctly and within the first six months of your baby's life according to La Leche League International.
But does all of this mean you can't get pregnant if you're breastfeeding? Nope. Kelly Mom noted that breastfeeding could affect your implantation success if you haven't yet returned to full fertility. But once you have started receiving your periods regularly, as well as ovulation, you can most certainly get pregnant while you are breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding affects your fertility — bottom line. So if you are trying to get pregnant or wanting to use breastfeeding as a form of birth control, it might help to reach out to a lactation consultant about your options and what you should be doing to make your family planning method work for you.