Breastfeeding is nature's way to feed your baby. Before the advent of baby bottles and later, formula, it was the only way. Your breast milk is the perfect food for your baby, giving her benefits from the first day of her life before it can even be called "milk". Colostrum is also known as "liquid gold" for good reason. It's the first thick version of breast milk made while you're still pregnant and shortly after you give birth. It provides your newborn with a "gold mine" of nutrients as well as antibodies to protect her from infections. Once your colostrum changes to milk, your baby is ready to be nourished by it for as long as you choose to nurse her. It's naturally perfect for your baby's needs, with precisely the right amounts of fat, sugar, water and protein, and babies seem to universally enjoy its taste, too!
There are also many benefits for you, as a new mother. It's convenient and easy. It helps you to bond with your baby, and it can even be used for a time as your sole method of birth control.
Is breastfeeding an effective means of birth control? The answer is yes -- or more accurately, yes with a few caveats. If one of the reasons you're breastfeeding your baby is because you've heard that it protects you from getting pregnant, there are a few things you need to learn about birth control and breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding as Birth Control
According to experts, women who have just given birth may use continuous breastfeeding as a method of birth control for up to 6 months. The key word here is continuous. In this case, that means that you're feeding the baby solely from the breast, and if using supplemental bottles, using only breast milk to fill them.
The method is known medically as the Lactational Amenorrhea Method or LAM for short. Here's how it works:
While a woman is continuously breastfeeding, her body stops making the hormone that it needs to enable ovulation -- the release of an egg from an ovary. Obviously, if there's not an egg present to be fertilized, it's impossible for pregnancy to occur. The method is nearly foolproof (99%) if a woman does it correctly. Correctly means
- not substituting other foods for breast milk
- feeding your baby (at least) every 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours during the night.
- being period-free since giving birth
It's also important to zero in on the fact that breastfeeding as a method of birth control is only reliable for 6 months. After that, you'll need to find another method of birth control.
You'll Reap Some Tangible Benefits
- You don't need a prescription.
- It's free!
- It's safe, simple and very convenient.
- You've got everything you need -- no supplies or medical supervision necessary!
- It reduces bleeding after delivery.
- All you need to "remember" to do is to keep on breastfeeding, with no more than 6 hours maximum in between feedings.
What Are The Disadvantages?
As with any endeavor, there will always be a few disadvantages. In this case, using breastfeeding as birth control is
- Temporary - You'll only be able to rely on it for 6 months, at which point, you'll need to go back on the pill or to whatever method you were using pre-pregnancy. You may lose track of the exact time and that can lead to more than six months passing.
- Not Without Side Effects - You may find that you have less vaginal lubrication when you have sex. You may also lose the ability to feel sexually aroused when your partner touches your breasts (which is the case with breastfeeding in general, whether or not you're taking advantage of its birth control perks). It's important to note here, that most methods of birth control can have side effects, some of them far more severe.
Breastfeeding and Birth Control After the First 6 Months
Once your baby reaches the age of 6 months, you'll need to find another method of birth control, as previously noted. But what if you're planning to continue breastfeeding? Is it okay to use birth control pills, or is a hormonal approach dangerous for your baby? Here are some doctor-recommended options to consider:
- Progestin-only birth control pills (Standard birth control pills combining different hormones aren't recommended since they can cause you to produce less milk.) Progestin-only birth control pills are sometimes referred to as the "mini pill".
- Other birth controls like DeproVera or birth control implants.
- Barrier methods, such as a diaphragm or condoms are fairly effective, especially if used with spermicide or foam.
- An IUD (intrauterine device) which your doctor implants in your uterus.
When it comes to contraception, nothing is fool-proof. Some women choose to combine exclusive breastfeeding with another form of birth control such as the progestin-only mini pill. For the mini pill to be effective, it's important to take it at about the same time every day, so make it part of your morning or evening routine to ensure you're consistent.
The added birth control aspect is yet one more reason to choose to breastfeed your baby. The many benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby outweigh the disadvantages that it's almost a no-brainer decision for most women today!
Everyone's body is different so, as always, consult your doctor on any of these methods and what you should be doing.
Make your breastfeeding experience an extra good one by making yourself comfortable with good nursing bras and easy-access nursing clothes like the ones found at Bun Maternity. We've got the best selection around with bump to baby styles to make you not only comfortable, but beautifully stylish as well!
Learn more tips about pregnancy and breastfeeding on the Bun Blog here!
Keep going mama! You can do it!