Friday, June 27, 2014

Breastfeeding as Birth Control

Did you ever consider that breastfeeding can be a method of contraception? Many women will go an extended period of time while breastfeeding and not have a menstrual cycle. The hormones associated with breastfeeding can suppress the menstrual cycle for quite some time, although this length of times varies for each individual since no two women are the same. Breastfeeding can impact fertility, which can be seen as positive or negative depending on how you feel about conceiving again. As a Catholic, I practice NFP, or natural family planning. I don't use artificial methods of preventing pregnancy and I accept that every time my husband and I have sex, we have to be willing to welcome a new life into our family.

Before I go any further, let me say that this is not a foolproof method and I think knowing your body and your cycle extremely well are crucial for using this method. With that being said, Ecological Breastfeeding can serve as a great form of contraception and natural child spacing. While it isn't for everyone, it can be extremely effective. As evidenced by the chart on this page from KellyMom, LAM (lactational amenorrhea) has a 98-99.5% effectiveness rate when used properly.

The Seven Standards for Ecological Breastfeeding include:

  • Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life, offering no other liquids (including water)
  • Pacify or comfort your baby at your breasts
  • Don't use artificial nipples (bottles, pacifiers)
  • Sleep with baby for night feedings, continuing to feed on demand
  • Sleep with your baby for a daily nap feeding
  • Nurse frequently day and night, and avoid schedules
  • Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby
Photo Courtesy of Whitney Morales Photography
Now I realize this isn't realistic for everyone. It works great for me now because I only have one child. When I have another child someday, I may not be able to follow all the rules exactly. Perhaps following futures births, I'll regain my fertility much quicker. However, Nora is 16 months old now and I have yet to have my cycle return. I've actually been hoping to get pregnant soon but haven't had any luck yet. I've considered some gentle night weaning, or at least cutting back the number of times she nurses at night, but that is proving to be quite difficult. For now, I'll continue to cherish our naps together and hope that at some point, I won't be an all night buffet. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you (or would you) practice ecological breastfeeding? What do you think would be challenging about it and what do you think would be rewarding?

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