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Monday, April 4, 2011

Breastfeeding and Fertility

Well, I heard it again.  "I got pregnant while breastfeeding.  That was a lie, that breastfeeding keeps you from getting pregnant."

I know that I have written about this before, but many women still don't understand how breastfeeding and fertility work.  Dr. Sears put together some great tips:
as does La Leche League:

The thing that is not mentioned in the above articles and where, I think, women who get pregnant while breastfeeding, run into problems, is they cannot meet all the criteria listed.  Many women are working, or pumping and cannot follow the exact "rules" for Lactational Amenorrhea.

Where things can get really tricky, is that we usually ovulate before we get a period, especially when breastfeeding has been interrupted, by a mother who works and is pumping, introducing solid foods, baby nursing less often, etc.

For women, who like me, have to work and pump breastmilk for our babies, can we rely on breastfeeding to prevent pregnancy? Or what about women whose babies are more than 6 months old, but still breastfeeding and cycles have not returned yet?

I have been using NFP (Natural Family Planning) and breastfeeding to space my babies for the last 7 years, so it has become second nature for me.  But, if you are not familiar with NFP or FAM (Fertility Awareness Method), you may not be observing for signs of returning fertility while breastfeeding.  I think that is the answer and the key to breastfeeding and preventing pregnancy, to be watching for your body's signs that ovulation or fertility is returning.  This link describes the signals that our body gives us before ovulation.
I have had 4 babies, and with each of them, I observed a definite change in cervical mucus before my cycles and fertility returned.

So, yes, breastfeeding can prevent pregnancy, but like many things in life, you must read the "fine print".  There are rules to follow and if you cannot meet the criteria, you can start observing natures signals and signs of fertility.  The bonus to learning NFP or FAM is that when you do wish to get pregnant again, you will know exactly when you are fertile.

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