Natural Contraception During Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know

If you’re breastfeeding and considering natural contraception, the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) might be your best option.

When followed correctly, this approach can be 98% effective. It uses the natural suppression of ovulation that occurs with exclusive breastfeeding.

But it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. The frequency of nursing, the baby’s age, and the introduction of solid foods all play critical roles in its effectiveness.

Understanding these nuances is critical to deciding if LAM is the right choice for you.

Let’s explore how you can use this method effectively and what factors could influence its success.

Key Takeaways

  • LAM is a natural contraception method relying on exclusive breastfeeding to suppress ovulation.

  • LAM is effective up to 98% when fully adhering to strict breastfeeding guidelines.

  • This method is generally suitable only until the baby is six months old, begins solids or the menstrual cycles resume.

  • Alternative hormone-free options include barrier methods, fertility awareness methods, and the withdrawal method (although not effective).

Lactational Amenorrhea Method: What Is It?

The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) is a natural form of contraception that relies on the postpartum hormonal changes induced by exclusive breastfeeding to suppress ovulation.

When you breastfeed exclusively — meaning no supplementation of formula or solids — your body naturally increases prolactin levels.

Prolactin inhibits the release of the hormones necessary for ovulation.

For LAM to be effective, you must meet three criteria:

  1. your menstrual cycles haven’t resumed

  2. you’re fully or nearly fully breastfeeding (expressing and bottle feeding changes this)

  3. your baby is less than six months old

Any deviation from exclusive breastfeeding can decrease the effectiveness of LAM as a contraceptive method.

Breastfeeding patterns also play a significant role as they can change from day to day, feed to feed.

Frequent, unrestricted breastfeeding, both day and night, maximizes prolactin levels and enhances the contraceptive effect of LAM.

LAM’s Effectiveness

LAM relies heavily on the natural postpartum infertility that occurs when you exclusively breastfeed your baby.

The efficacy of LAM can be quite high, with studies showing up to 98% effectiveness in preventing pregnancy within the first six months postpartum.

When your baby suckles mouth to nipple frequently, it stimulates the production of prolactin — a hormone that both aids in milk production and inhibits the reproductive hormones that trigger ovulation.

Adhering to the recommended breastfeeding pattern is necessary to maintain LAM’s effectiveness.

It’s also important to remember that the duration of postpartum infertility varies widely among individuals. Some may experience a return of fertility sooner than others, irrespective of breastfeeding patterns.

Proper Implementation of LAM

To make sure you’re using LAM effectively, you must breastfeed your infant at least every three to four hours during the day and at least every six hours during the night.

This frequent breastfeeding maintains the necessary hormone levels to delay the return of your fertility.

The entire feed should be at the breast, meaning nipple to mouth, without substituting other foods or liquids. As you can imagine this frequent feeding pattern changes when solids are introduced.

Alternatives to the Lactational Amenorrhea Method

While LAM is a popular choice during the postpartum period, you might also consider other natural contraceptive methods that offer effectiveness without relying on hormonal interventions. Exploring alternative options is essential, especially when LAM criteria are no longer met or if you’re seeking longer-term solutions.

Here are three significant alternatives:

  • Barrier Methods: These include condoms, diaphragms, and cervical caps. They’re immediately effective, reversible, and don’t interfere with breastfeeding. Usage requires consistency and correct application every time to achieve peak effectiveness.

  • Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM): This approach involves tracking your natural fertility signals, such as basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and menstrual cycle patterns. While this method demands thorough understanding and daily monitoring, it empowers you with knowledge about your reproductive health.

  • Withdrawal Method: Also known as coitus interruptus, this method requires the male partner to withdraw his penis from the vagina before ejaculation to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. It requires considerable self-control, a lot of sexual partner trust and the effectiveness can be a lot lower due to pre-ejaculate fluid potentially containing active sperm.

Each of these methods requires no hormones and allows for a natural return to fertility when you decide you’re ready for another child. Carefully consider your lifestyle and needs when choosing the proper method for you.

Conclusion

To effectively use the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) for natural contraception, you must exclusively breastfeed your baby frequently and avoid introducing other foods or liquids.

Remember, if correctly followed, LAM’s effectiveness can reach up to 98% within the first six months postpartum.

If you’re considering alternative contraception methods or if your circumstances change, consult your healthcare provider to explore suitable options that align with your health needs and lifestyle.

FAQ

Yes, it can! The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) is an effective birth control method that many couples have used with great success.

Breastfeeding can prevent you from getting pregnant by suppressing ovulation due to the hormone prolactin that is released during the process.

To use breastfeeding as birth control, you need to breastfeed your baby at least every 3 to 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night.

While breastfeeding can be an effective form of birth control, it is not 100% reliable. It is recommended to use another form of birth control to be more secure, such as condoms.

Many options for birth control are safe to use while breastfeeding. Some of the most commonly used include:

  • Lactational Amenorrhea Method

  • the mini-pill

  • hormonal implants

  • non-hormonal IUDs

  • barrier methods

  • natural family planning

  • Depo-Provera shot

  • sterilization

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