After our busy week reviewing and sharing about our latest favourite pregnancy prevention gadget Daysy, I received a lot of questions as to how it would go for those who were breastfeeding. I promised to write about it to make sure this method was fully understood. I see gaps as to it’s effectiveness which you’ll easily see too, and perhaps answer the age old question, does it really work? So, what’s the best form of protection whilst breastfeeding, and is breastfeeding actually an effective form of ‘contraception?’ Here goes.
Exclusive breastfeeding is 98-99.3% effective in preventing pregnancy.
Those are some pretty impressive statistics, some references suggest it’s up to 99.5% in fact. The correct term for a woman relying on breastfeeding as contraception is known as the Lactational Amenorrhea Method or LAM. This refers to the window of time after the baby arrives that a women experiences amenorrhea – that is, she doesn’t menstruate as a result of breastfeeding.
One of the main reasons breastfeeding as ‘contraception’ gets a bad wrap is because it relies on a variety of factors to ensure it is as effective as possible, most of which aren’t revealed to us when we are handed our precious bundle and many of which as time goes by, we don’t necessarily continue on with.
+ Baby must sleep in same room as mother
+ Baby must be 6 months or less
+ Feeding on demand and infant remains with the mother around the clock
+ Solids have not yet been started – breast milk is the only form of food
+ Your periods have not yet returned
+ No dummy or pacifier are used to comfort the baby
+ Mother is not expressing her milk
Breastfeeding works as the suckling stimulates hormones to suppress ovulation. I recall with both of my babies, my menstrual cycle returned just 2 weeks to the day (and probably minute!!) after which they began solids. I thought that was mean of my body. Truth. I thoroughly enjoyed not having to factor in a period with a newborn baby, although by the time foods were introduced, my babies weren’t so newborn any longer. For me, the only factor that changed was the introduction of solids and dropping of just one breastfeed. That was enough to allow my body to ovulate and see my periods make a comeback soon after. Both times it returned around the 6 month mark.
You may now see why so many find this method fails, because many of these factors aren’t strictly adhered to for the first 6 months. We might find ourselves expressing our milk or topping up feeds from time to time and there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as you’re not relying on LAM.
Some women don’t get their periods back until they completely stop breastfeeding. Truth is, we are all unique and unless you know your body, it can be a little tricky to rely on LAM past the six month mark.
+ Stick to the ‘rules’ but know that once your past the six month mark, it’s effectiveness begins to decrease.
+ Understand your cycle no matter where you are in your ‘fertility’ journey (remember fertility isn’t only about babies, but a thriving reproductive system). This may be all well and good in hindsight, but it’s why I continue to bang on my drum over here. It’s also the primary reason I created Debunking Ovulation – so women could understand their menstrual cycles no matter what. Long cycles, short cycles, PCOS cycles.. you name it, we dig in to understand your own unique ways. (pssst it’s 50% off until midnight TONIGHT with the code ‘birthday’ at checkout) If you can understand what it feels like to be ‘fertile’ you can never not know again, so when your body begins to rev up post breastfeeding or as you begin to drop feeds, you’ll instantly recognise the return of your fertility.
+ Download a good app and track your fertility, daily no matter what. You may begin to see a pattern forming which can help you see where potentially your body is trying to ovulate (again as I explain in Debunking Ovulation) even if you don’t yet have a regular cycle.
+ Always use barrier methods if you are unsure and aren’t keen on a surprise pregnancy. This is the the best form of contraception in any ‘unknown’ circumstance. Also know that whilst taking synthetic contraception these methods are null and void. You never have a period whilst on the pill (or the mirena) because you don’t ovulate. Also understand the risks about synthetic hormones and your breast milk.
+ If you’re keen for your period to return hassle free, make sure you are supplementing with a quality fish oil and multivitamin to keep your vitamin and mineral levels in check. Breastfeeding is taxing on the mother, especially in modern times where we don’t necessarily sit to rest whilst we feed but do so on the run.
+ Relying on a fertility monitor like the Daysy without any clear signs of ovulation or fertility returning isn’t ideal. Wait until your period returns and then you may absolutely start, and over time the Daysy will get to know your body and it’s own rhythm. If you have a history of irregular periods, then it’s a perfect time to get this sorted. There’s always a reason this happens and having a health care professional assist you in this is a must. At my clinic, The Pagoda Tree this is one of our most favourite issues to address.
I’m keen to hear your questions, thoughts and ideas. Have you used LAM, did it work for you? Some good discussion in the comment section below I’m sure would be welcomed by other mothers who are keen to use LAM or worried about it’s effectiveness.