Breastfeeding - A Good Birth Control?
Women are often surprised to find out that they are pregnant, since they've been breastfeeding. Many people assume that breastfeeding is a reliable form of birth control. It is actually quite reliable in certain circumstances, but it's important to know exactly what those circumstances are.
When Breastfeeding Is Reliable as Birth Control
The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) was created to give women guidelines for using breastfeeding as a form of birth control. Based on scientific research, this method proposes that breastfeeding is a good form of birth control under certain conditions. Those conditions include three things: the woman's period, her breastfeeding patterns and the time postpartum.
Who Can Use LAM?
LAM is an effective form of birth control if the following criteria are met. The woman should not have had her period since the birth. Bleeding or spotting during the first two months is not considered part of the menstrual bleeding. She needs to be breastfeeding on demand, both day and night, with no other foods on a regular basis given to the child. The baby may taste foods or liquids, but these items shouldn't replace nursing. Finally, the baby should be less than six months old. Under these conditions, breastfeeding is 98% effective as a form of birth control.
When Does LAM Lose Its Effectiveness?
This method is short term, lasting only until the baby is six months old. It is also no longer effective if any of the three criteria change. When any of the conditions change, the woman should start to use another form of birth control in tandem with LAM to guarantee effectiveness. The most important factor that may change is menstrual bleeding. This is the most obvious indication that a woman's fertility is returning. Certainly, it's possible to get pregnant without having a period return, but this rarely happens if the woman is breastfeeding regularly and has a child less than six months of age.
Other Reasons for LAM's Ineffectiveness
When the baby begins to take other foods regularly, this can also indicate that LAM will no longer be effective. This is also true if the baby starts to sleep through the night, as the suckling at the breast is what suppresses ovulation. Finally, when the baby is more than six months old, he generally starts to eat other foods and to breastfeed less. This will also cause LAM to be less effective.
While breastfeeding is a very good method of birth control during the six months after the baby's arrival, it certainly isn't a long term method, or a full-proof one. Make sure to carefully understand the three criteria for LAM and to talk to your doctor about other birth control methods.