For up to six months after giving birth, and if the menstrual cycle has not resumed, breast-feeding can be an effective and natural form of birth control. This is known as the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM).
In order for breast-feeding to reduce your risk of pregnancy, you must:
- start breast-feeding shortly after birth
- breastfeed exclusively
- breast-feed as your baby demands, not on a schedule
- not have had a menstrual period since you gave birth
Prolactin is the hormone that makes breast milk. It also prevents the release of the hormones that cause ovulation.
Under the right circumstances, breast-feeding can delay ovulation and the return of normal menstrual periods. Without ovulation, there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize and pregnancy cannot occur.
Using breastfeeding as a birth control option is easy. However, it is only effective under the following conditions. You must:
- start breast-feeding shortly after your baby’s birth
- exclusively use breast-feeding to feed your baby
- not use formula or supplemental bottles
- feed the baby when hungry, not on a schedule
- feed at least every four hours during the day and every six hours at night
LAM is only effective if your menstrual period has not returned since giving birth. It only remains effective for about six months after delivery. If you get a menstrual period, it is no longer effective.
According to Planned Parenthood, the failure rate of LAM is less than one percent for women who always breast-feed as required by LAM. The failure rate is two percent for women who don’t always breast feed as required by LAM.:
Breast-feeding provides many health benefits for the mother and the baby. As a birth control method, it is convenient and easy. Breast-feeding requires no supplies or prescription, and it’s free.
Unfortunately, breast-feeding as a method for birth control is only effective for the first six months after delivery. This method also relies on a dedication to breast-feeding as the only source of food for the baby. If you feed your baby any formula, you have a chance of getting pregnant. In addition, if your regular menstrual periods return, this method is no longer effective.
It is possible to get pregnant before you have your first period after pregnancy. This is more likely after six months.