The body has a natural way of helping new mothers prevent pregnancy. Also called the Lactional Amenorrhea Method, continuous breast-feeding can serve as a temporary form of birth control.

What Is It?

For up to six months after giving birth and under certain circumstances, breast-feeding can be an effective and natural method of birth control. In order for breast-feeding to reduce your risk of pregnancy, you must breast-feed exclusively and frequently for no more than six months, and you must not have had a menstrual period since you gave birth.   

How Does It Work?

Prolactin, the same hormone that makes breast milk, also prevents the release of the hormones that cause ovulation. In effect, frequent breast-feeding actually delays ovulation and the return of normal menstrual periods. Without ovulation, there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize and pregnancy cannot occur.

How Do I Use It?

Using breast-feeding as a birth control option is easy, but it is only effective under the following conditions:

  • You must start within six months of giving birth.
  • You must breast-feed your baby frequently and exclusively (i.e. no formula). Feed the baby when hungry or every four hours during the day and every six hours at night.
  • Breast-feeding is only effective if your menstrual period has not returned since giving birth.

Effectiveness

If you are breast-feeding as often as recommended, breastfeeding as birth control is 98 to 99 percent effective for up to six months after giving birth.

Benefits

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.

Disadvantages

Unfortunately, breast-feeding as birth control is only effective for six months. 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.