We are often asked "How does breastfeeding affect fertility?"
Breastfeeding in itself is not a contraceptive method, but it can delay a woman's return to fertility. This is dependent on a number of factors which include: number of breastfeeds in 24 hours, is breastfeeing exclusive, length of babies longest sleep, how old the baby is, has the mum had any vaginal bleeding after 8 weeks postpartum, is breastfeeding baby led or on a schedule, pacifer/dummy use, use of other fluids or foods, thumb/fist sucking to name just a few.
It is the suckling at the breast that results in hormones being produced that can suppress a woman's fertility.
It is not enough to say, "I'm breastfeeding so I won't get pregnant". We all know of women who have fallen pregnant while breastfeeding.
The World Health Organisation has looked into the relationship between breastfeeding and the delay in fertility, and generally speaking: if the baby is exclusively breastfed, is under six months of age and the mother has not had any bleeding since eight weeks post partum, then 98% of women, will be protected from a pregnancy while breastfeeding as long as these three factors can be said yes to. This method of natural family planning is called the Lactational Amenorrhoea Method. This method was never developed to be used independently, but under the guidance of an experienced Fertility Educator as there are a number of othe factors (as mentioned earlier) that may result in fertility returning earlier. A Fertility First Educator will teach you what these are, and help you to recognise signs of increasing fertility.
If you don't meet the criteria to use the Lactational Amenorrhoea Method then there is another method of natural family planning available to breastfeeding mums. This is called the Breastfeeding Charting Method. Mums record on a daily basis: the number of breastfeeds their baby has over 24 hours, their baby's longest sleep, the volume (if any) of any additional fluids or foods their baby is given, a description of any cervical mucus they have seen and related vaginal sensation. This data is collected over a three week interval, and then the mum and baby return to the Fertility Educator's clinic where the information is analyzed and guidelines are taught. Most new mums will have an infertile pattern. They will also be taught how to recognise returning signs of fertility and how to manage this.
Mums using the Lactational Amenorrhoea Method will require an initial appointment of approximately an hour and this is then followed up with monthly contact until your baby is five and a half months old. At this point you will have another appointment to learn some basic charting of your fertility. You will then return to the clinic after approximately three weeks of charting.
If Mums are using the Breastfeeding Charting Method, the initial consultation (approximatley one hour) is followed up by a second appointment three weels later to analyse the data recorded and teach the guidelines. A further appointment is then booked when her baby is six months old.
If this has sparked your interest and you would like to make an appointment, or you have specific questions, please feel free to contact us.