Birth Control & Breastfeeding

Have you heard that breastfeeding is a great form of birth control? If so, you've heard half the story. Here's what every nursing mom needs to know about birth control after Baby.

Birth Control & Breastfeeding

    Nursing as Prevention For some women, breastfeeding exclusively can keep pregnancy at bay. The approach is called lactational amenorrhea method, or LAM, and it can be used very effectively until your baby is 6 months old -- or when solids are introduced, says Kelly A. Hightower, R.N., a certified lactation counselor and owner of Bright Birth in Decatur, GA. The kicker is that you absolutely cannot provide any supplementation, so if you're pumping and providing a bottle, you're disqualified. It's the sucking that helps suppress ovulation. "The baby must nurse on demand no less then every three to four hours during the day, and six hours at night," Hightower says.

    Return to the Pill If you took the Pill before you got pregnant and don't plan on nursing, it's safe to begin again three weeks postpartum.

    Start Mini-Pills Opting for oral contraception? "It's recommended that nursing moms take mini-pills because they contain a low dose of progesterone and no estrogen," says Hightower says. That's important because estrogen-containing contraception has been linked to a diminished milk supply. You can begin once your babe is six to eight weeks old.

    Do a Test Run Other long-lasting progesterone-only options, like the injectable Depo-Provera, a hormonal IUD, and the implant, may be considered as well. However, "nursing moms should be encouraged to try mini-pills for several months first," Hightower says. If you find that your supply drops because of the mini-pill, you can simply stop taking it. But if your milk decreases with a longer-term birth control option, you're stuck until it's fully out of your system. (Depo-Provera lasts at least 12 weeks; a progesterone IUD and implant can last up to five years)

    Skip the Patch and Ring "Both are very convenient, but contain estrogen as well as progesterone; this can cause a decrease in milk supply, which can lead to a shorter duration of breastfeeding," Hightower says. These options may be reconsidered after six months of breastfeeding. Consult with your physician and lactation consultant beforehand.

    Consider a Copper IUD Unlike its progesterone-only sister, copper IUDs have no impact on breastfeeding. As a bonus, breastfeeding moms actually experience less pain during insertion of the device, according to research in the American Journal of Obstetric Gynecology.

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