How frequent breastfeeding can delay pregnancy for a woman

Ms Lilian Nuwabaine

Globally, it is a well-known fact that breastfeeding suppresses a woman’s fertility in the early months after delivery. However, many women do not feel comfortable relying on breastfeeding as a form of birth control because they have been told it is unreliable, or perhaps because they know someone who became pregnant while breastfeeding.

Well, the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) was created to allow women to safely rely on breastfeeding as a family planning method. Based on available scientific research, this method uses three measures of a woman’s fertility:

  1. The return of her menstrual period
  2. Her patterns of breastfeeding
  3. The time of postpartum/postnatal

For example, a woman can use the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) if;

  1. her menstrual period has not returned since delivery and
  2. she is breastfeeding her baby on demand, plus both day and night and not feeding other foods or liquids regularly and
  3. her baby is less than six months old.    

When all three of these conditions exist, she has less than 2% chance of becoming pregnant. However, the woman is encouraged to begin using a complementary family planning method when any of the three conditions changes.

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Scientific studies conducted around the world by the Institute for Reproductive Health and other organizations have proven that when used correctly, LAM is an effective, safe, convenient short-term way for breastfeeding women to delay pregnancy.  Additionally, a woman who chooses to rely on LAM should be advised that the method is short-term (up to six months) and is no longer effective when any one of the earlier mentioned three criteria changes, and should therefore be advised to use another contraceptive method for continued protection. 
As we emphasize, it is important to note that for a woman to delay ovulation, hence delaying pregnancy, she should do the following;

  • Practice unrestricted breastfeeding ie do this without regard to schedules and usually, six to eight breast feedings a day will suppress ovulation.
  • Don’t train your baby to sleep through the night. This is because the milk-making hormones that suppress ovulation are highest between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. So, nighttime nursing is important to the suppression of fertility. 
  • Sleeping with your baby facilitates unrestricted feeding at night.
  • All of baby’s sucking should be at the breast, for comfort as well as food. Avoid the use of supplemental bottles and pacifiers.
  • Delay the introduction of solid foods until age six months or later. Solids should provide additional nutrition, not substitute for breast feedings.

The author; Lilian Nuwabaine Luyima; is a BSc Nurse & MSN-Midwife & Women’s’ Health Specialist

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