Breastfeeding as a Contraceptive
Breastfeeding can be used as quite a reliable contraceptive, under certain circumstances. Known as the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM), many women opt to use this technique as their main form of birth control after giving birth.
Is LAM Effective?
Many studies have demonstrated that LAM is about 98% effective in the first six months, as long as the following criteria are met:
- The mother is fully or almost fully breastfeeding both day and night with no long intervals between feeds
- No periods have recommenced
- Baby is not receiving any other type of supplement feeds
The following evidence is noted in making this statement:
There was a Bellagio Consensus statement by a group of international lactation experts who reviewed the literature & confirmed breastfeeding to have less than 2% chance of pregnancy in the first 6 months (Consensus statement on the use of breastfeeding as a family planning method. Contraception 1989;39:477-96).
Similar guidelines were also published by Labbock et al 1990 from the US Institute for Studies in Natural Family Planning, encorporating the same criteria.
For some recent data, Perez et al publised data on 422 women (Lancet 1992;339;968-70) using this method, only one of whom fell pregnant (99.5% success rate).
Calling in Backup
Remember, it is not 100% effective and particularly note the bit about feeding day and night - this is Mum, of course. Dad giving the baby expressed milk isn't good enough! Although the occasional skipped night is unlikely to lead to the resumption of fertility.
If you really want to be sure about it, then you may consider adding another method, such as condoms or a progestogen-only pill (combined oestrogen-progestogen pills can interfere with breastfeeding).
Chat with other women about different types of birth control to take while breastfeeding and find out if it is safe to take the birth control pill while breastfeeding.