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Breastfeeding Can Be Used as Birth Control IF …

Myths abound that you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding. It’s true that you can get pregnant while nursing, but you can also use breastfeeding as a reliable form of birth control – in some cases – until your menstrual periods return on a normal cycle.

Does that sound confusing?

  • Yes, breastfeeding works as birth control. For certain women under certain conditions, it is 98 to 99.5 % effective, which is as effective as the pill or condoms for pregnancy prevention.
  • If your regular periods have returned, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Can Be Used as Birth Control If:

  • Your baby is exclusively breastfed, night and day
  • Your baby is under 6 months old
  • Your periods have not returned

You can increase the effectiveness of nursing as birth control by breastfeeding on cue, breastfeeding for comfort, and not using bottles or pacifiers at all. These factors all increase the amount of time baby spends at breast.

While rare, you can get pregnant before your periods return, especially if your nursing baby is:

Getting Pregnant Without Having a Period

In some rare cases, an egg will be released as your cycle returns, but will immediately be fertilized. This is how some women can go two years or longer without a menstrual period. Babies born within 12 months of each other are often the result of this situation.

For mothers who breastfeed, however, they will usually have at least 6 months of protection against pregnancy – again, providing the baby is exclusively breastfed on cue and is not yet sleeping through the night.

What If You Get Pregnant While Still Nursing?

Once your periods return, nursing is no longer an effective means of birth control. However, the good news is that it’s very rare for a woman to conceive before her period returns. The first few periods in a new cycle after childbirth tend to be anovulatory, a period where no egg is released.

Don’t worry – there’s no need to immediately wean your baby, whatever his age. Many women successfully nurse through their pregnancy and then “tandem nurse” (nurse both an infant and a toddler) after the new baby is born.

Around the second trimester, your milk may change in taste and composition as colostrum begins to come in to feed the baby on the way. At this point, many toddlers will self-wean. Others will turn to nursing only to fall asleep or for comfort, increasing their intake of solid foods and decreasing their time at the breast.

Mothers who tandem nurse say their children are closer, learn how to share better, and experience less sibling rivalry and jealousy.

Click here to learn more about Tandem nursing and breastfeeding to prevent pregnancy.

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