Baby's First Year · Breastfeeding

Can breastfeeding be a reliable method of contraception?

Baby breastfeeding

Did you know that, even when breastfeeding (also known as chestfeeding), it is possible to become pregnant again just weeks after delivering a baby?

Using breastfeeding as a natural method of contraception, also known as Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), relies on breastfeeding hormones to suppress ovulation.  Without ovulation the body cannot get pregnant.

Breastfeeding can be a reliable method of birth control ONLY WHEN certain conditions are met.

LAM can be relied upon when ALL of the following conditions apply:

  • baby is less than six months old
  • baby is fully or nearly fully breastfed
  • breastfeeding is frequent, at least every four hours, not going longer than one six hour stretch without breastfeeding within a 24 hour period
  • monthly menstrual periods have not returned

When all of the above conditions are met, using breastfeeding as birth control is about 98% effective, similar to using a hormonal method.  If any of the above conditions are not met, another method of contraception is needed to prevent pregnancy.

Pumping and hand expressing are not as effective at keeping ovulation-suppressing hormone levels up, so a backup method of birth control will be needed.

Other methods of contraception are available for people who are breastfeeding; Non-hormonal methods, such as condoms and copper IUDs, have no effect on breastfeeding, and many birth control methods using low-dose hormones (such as the Mirena hormonal IUD) are considered very safe for people who are breastfeeding.  Condoms also help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

The use of some emergency contraceptive methods, such as progestin-only pills (i.e., Plan B) and copper IUDs, are considered safe while breastfeeding, while other types of emergency contraception, such as Ella emergency contraceptive pills, are not recommended while breastfeeding.  For more information visit Toronto Public Health’s Sexual Health website

Speak to your health care provider, or visit one of Toronto Public Health’s free Sexual Health Clinics, to discuss what birth control options might be right for you.

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