How Breastfeeding Affects Future Fertility

The longer babies are exclusively breastfed, the longer mothers will experience temporary infertility.

After delivering a baby, the last thing that new mothers want to think about is getting pregnant again immediately. Fortunately, for those who choose to exclusively breastfeed, the body helps to keep that from happening. As a result, most mothers can rely on breastfeeding temporarily acting as a mode of birth control. And because of this, future fertility may be impacted in the short term by breastfeeding.

The female body is an amazing thing. This is because when a woman is caring for a newborn and chooses to breastfeed exclusively, the hormones register this and stop the menstrual cycle from happening. As such, many are unable to become pregnant during the first several months after delivery when infants are dependent upon their mothers for nourishment. And the longer that babies are exclusively breastfed, the longer women will go on being in an infertile state.

Here is how breastfeeding affects future fertility.

Breastfeeding Can Delay Fertility Temporarily

Women who breastfeed their babies will experience “delayed fertility,” according to the La Leche League. This is very common per the publication and for many, is the form of contraception they use until they believe their bodies are ready to carry another baby.

The process of using breastfeeding to delay pregnancy is known as the Lactation Amenorrhea Method. According to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, this method of birth control is very effective for most women in the first months after delivering a baby. This is because when used appropriately, only two in 100 women will get pregnant in the first six months after delivery. However, per the publication, because not all women are secure in relying on the Lactation Amenorrhea Method, many will use a secondary method to keep pregnancy from happening until ready to expand the family again.

Factors That Delay Menstrual Cycle While Breastfeeding

For those women who want to practice the Lactation Amenorrhea Method to keep from getting pregnant, there are certain factors that will delay pregnancy for longer than just a few months after delivering.

According to Planned Parenthood, to increase the natural window of infertility, the most important factor is to breastfeed exclusively and on demand. This means that women are not pumping their milk and that they are breastfeeding at night as well as during the day, versus giving bottles to supplement breastfeeding sessions.

Further still, per Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit, a delay in ovulation can be extended if babies do not use pacifiers. Instead, using the breast to soothe babies will help keep eggs from being released and begin the cycle of fertility again.

If these parameters are followed, some women have been able to go for a year or more without their cycles beginning in the year after delivering their babies.

Increasing Chances Of Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding

Some women want to have babies close in age, be it so that siblings have more in common or because women are getting older and need to have babies sooner rather than later for health reasons. Regardless what the reason, there are ways to become pregnant while breastfeeding.

According to Healthline, when breastfeeding is supplemented via pumped milk or formula in bottles, the window of infertility decreases. This is because when babies are not breastfed on demand, the ability for the menstrual cycle to begin again goes up dramatically.

The same can be said when babies begin to eat solids. Per the publication, when babies are not as reliant on their mothers for food, drink, or comfort, the hormones in women’s bodies shift. And when this happens, the hormones begin to transition back to that which they were before pregnancy. This is what will cause the menstrual cycle to resume and allow women to become pregnant again.

Breastfeeding In Conjunction With IVF Treatments

In order to become pregnant, some women have to rely on IVF treatments to make having babies possible. And given that breastfeeding is already something that inhibits fertility, those who want more babies may question how long they should breastfeed.

According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, it is up to each individual woman whether they need to wean before beginning IVF treatment. This is because it is possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding, as menstrual cycles can begin again. However, if women believe that they have better chances of a successful transfer and ultimately for implantation, they can choose to wean babies early to undergo IVF treatment.

There are some instances, per the publication, where IVF treatment medication may not be safe for breastfeeding babies. In this instance, it will be necessary to wean infants before beginning therapy to keep little ones safe while attempting to give them a sibling in the near future.

by Jessica Tucker

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