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Did you know that society at large – and women in particular – gave breastfeeding too much credit? Definitely more than it deserves? Seriously. It really isn’t the magic pill we were sold. Breastfeeding as birth control is just a bad idea.
Yes, nursing is probably the healthiest thing you can do for your baby. It’s really, really good for you. It benefits fathers, too. And society at large. Heck, even some burn units use breastmilk to heal injuries!
So what’s the problem? Where does this miraculous gift from God fall short?
I can not stress this enough: breastfeeding will NOT fully prevent pregnancy! Many, many women think think they can rely on breastfeeding as birth control. (I did!) Maybe you even nursed once before and never got pregnant. Trust me on this, it could still happen. You can get pregnant while exclusively breastfeeding.
Please meet Baby G, conceived in spite of the fact that I was breastfeeding…AND on birth control (although I won’t deny a very strong possibility that all the late night feedings might have caused me to forget an early morning pill or two)
I like to give facts though, and not just my own opinion. According to La Leche League, a woman who practices ecological breastfeeding (where there is no scheduling of feedings, no use of pacifiers or bottles, and no separation of mom and baby) have almost no chance of becoming pregnant in the first 3 months postpartum, a 2 percent chance of becoming pregnant between 3-6 months, and a 6 percent chance of becoming pregnant after 6 months.
So there’s “almost no chance” of getting pregnant in the first 3 months and 2 percent chance between 3-6 months if you practice “ecological breastfeeding.” Let’s take a moment to revisit the terms of ecological breastfeeding: no scheduling of feedings, no use of pacifiers or bottles, and no separation of mom and baby. That’s a tough order to fill. You can probably do feeding without scheduling. And maybe you can survive 6 months without ever being separated. But no pacifiers or bottles? For six months?!? I’m sure there are women who can do that, but not very many.
Nursing absolutely will reduce the likelihood of you getting pregnant, even without ecological feeding or if you’re not breastfeeding exclusively; however it absolutely does not temporarily sterilize you. Don’t bet the farm – or the nursery – on this one method.
But I haven’t had a period!
If you exclusively breastfeed, you won’t have your period for a while. It’s completely normal to go 6 months postpartum without a period. It stretches even longer for some lucky women.
Just because you haven’t had a period yet, don’t think for a minute that you won’t get pregnant! Remember the period happens AFTER an egg is released. So there’s always a chance of a freshly released egg floating around waiting for friends to come by and make a baby. If you’re not ready for that to happen then you need additional contraception. Don’t bank on breastfeeding and a missing menstrual cycle.
We gave breastfeeding too much credit
So yes, breastfeeding has been given too much credit as birth control. It’s amazing for everyone involved. While nursing efficiently reduces the likelihood of pregnancy, it’s not a reliable method of birth control.
My grandmother would argue. Probably both of my grandmothers. And some aunts. Somehow, perhaps through a generational game of telephone, we started believing that if you’re a nursing mother you won’t get pregnant. That’s more of an exaggeration than an outright lie. Still, don’t believe it.
In the interest of your family and your peace of mind, please please do not consider nursing your foolproof birth control system.
Do you have a baby conceived while breastfeeding? Please introduce them in the comments. I’d love to meet them!