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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.


7 Rules to Delay Your Period While Breastfeeding & Postpone Fertility

After delivering your little bundle of joy, you may begin to wonder when you will be fertile again. Some women don’t get their period back for a while, and others seem to resume their period like clockwork shortly after baby is born. What causes a delay in resuming your period while breastfeeding? Why do some women become fertile very soon after delivering a child while others can’t get pregnant for a months?

In talking about fertility and breastfeeding, it seems that there are two major schools of thought, neither of which is fully accurate.

  1. Many women believe that any amount of breastfeeding prevents pregnancy, and are surprised to find themselves unexpectedly pregnant.
  2. Others believe that breastfeeding cannot be used to prevent pregnancy at all, and that there is no way to tell when fertility will return after birth.

My hope is that this post will clear up both of these misunderstandings, and offer a bit more insight into the specifics of natural child-spacing.

7 Rules for Delaying Your Period While Breastfeeding

The following list contains what are known as the seven standards of “ecological breastfeeding.” Mothers must meet all these criteria to rely on “lactational amenorrhea” (the absence of fertility and a period while breastfeeding) as a form of birth control.

1. The baby must be exclusively breastfed.

This means that the baby doesn’t consume anything other than milk from the breast for the first 6 months of life. The baby shouldn’t even drink water, nor breast milk from a bottle. Parents may introduce solids slowly when the infant begins showing signs of readiness, usually between 6 and 8 months of age.

2. The mother should comfort the baby at the breast.

Non-nutritive sucking (nursing for comfort rather than purely for nutrition) is a key component in staving off the return of fertility for as long as possible.

3. There should be no use of bottles, cups, or pacifiers.

Although pumping stimulates the body to produce prolactin in some amount, nursing the baby at the breast is what assures that prolactin levels remain high enough that menses does not return.

4. Mother and baby should sleep together for night time feedings.

Co-sleeping increases the frequency of infant feeding and boosts milk supply. Additionally, it allows a mother to get more sleep than mothers whose infants have separate sleep spaces. Nighttime feedings are of fundamental importance to keeping the body in a state of amenorrhea. Mothers who eliminate night feeds are much more likely to experience an early return to fertility.

5. Mother and baby should rest together for a daily nap feeding.

Adequate amounts of rest are also important to maintaining lactational amenorrhea. However, many mothers find that this is the one rule they do not have to follow to prevent pregnancy.

6. The baby should nurse frequently throughout the day and night.

Frequent nursing is a minimum of every 2 hours during the day and every 4 hours at night. This applies for the first 6 months of baby’s life. The frequency can be stretched to every 3 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night for older babies.

7. Mothers should avoid any practice which restricts nursing or separates the mother from the baby.

This can include being away from the baby for longer than the baby normally goes without eating, or sleep training. In other words, anything that lengthens the normal time between feedings.

All bets are off, of course, when the mother experiences her first postpartum period. (She may ignore any bleeding prior to 56 days postpartum.) When you’ve experienced a period while breastfeeding you can no longer count on ecological breastfeeding to prevent fertility.

The vast majority of mothers who breastfeed ecologically will experience a return of fertility between 9 and 20 months. This assumes they follow the above guidelines. Everyone’s hormones are different, though, and these numbers are just an average.

Did you practice ecological breastfeeding? Were you able to successfully delay a return of fertility? 


Rachel Wideman lives with her husband Andrew. They have a 6-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter. She is a registered nurse and enjoys knitting and reading.

Comments

  1. If I’ve been spotting does that mean my cycle is dangerously close? It’s happened twice now, once at 4 months and one at 5.5 months. We’re approaching 6 months here in the next few days…

  2. 16.5 months old and no period yet. Nursing 3 times a day — right after he wakes up, for afternoon nap, and right before bed. He’s eating 3 meals plus a snack of “regular” food and uses a sippy cup. We were kinda hoping there would be another baby on the way… but we don’t want to wean yet, either. I suppose we’re a bit abnormal…

  3. HI,
    my baby just turned 5 months this week and this afternoon I have had my first postpartum period.In the last two weeks he had vomiting bug and i was told not to feed him much just very small amounts. I thought it will take some time for him to get his appetite back, but now im wondering whether that 2 week could have caused me having my periods back? I used to demand feed, pretty much almost every two hours, and co-sleep with him. If I revert back to these practices… is there a chance to further delay the periods?

  4. I did every last one of these things and still got my period at almost 4 months pp. 9 months EBF + solids

  5. I follow all 7 rules and still got my flow like clock work 5weeks after she was born.

  6. Did all of the above, literally every single item, and period returned 10 weeks postpartum. Every woman is different!

  7. I exclusively breastfeed, co-sleep, and feed whenever baby wants and my first period was at three months post partum:(

  8. I did all these things and have been regular since 3 months postpartum. Sooooo ….
    Que sera sera

  9. So did ALL of these. To a T. With all three of my babies. And my youngest is 5 months old. And still got my period within a few weeks after my lochia stopped, around 9-12weeks post partum. What gives?!

  10. Did all of these thing except number 3. My daughter was constantly trying to suck on her fingers but couldn’t quite figure out how, so I waited 6 weeks and then started giving her a pacifier. She’s never taken a bottle though, just a pacifier. I take her EVERYWHERE I go to ensure I never have to pump. She is 6 months old now but still nurses every 2 hours, day AND night, just as she has since birth. I had 1 cycle when she was 3 months old, and lo and behold I became pregnant. Maybe I’m just a very fertile Myrtle?

  11. I did all of the above perfectly and my cycle returned like clock work at 7 weeks pp. Apparently my Mother had the same experience with me and my brothers. I just think you may need to be careful telling people if they do the above perfectly it won’t come back. My 6 month old is still sleeping in bed with us and I didn’t introduce pumped milk until she was over 4 months. My cycle has been with me since the beginning. Sometimes it is genetics and behavior has no part in it.

  12. KatieMommy says:

    Had to laugh at #4 and #7. If a mommy and baby are NEVER apart (Any practice which restricts nursing or separates the mother from the baby should be avoided) it makes it very hard to have sex anyway. Definitely would make getting pregnant difficult. LOL!

  13. I do all of this baby is 20 weeks, got my first post partum period today…. Oh well

  14. I was able to follow all these rules with my second baby. When she reached 7 months, she ate more solids. Which I think lead to me becoming pregnant.

  15. I have done only 1 of these consistently and AF is no where to be found at 6 months post partum. I am low on estrogen to begin with and my cycle generally will not return until I stop breastfeeding altogether. So introducing solids and baby sleeping through the night without a feed does not always mean the return of one’s cycle. In my case I wish it did for hormone balance.

  16. Nope! My baby boy is 3 months old exclusively breastfed and I started my period this past Tuesday. He weighs 15lbs 8oz, has been sleeping around 5-7 hours a night and naps all day. I also started back working two days a week for 7 hours. And my diet has been trash for the past two weeks. I thought for sure I would have until he was 6 months old until I had to worry about my period but NOPE ITS BAAAAACK… I’m going to try to pump more and change my diet to see if I can steer it back in the other direction…. Fingers crossed!

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