BF as contraception - does it work?

(27 Posts)
delilah88 Mon 17-Dec-12 13:59:00

I am EBF at least every 3-4 hours, sometimes 4.5/5hrs in the night. I have read that this can be an effective contraceptive, and so we have started off having unprotected sex, but I thought I'd ask for a second opinion. Conceived instantly before so am obviously quite fertile.
Does EBF work as a contraceptive? Has anyone else done this? If not, then what contraception did you use instead? Am loath to start taking pill as have never got on with it.
Thanks!

leedy Mon 17-Dec-12 15:20:47

The problem with using it as contraception (unless you're also doing lots of other Taking Charge Of Your Fertility type stuff ie temperatures, cervical mucus, etc.) is that you won't know if you've ovulated for the first time since birth until, well, you either have a period or you're pregnant again. Also you really just need to have one slightly late feed and bam your cycle can start right back up again - can't remember how close together feeds need to be over 24 hours, but it's really quite close. I know quite a few people whose periods came back surprisingly early when EBF. Mine came back at 8 months and DS1 was still feeding a lot, and I've heard of them coming back as early as 6 weeks.

Oh, and the only person I know who used it as contraception without doing all the temping etc. has two children very close together in age....

I used barrier methods between DS1 and DS2 (between BF, pregnancy, and a miscarriage I actually didn't have that many fertile cycles) and am planning on getting a copper coil at some stage once my periods come back this time - can't do hormonal BC at all.

aimingtobeaperfectionist Mon 17-Dec-12 15:27:46

Er, no. I hope you were planning on having DC close together...confused

If you meet certain criteria then BF can be as effective as other forms of contraception- problem is that not many people meet the criteria! There's a really good article about it here.

BuffyFairyTopsTheTree Mon 17-Dec-12 16:51:30

Yes it can be effective as long as you meet the criteria in the article EauRouge linked to.

It's worked fine for me (no periods for 14 months now, doing the odd poas just in case! smile) but then we were happy to risk having children close together and know we want another one.

4.5/5 hour gaps might be enough to trigger ovulation, so if you really don't want to get pregnant then looking into other forms of contraception might be an idea. Some hormonal contraceptives aren't compatible with breastfeeding.

ZuleikaD Mon 17-Dec-12 17:38:55

Blimey, I wouldn't.

rogersmellyonthetelly Tue 18-Dec-12 20:26:24

Wouldn't have worked for me, despite ebf seemingly constantly my periods came back at 6 weeks on the nose. But it does work for many women. Problem is you won't know if it Doesn't work for you until its too late, so unless you don't mind another baby whilst your current one is quite small, I'd be using a back up method!

delilah88 Tue 18-Dec-12 20:30:53

Ok thanks ladies!

Zara1984 Wed 19-Dec-12 00:01:27

NO!!! No no no!

DMIL ebf all her kids (including night feeds every night until 1 year). She was told by LLL that it meant she couldn't get pregnant.

She got knocked up with DH when his sister was 6 months old and again when DH was 5 months old! She had no periods so didn't know she was pregnant both times until she started feeling sick.

TBH I was surprised she didn't learn her lesson after DH....

Zara1984 Wed 19-Dec-12 00:04:17

OP and she was feeding every 4 hours or so, even once they started solids (hungry babies)!

DFIL holds a dim view of LLL advice for this reason grin

ItsaTIARA Wed 19-Dec-12 00:14:49

Yes it's better than nothing, but it's not high on the list of reliability. You'll find people on MN who've got pg using absolutely every means of contraception including sterilisation, implants and anal sex, but there are rather more of them using EBF alone.

primigravida Wed 19-Dec-12 01:01:43

Doesn't work - I know a few babies born as a result. Condoms can be a much better contraceptive for bf'ing mothers.

ZuleikaD Wed 19-Dec-12 06:06:37

The mini-Pill's ok if you're ok on the combined Pill - it's fine with breastfeeding.

delilah88 Wed 19-Dec-12 07:55:17

Blimey zara! Actually that makes sense as I read it in my LLL book 'The Womanly...etc'. Are they trying to force a population boom? DH told me LLL were full of rubbish but I wasn't sure. I guess they are. I will be more careful from now on!

leedy Wed 19-Dec-12 09:08:50

LLL are pretty sensible on many issues, but if they're saying EBF is a reliable form of contraception without providing all the details of the very limited criteria within which it's reliable (and telling you to do all the charting stuff as well) then yeah, full of rubbish on that subject!

Hmm, did LLL tell her exactly that she couldn't get pregnant? They don't usually offer 'advice' so much as information and support. They are not rubbish, at least UNICEF don't seem to think so as they work together with LLL on some things. Maybe your MiL encountered a rogue Leader?

4 hours may be long enough of a gap to trigger ovulation. The truth is that no form of contraception is 100% reliable. There's always going to be someone that gets pregnant.

BF cannot be used as contraception if your baby has started solids, is having any other form of supplementation or a dummy or is going more than a few hours between feeds.

If you are interested in using breastfeeding as contraception then there's a book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility that has more information.

Zara1984 Wed 19-Dec-12 09:24:58

Mind you this was in the 70s! Quite possibly a rogue leader. She asked the LLL and that's what she was told.... No Dr Google or MN those days!

Spiritedwolf Wed 19-Dec-12 11:00:12

Eep.

I'm ebf very frequently and I had fertility problems before concieving ds. We're using condoms (and quite a bit of baby enforced abstainance) because I didn't want to go back on the pill/other hormonal contraception and want to concieve again in a year or two's time. My GP didn't seem overly impressed with the barrier methods, but I think they are good enough for us at the moment, we wouldn't be unhappy to be preg again even though ideally we'd like a bit more of a gap.

I'm not saying bf isn't effective for those following the guidelines. Some will still get pregnant, just like those using other methods. If you really don't want to get pregnant, I'd suggest introducing a second method, maybe a barrier method if you don't get on with hormonal? Or something more long lasting if you don't want to get pregnant for a good while?

Welovecouscous Wed 19-Dec-12 11:28:11

My LLL book is pretty clear on the criteria for using it as contraception and that it doesn't work for everyone.

Worked for me though and DS is now 17 months, still feeds a lot and still no periods smile

ilove Wed 19-Dec-12 11:34:02

9.5 month gap in my youngest 2 children...exc BF AND condoms...

ForkInTheForeheid Wed 19-Dec-12 11:41:06

To echo the others, I EBF my son (and he fed every 90 minutes to 2 hours at least for a few months) and I got my periods back when he was 8 weeks. Everyone's different but the fact that you'll ovulate before you get your period back means you won't know whether you're fertile or not. Wouldn't rely on it unless you don't mind a happy accident taking place smile

Mil and fil took 7 years to conceive dh, but there is only 11 months between him and bil after she was advised that bf was excellent contraception. I wouldn't and didn't chance it.

Saranza Tue 08-Jan-13 10:32:49

Hello, bit late but just wanted to say you're right and leap to defence of LLL. LLL are in line with the Royal College of Obs & Gynae, and the Family Planning Association on this. And I used it successfully as well so it must work!

EBF is not enough though, you must meet the LAM (lactational amenorrhoea method) rules to get 98% effectiveness:
1. Your baby must be less than 6 months old.
2. You must not be bleeding at all. Regular breastfeeding suppresses ovulation. Your first post-baby period is 99% of the time a sign that your fertility is returning, not a sign that you have ovulated. On average, a woman's first period (if EBF) occurs at 28 weeks.
3. Your baby must be EBF - no top up feeds, no solids.

Also no dummies, no expressing and keep up the night feeds. The more you feed, the better it works. This can mean loads of short feeds or fewer longer feeds - whatever suits you. At least every 4 hrs during the day and at least every 6 hrs at night - so what you're doing now sounds fine.

mawbroon Tue 08-Jan-13 21:17:49

The bottom line is that if breastfeeding is keeping ovulation at bay then you won't get pregnant BUT ovulation could start up at any time and if you don't know how to recognise it then yes of course you could get pg.

FWIW, I was ttc no2 for 2.5yrs with a regular cycle, but the breastfeeding kept my luteal phase too short for successful implantation. So, for me, breastfeeding worked as a contraceptive extremely effectively for 3.5yrs.

But if you don't know how to spot ovulation then don't rely on it.

Saranza Thu 10-Jan-13 12:16:12

Interesting. Very true that shortened luteal phase is another way that breastfeeding acts as contraception.

I disagree about the need to recognise ovulation though (unless you're using it for a longer time). One of the great things about LAM is that you don't have to chart or know Toni Weschler back to front - you just have to stick to the rules.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now