Most new mothers are aware that breastfeeding delays the return of their fertility. What they may not be aware of is how to use this benefit as an effective form of birth control. While some sources describe the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) and ecological breastfeeding as burdensome to practice, those who chose to use it find that the benefits include more than just pregnancy prevention. This method of birth control has benefits for the baby as well.
According to Family Health International, there are three requirements to be a candidate for using LAM, the mother must be exclusively breastfeeding, not yet had her periods return, and her child must be less than six months old. The mother must also nurse frequently, and avoid supplemental milk, bottles or pacifiers. Many mothers are pleasantly surprised to learn that when used appropriately, lactational amenorrhea has a 98% success rate of pregnancy prevention.
Ecological breastfeeding can be 99% effective, and this is where the true benefits come in for the infant. To effectively practice ecological breastfeeding, breast milk must be the only source of nutrition for the first six months, as well as source of comfort. No bottles, pacifiers, or fingers should be offered for soothing. Breastfeeding should occur frequently, more often then every 4 hours in the day and every 6 at night as recommended for LAM. The mother and infant should co-sleep at night and during naps, and the mother and child should not be separated by artificial baby carriers or seats such as strollers or swings.
The guidelines for ecological breastfeeding support reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the La Leche League (LLL). WHO recommends that all infants received breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life and bottles and pacifiers should be avoided. According to La Leche League introducing artificial nipples such as a pacifier can cause problems for an exclusively breastfed infant, such as poor latch, sucking problems, slow weight gain, ear infections, thrush, dental caries, and an increase in the need for braces.
Frequent breastfeeding is also beneficial for a mother’s milk supply. Because breast milk is digested quickly and easily, babies frequently need to nurse about every two to three hours. Making your baby wait longer to feed can case the fat content in the milk to decrease, for a young baby this could mean trouble gaining enough weight as well as fussiness.
Safe co-sleeping has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS, as well as increase a child’s confidence and independence later in life. Mothers who co-sleep are able to care for their infant while resting themselves and often report being feeling more rested than mothers who must get up to tend to their child.
The last component of ecological breastfeeding includes little separation of the mother and infant by babysitters or devices. Baby-wearing increases contact, allows the mother to carry out daily tasks, soothes infants, helps their developing brains, and they learn from the social interactions of the mother. A baby in a sling or baby carrier is highly portable, allowing the mother the ability to keep her child near while working and traveling.
While some may initially view these guidelines as restrictive, the benefits are far more numerous then seen at first glance and can ultimately strengthen the mother-child bond as well as provide physical benefits for baby and mother.
Lactational Amenorrhea, Family Health International
10 Facts On Breastfeeding, World Health Organization
Sara Walters, Will Using a Pacifier Affect My Breastfed Baby?, La Leche League
Is Breastfeeding An Effective Contraceptive?, Family Health International
Miriam H. Labbok, The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM): Another Choice For Mothers, La Leche League
Tami E. Breazeale, Cosleeping, The Natural Child Project
Babywearing, Ask Dr. Sears
Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC, Breastfeeding and Fertility, Kellymom