There is no doubt that breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for a newborn. Infection rates are lower as mother’s milk is rich in antibodies. Importantly, breastfeeding enhances the bond between mother and the child.
We are also aware that breastfeeding is equally beneficial to the mother as it decreases the chances of post-partum depression and stress. There is also an additional underlying benefit that breastfeeding provides, it reduces the chances of a woman conceiving again, immediately after childbirth.
Yes, breastfeeding acts as a method of birth control also known as the LAM- Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM). While ‘lactational’ refers to breastfeeding, ‘amenorrhea’ means not being able to menstruate.
This means that when you feed your baby only breast milk, you do not ovulate, when you do not ovulate, you do not get pregnant. This is only possible if it is done exclusively, if a baby misses a feed within the stipulated timeframe it is unreliable.
LAM resorts to exclusive breastfeeding, i.e. nursing your baby every four hours in the day and every 6 hours at night.
How does it benefit a mother?
- Strengthens the bond between mother and child
- Does not need medical contraceptive
Breastfeeding can take a while to get accustomed to. If the mother is a first timer, she might require help in the beginning.
LAM can be applied soon after birth; it is usually recommended to begin the latching process as soon as the child is born. This practice is helpful if one does not want to use other methods of birth control.
While opting for this as a method to prevent pregnancies immediately after child birth, it is important to adhere to certain rule to ensure effective results:
- The baby must not be older than 6 months of age
- Breastfeeding will not be an effective method to prevent pregnancy if the baby is fed something other than breast milk
- Using a breast pump is ineffective- nursing is the only option
- Your period should not have started yet
LAM requires time, energy and patience to be 100% effective. Being available day and night for over 4 hours can be tough and exhausting.
This however, is not foolproof and consulting a breastfeeding specialist is necessary before beginning the process. Remember that this method can only be used within the first 6 months of childbirth or unless you get your period, post which it is not effective.
Keep another birth control option available, after consulting your physician, in case either of the two commences.
The author is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Fortis Hospital, Mulund