Can nursing get any better? Let’s list the ways it simplifies mom life: no equipment, no prep, always ready and available. Need one more reason to breastfeed? How about a break from your period. That’s right – no Aunt Flo or Ladies Days for up to a year!
The pause in menstruation means that you are not ovulating again and are very unlikely to get pregnant until your period restarts. This pause in your period is known as lactational amenorrhea. When used as birth control it’s called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method, or LAM. Research shows LAM is more than 98% effective at preventing pregnancy as long as you are exclusively breastfeeding, your baby is younger than 6 months of age, and your periods have not restarted.
If you nurse frequently, your menstrual cycle and ovulation is most likely going to be suppressed. That means every 4 hours or less during the day and every 6 hours or less overnight. Every mom is different. I didn’t have a period for more than a year with both of my exclusively breastfed babies. I had friends that told me their period came back in 1-2 months and they were breastfeeding too. The research supports this – some exclusively breastfeeding moms start having periods within the first few months of nursing. Others whose babies sleep for long durations and have supplemental feedings will not have a period for twelve months or longer. Some women go as long as two years or more without menstruating after the initial flow of lochia (vaginal bleeding for 2 to 4 weeks after birth) has stopped.
Most moms will notice some light bleeding or spotting before having a regular period. And if your period came on schedule before pregnancy, your monthly visitor might surprise you and just drop in anytime. Expect your period to be irregular and variable in flow and length. Any bleeding is a sign your body is ready to be fertile again and you should start using contraception (unless you are ready to be pregnant again of course!). A “warning period” is a common term to describe the first signs menstruation and fertility are returning. A delightfully ominous term I think!
It is possible for a nursing mom to become pregnant while she is breastfeeding and before she has her first menstrual period. But this is very unlikely since the shedding of the uterine lining is the beginning of the cycle. When your warning period arrives, or even better before it arrives, it’s time to start thinking about using contraception. Birth control pills or any other hormonal method can have a negative effect on your milk supply. Use condoms or another barrier method.