Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing

Monday, June 11, 2012

This might be a little "Too Much Information," but I haven’t had a period in over three years. I’ll be honest; I think that’s kind of awesome. Researchers say this was probably a common occurrence for most women hundreds of years ago. Our female physiology is designed to get pregnant, have babies and breastfeed them.  Ancestral females probably had far fewer menstrual cycles than modern women due to their adherence to this innate system.  

Breastfeeding has been shown to be best for women and best for babies. Women who breastfeed have lower rates of breast and ovarian cancers, are less likely to develop diabetes, arthritis and post-partum depression and oftentimes have an easier time losing the baby weight.

The benefits of breastfeeding for babies are endless, therefore I will not go into them here.

Breastfeeding also has the built in mechanism of a natural period of infertility following the birth of a baby. For women who choose not to or who are unable to breastfeed, fertility (meaning their ovulatory menstrual cycles) usually returns by 2-3 months post-partum.  Women who breastfeed their babies can usually count on at least 5 months of lactational amenorrhea (no ovulation due to breastfeeding). For women who ecologically breastfeed the average return of fertility is 14.6 months. That’s a long time. 

Ecological breastfeeding generally means free and unrestricted breastfeeding. This can prove highly demanding and physically tiring for the mother. However, it does not require the ingestion of artificial hormones, use of devices, contraptions or other such contraceptives and yet still will aid in preventing another pregnancy. The common characteristics of ecological breastfeeding generally include:
• Mom and baby are together full-time
• Frequent suckling
• Breastfeeding on cue (day and night)
• The baby is naturally pacified at the breast
• Co-sleeping is strongly encouraged
• Breastfeeding in a lying-down position for naps and at night
• No bottles or pacifiers

Again, this can prove quite demanding and is simply not feasible for many women.  Therefore, if a couple wishes to delay another pregnancy while breastfeeding, I would strongly recommend the Marquette method. Marquette University has developed a natural family planning protocol for women who are breastfeeding and wish to delay another pregnancy. The Clear Blue Fertility Monitor (CBFM) monitors the hormones in the body to determine periods of low, medium and high fertility. The Marquette method utilizes this information and advises abstinence on High and Peak fertility days in order to prevent pregnancy. With proper use, this method is 98% effective. For more information, check out their website

I have used the CBFM to chart my fertility during my current postpartum period and I highly, highly recommend it. Through Marquette I have also had access to an NFP doctor and nurse who specialize in breastfeeding and post-partum fertility. They are amazing and respond to questions and emails usually within 24 hours. Really, I cannot recommend them enough. 

God has really designed a pretty impressive system. Simply by breastfeeding, a woman can naturally space her children on average about every 2 -3 years. People like to claim that if a woman does not use birth control she will be destined to a life of non-stop babies. This is simply not true and shows a very poor understanding of female biology.  

The flip side of this is that sometimes breastfeeding prevents a woman's ability to become pregnant longer than she would like. The hormones that help make milk also prevent ovulation. For some women even sporadic nursing (or just once a day) is enough to suppress her fertility.  

For me, personally, I would like another baby like yesterday. But due to my current baby’s needs that is simply not in the cards. And that’s okay. My body is only able to handle so much and right now it’s saying it can only handle Abby (and Hannah too).

It’s important to note that every woman is different. If you plan to rely on breastfeeding as a means to naturally space your children, I suggest you read up on the topic. The book Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing is a good place to start. La Leche League also has a plethora of information as does Kellymom.

1 comment:

  1. Such a great post about one of my favorite topics!!!!! :))
    Way to spread the message!


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