There are a lot of rumors about whether or not breastfeeding will work as a reliable form of birth control. Ultimately, the answer is not a black or white one. With some women, breastfeeding works at a 100% fool-proof method of birth control as long as they are nursing at least a little bit (ask my sister, she didn’t have to use birth control until her daughter was weaned at 18 months).
With many others, breastfeeding as birth control doesn’t work at all, and they end up with children who are less than a year apart.
If spreading your children out is a really important thing to you, I wouldn’t even try relying upon breastfeeding as birth control at all, not one single time. But if you don’t mind having children close together, you might be okay rolling the dice.
Trying to use breastfeeding as birth control
As I said above, breastfeeding can work for some women as birth control, but only if you do it in a certain way. It’s important, if you want to rely on breastfeeding to prevent yourself from getting pregnant, that you make sure to nurse every six hours during the night and four hours during the day. This helps prevent your body from ovulating, which is how breastfeeding keeps you from getting pregnant.
However, if you start to provide your child with formula and aren’t breastfeeding regularly, then you won’t be able to enjoy these same benefits. It also isn’t as effective if you opt to pump instead of nursing your child directly, so you need to make sure that you are actually breastfeeding, and not pumping.
Even when done correctly, you can only (sort of) rely on breastfeeding as a form of birth control for about six months.
It’s a good idea, even when relying on breastfeeding for your birth control, to have another option in mind that you can use after six months or if you stop nursing regularly.
Reason why breastfeeding fails as birth control
Some women will get their period back regardless of how much they breastfeed, which means that they may be able to become pregnant. In fact, a woman may end up getting pregnant before she has even had one period, if she ovulated around a time when she had relations with her partner. If she had known that her period had returned, she might have utilized another form of birth control. But she never got the memo, and then…..
Most doctors will tell you that you cannot get pregnant in the first six weeks after giving birth. (Can you imagine resuming relations during that first six weeks, bleeding and stitched up, YUCK). But in most cases, that should be a safe window. However, some studies have shown that there are women out there who start ovulating as early as 3-4 weeks post delivery, even while exclusively breastfeeding.
Thus, it is still possible to get pregnancy 5 weeks after having a baby, if you were wondering.
Question: can I get pregnant while breastfeeding if I have my period?
Yes, yes you definitely can. Having your period signals the result of ovulation. Breastfeeding doesn’t prevent conception from occurring, it prevents ovulation. If you are ovulating, then you can get pregnant.
Question: Should I stop breastfeeding to get pregnant?
This depends upon whether or not your period has returned. If you are having a regular period while breastfeeding, then you should be as fertile as you would otherwise be if you were not breastfeeding.
However, if your period has not returned (and you have not started ovulating), you may need to reduce the amount of nursing you are doing if getting pregnant again soon is a high priority. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to stop nursing altogether, as you can still nurse your baby some, or just enough to return to ovulating.
But if you are one of those women who don’t ovulate at all while nursing at all, then you might have to wean to improve your fertility.
Question: can you get pregnant 3 weeks after having a baby?
This is pretty unlikely. In the earliest cases, women don’t start ovulating until 25-28 days after delivery. If you had relations in the third week after delivery, and then ovulated in the fourth week, it is potentially possible to get pregnant from the work done in the third week.
It is pretty unusual for women to ovulate that quickly after birth, but it isn’t impossible. The answer us YES, it is possible but it probably wouldn’t happen.
Question: Can I be pregnant 2 months after giving birth?
Yes, you can. Some women start ovulating in the first few months after delivering (I am one of those). So yes, it is possible that you are pregnant two months after giving birth, assuming you’ve had physical relations with your partner to enable conception.
Some couples are MORE fertile after having a baby
If you struggled to get pregnant the first time, you should read up on articles that talk about how “giving birth can reset your fertility.” There are tons of stories out there about couples who struggled to get pregnant the first time, and then get surprised by a new pregnancy shortly afterwards.
For some reason, giving birth seems to extend or even improve a woman’s fertility. Keep this in mind if you had fertility problems (or even if you didn’t), because you might just be more fertile than you were ever before. This is another reason why you might want to consider an alternative form of birth control to breastfeeding if you aren’t ready to get pregnant again.
For more info about breastfeeding, check out our Breastfeeding FAQs post: 100 Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms.
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Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, ages 8, 6, and 3. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Emily is a full-time mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer screen when the kids are occupied or sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her post about failing her way to blogging success.