The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), better known as ‘breastfeeding as birth control,’ is an effective, temporary form of birth control for those breastfeeding in their first six months postpartum. Lactation is the act of producing milk, and amenorrhea means not having a period. LAM is a way to prevent unwanted pregnancy, but only if certain criteria are met. If you’ve recently given birth and you’re breastfeeding exclusively — we’ll get into what that means in a little bit — your body naturally stops ovulating, or releasing eggs. When there are no eggs to fertilize, there is no risk of pregnancy.
When a new mom breastfeeds continuously – we’ll get into what that means in a little bit – her body naturally stops ovulating, or releasing eggs. When there are no eggs to fertilize, there is no risk of pregnancy.
What does “breastfeeding exclusively” mean?
Breastfeeding exclusively means nursing on cue, whenever baby is hungry during the day and overnight (this usually adds up to at least 8 feedings in 24 hours). It also means that a baby is consuming only breast milk (not formula, not solid foods, and not even water, which babies generally shouldn’t drink yet anyway).
Is LAM effective?
Under the circumstances detailed below, there is a very low chance of getting pregnant while using the LAM method. When done perfectly, LAM has a 98% success rate, just like many hormonal birth control methods (like the pill). That means that about 2/100 people will get pregnant in a year of use.
Who can use LAM?
In order for LAM to work, you must meet all three of the following criteria:
- You must have given birth in the last six months
- You cannot have had a period since giving birth
- You’re exclusively breastfeeding, on cue (including overnight)
If you fit the criteria, LAM can be a low-maintenance and non-hormonal option for birth control. It’s important to keep in mind that only barrier methods, like condoms, can prevent STIs. There are also plenty of other safe, effective methods of birth control if you’ve chosen another method of infant feeding or if your period has returned. No method of birth control is right for everyone, and everyone’s risk assessment will be a little bit different, so it’s important to discuss which method of contraception is right for you with your healthcare provider
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- Office of Population Affairs. “Lactational amenorrhea method.” Office of Population Affairs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, August 30 2017. Retrieved July 30 2018. https://www.hhs.gov/opa/pregnancy-prevention/birth-control-methods/lam/index.html.
- M. Vekemans. “Postpartum contraception: the lactational amenorrhea method.” The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care. 2(2): 105-11. June 1997. Retrieved July 30 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9678098.
- “Breastfeeding.” Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood. Retrieved July 30 2018. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/breastfeeding.