Many new moms begin having sex again around six weeks postpartum, so it’s important to start thinking about your contraceptive options pretty soon after delivery. For breastfeeding moms, the Lactational Amenorrhea Method can be a great temporary option immediately after giving birth.
What exactly is the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)?
The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), better known as breastfeeding as birth control, is a highly effective, temporary form of birth control for breastfeeding moms in their first six months postpartum. Lactation is the act of producing milk, and amenorrhea means not having a period.
When a new mom breastfeeds continuously – we’ll get into what that means in a little bit – her body naturally stops ovulating, or producing eggs. When there are no eggs to fertilize, it’s not possible to get pregnant.
What does “breastfeeding continuously” mean?
Breastfeeding continuously means nursing at least every four hours during the day and at least every six hours at night (ideally breastfeeding 8-12 times total per day), usually the intervals at which babies get hungry. It also means that your baby is consuming only breast milk (not even water, which newborns generally shouldn’t drink yet, anyway), and that they are nursing from your breast instead of a bottle. As soon as you begin to pump, the LAM method becomes significantly less effective.
When using LAM, it’s important that babies get milk from their moms’ breasts rather than bottles because the act of nursing plays a major role in LAM. When babies breastfeed, they put pressure on the nipple. This pressure sends a message to the mom’s body, which tells it to produce the hormones that prevent ovulation. While pumping can be a great way to feed your baby, it doesn’t send that same signal to the body that nursing does. This means that even if you’re pumping at the same interval that your baby would be feeding, pumping can still reduce the effectiveness of LAM as a birth control method.
Is LAM effective?
Under the circumstances detailed above, new moms have a very low likelihood of getting pregnant while using the LAM method. When done correctly, LAM has a 98% success rate, just like many hormonal birth control methods (like the pill). That means that about two in every hundred people will get pregnant.
Who can use LAM?
In order for LAM to work, a new mom must meet all three of the following criteria:
- She must have given birth in the last six months;
- Not have had a period (or even spotting) during her postpartum period;
- And be exclusively or almost exclusively breastfeeding her baby.
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. No method of birth control is right for everyone, so it’s important to discuss which method of contraception is right for you with your healthcare provider.