When I first started breastfeeding, I really had no idea what my goals were. In all honesty, I was probably winging it. I didn’t know anything about teething, growth spurts or cosleeping. At two weeks old, we attended our first La Leche League meeting, and it was here that we learned about many different aspects of breastfeeding, from the nutritional benefits, to the affects on a woman’s fertility.
As it turns out, breastfeeding exclusively has a huge effect on fertility and the return of your period. This was news to me! The La Leche League website states:
The biggest effect of breastfeeding on menstrual cycles is seen in women who practice what is known as “ecological breastfeeding.” As explained by Sheila Kippley in Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, the seven tenets of ecological breastfeeding are:
- Exclusive breastfeeding (no other liquid or solid from any other source enters the infant’s mouth) for the first six months of life.
- Comfort your baby at the breast.
- Don’t use bottles and pacifiers.
- Share sleep with your baby for night feedings.
- Share sleep with your baby for daily nap feedings.
- Nurse frequently day and night and avoid schedules.
- Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby.
Many mothers who follow Kippley’s tenets of ecological breastfeeding will experience an average of 14 months without menstruating. Mothers who breastfeed but don’t do so exclusively (or don’t follow all the recommendations of ecological breastfeeding) may have delay in the return of their cycles, but usually not for as long of a period of time as mothers who ecologically breastfeed.
14 months?! Could this be true?
In my case, it was. In November 2009 I had a period before finding out I was pregnant. My daughter was born in September 2010, and after exclusive breastfeeding (as described above), and no solids until almost 8 months, I got my first period when she was 13 months old, then one the next month, before finding out I was pregnant with my son in December 2011 (I continued to nurse my daughter up until my eighth month of pregnancy). In September 2012 my son was born, and last month, January 2014, I got my first period when he turned 16 months. We are still nursing, and I got my second this month.
But every child and every woman is different. I have a friend with a son one one week older than mine who is yet to get her period back. I have another friend who got hers back after 6 months. The longest I have heard that a woman did not get her period back while nursing (and wasn’t pregnant) was 22 months! Wow!!
If you are doing all of the above seven points as a contraceptive method, and really don’t want to get pregnant, you might want to consider an alternative contraceptive method just incase by speaking to your OBGYN. You could still get pregnant. If you are on the opposite end, and really do want to get pregnant again, keep trying! You never know what will happen.
So here are some great links for those of you who are interested in learning more about your fertility while nursing your baby.
Did nursing delay your period? Share your story here! We will also be discussing what to expect when you’re nursing and your cycle returns, so stay tuned!