Learn Important Tips for Trying to Conceive While Breastfeeding

Learn Important Tips for Trying to Conceive While Breastfeeding

pregnant mother breastfeeding daughterWhen pregnancy occurs, certain hormones taper off, while others increase to maintain the pregnancy. During the nine month gestational period, the body prepares for sustaining the baby outside of the womb by engorging mammary glands and milk production through another hormone called prolactin. After the baby is born and the mother begins to breastfeed, the brain receives signals to make as much milk as the baby is eating, along with the gradually increased demand with growth. (Isn’t the body amazing?) With that comes amenorrhea (no ovulation) to irregular ovulation. This makes it hard to conceive. It’s not impossible, but unpredictable.

Is Conception While Breastfeeding Possible?

Most women worry about getting pregnant while breastfeeding, but have you ever thought about trying to conceive while breastfeeding? Is it possible? Yes, it is. Conception while breastfeeding can be very unpredictable, though. For some, exclusively breastfeeding, also known as the Lactational Amenorrhea (LAM) is used as a form of contraception. The La Leche League explains it as a method that provides “lactational infertility for protection from pregnancy.” This kind of contraception can be used for up to 6 months postpartum, with 99% effectiveness. (La Leche League, 2014)

What to Try

Women who want to get pregnant can still breastfeed, but there are a few things that need to be done to prepare the body for pregnancy and to increase the chance for successful conception.

Important Note: If you are nursing a baby that is under 9 months old, breastfeeding is more important than trying to conceive. The nourishment and bonding is very important for your baby.

1. Decrease the nighttime feedings (go at least 6 hours). This will decrease your milk supply. This also tells your body that it can resume regular non-lactational duties such as ovulating.

2. Begin feeding your baby solid foods and other supplemental liquids (at about 6 months of age).
This will decrease your milk supply even more. Your baby will still have the nutrition they need and you will still have the bonding benefits with daytime feedings.

3. Wean altogether. If any nipple stimulation through breastfeeding keeps you from returning to ovulation, then weaning will be the last option. This is not recommended until the baby is at least 6 months old. I want to stress that this is a last ditch effort and is not encouraged. Breastfeeding is extremely important for the health and development of your baby. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to 6 months of age and continued breastfeeding alongside complimentary foods for up to 2 years of age.

Click here for more information on making the decision to try to conceive while breastfeeding…

How to Prep for Pregnancy

While you are thinking about conception, you should also be thinking about prepping your body for pregnancy. Here are some tips to think about.

Prenatal Vitamins
If you stopped taking them after delivery, you should resume taking them. Your body is expending all it has to make milk and perform regular body functions. You also need the folic acid (800mcg/day or 0.8mg/day) to prevent neural tube defects.

Hydration
Hydration is key. Our bodies are made up of approximately 70% water. With breastfeeding, you should be drinking a minimum of 2-3 liters of fluid to sustain your milk supply and 3-4 liters to promote the best environment to grow another baby.

Healthy Lifestyle
Chances are, if you are breastfeeding, you are eating a healthy balanced diet. Exercise and stress relief are important, as well, so make sure these are integrated into your lifestyle.

Yearly Exam
It’s important to have your yearly breast exam and pap smear (if you are due for one.) Be mindful if you are at risk for cervical or breast cancer; if so, you must have an exam before considering another pregnancy.

Natural Herbs
Natural herbs such as vitex, shatavari, red raspberry leaf, milk thistle seed, and milky oats may help prepare your body for pregnancy and are considered generally supportive and safe for use during lactation. It is important to note that these herbs may increase milk supply, so this may contradict your goal if you are weaning a baby from breastfeeding.

*Most herbal supplements are not recommended for use while breastfeeding. It is always best to let your practitioner know of any new supplements you are taking while breastfeeding.


References
1. La Leche League (2014) The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM): Another Choice for Mothers. Retrieved from http://www.llli.org/ba/aug93.html
2. La Leche League (2014) Boosting Fertility while Breastfeeding. Retrieved from http://www.lalecheleague.org/nb/nbmayjune04p114.html

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[-] 6 Comments
  1. 4 mg folic acid?! The reccommended amount for pregnancy is 800 Mcg to 1000 Mcg. 4 mg seems like a ton. Is that a typo?

    • Dear Kelsey,

      Thank you for asking! Our apologies, yes there appears to be a typo that is now fixed!

      The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for women trying to conceive, or who are pregnant and/or lactating is a minimum of 800mcg (0.8mg) per day – RDA is 400mcg (0.4mg) for women who are not breastfeeding.

  2. Is it ok to drink the Conceptions Tea while breastfeeding? I’m breastfeeding my 9mth old and we want to try for #2 in the next few months.

    • Dear Bella,

      Conception’s Tea contains herbs not intended for infants and small children, therefore should not be consumed while breastfeeding.

      Best wishes!

  3. Even the WHO recommends nursing babies at least until they are 12 months of age. You are doing women a disservice by recommending that they wean as early as 6 months old in order to conceive again.

    • Hi Kay,

      Thank you for your point. The reality is there is a large population of women over 35 trying to conceive who feel time is of the essence. I know this article doesn’t convey that and to be honest with you and our other readers, I went back and forth with our writer Amy on this particular piece: 3. Wean altogether. If any nipple stimulation through breastfeeding keeps you from returning to ovulation, then weaning will be the last option, but this is not recommended until the baby is at least 6 months old. We agreed on six months of age, as this is a general time frame in which a baby can eat solid foods. Every mother is different in how and what she decides to do with her body and her children. We feel that breastfeeding is extremely important. I personally have a deep passion for breastfeeding and breastfed both my children until 2 years of age, but I was in my mid twenties when I had them, I wasn’t in my late 30s or early 40s.

      Kay, I am going to think on this and see if I can come up with some better wording on that particular point and then edit. I may add a note to the article. I believe it is extremely important to breastfeed a baby, for nutrition, immunity and bonding and I apologize that this article made you feel we are neglecting that point. That wasn’t the intention.

      Thanks again!