Beth asks, “I am happily breastfeeding my three month old after a rocky start with sore nipples and low supply. I am so relieved that things are going so smooth now and both he and I are perfectly in the groove. I was hoping to breastfeed for two years if possible. My question is when do I need to wean him so I can get pregnant again? When do most moms get their periods when breastfeeding? Is there a way I can get my periods earlier? I really want to have another baby and I heard that my fertility will not return until I am finished breastfeeding. Is that true?”
Yes, you can still get pregnant when you are breastfeeding without weaning. The good news is unless you have a history if fertility issues, there is no need to wean your baby early. There is no exact timing as to when your periods might return. Some woman can have periods early as ten weeks after delivery and others may not have their periods return for a year. Studies have shown the average time for a breastfeeding mother to start her period is 190 days after birth. Women can conceive without purposely altering their babies feeding patterns, supplementing or weaning from the breast. I have had many clients over the years who were surprised to find out that they were pregnant, despite the fact they were exclusively breastfeeding their infant. This is why it is important not to use breastfeeding as a form of birth control unless you are strictly and frequently breastfeeding a baby under six months old and following the LAM (Lactational Amenorrhea Method) method of birth control. Studies have found that there is no exact number of feedings that correlate with return of fertility. We know that by stretching out the time between feedings, reducing the total amount of breastfeeding in a 24 hour period, exclusive pumping and with the introduction of solids a woman can impact how fast her fertility might return. Typically, after six months babies mature and start to spend less time at the breast and go longer periods without nursing naturally without you having to purposely change anything. As your baby changes his feeding habits naturally and spends less time at the breast your fertility and your hormonal levels will shift and your fertility will gradually return without you having to have forced an early weaning.
Sheila Janakos, IBCLC, LE, RLC, MPH