Monday, July 18, 2011

Natural Child Spacing Through Lactational Amenorrhea

I am reading the book Breastfeeding and natural Child Spacing by Sheila Kippley.  My husband and I do not believe in using birth control and in this book it teaches how to space your children out the natural way. A women that my mother has been friends with for many years gave me this book to borrow.  She is also a leader of our local la lache league.  If you are interested in all things natural for you and your baby I highly recommend it. 

By feeding a new baby only with breast milk, a new mother can prevent pregnancy if her period has not returned.
Baby's sucking controls the mother's ovulation. The more the baby has a need to suck, the less ready he is to be displaced by another. The less baby has a need to suck, the more ready and able he is to cope with a new brother or sister.
Research shows that even in the United States, breastfeeding delays the return of most women's periods.
Fully breastfeeding means the baby relies completely on mother for nourishment and for all of his sucking needs. Your baby's frequent nursing inhibits the release of hormones that cause your body to begin the monthly preparation for a new pregnancy. Ovulation does not take place and you do not have menstrual periods.
The exact duration of amenorrhea depends on each woman's nursing pattern and on her own physiology.
As explained by Sheila Kippley in Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, the seven conditions to delay the return of menstruation are:
  1. Exclusive breastfeeding (no other liquid or solid from any other source enters the infant's mouth) for the first six months of life.
  2. Comfort your baby at the breast.
  3. Don't use bottles and pacifiers AT ALL.
  4. Sleep with your baby for night feedings.
  5. Sleep with your baby for daily nap feedings.
  6. Nurse frequently day and night and avoid schedules. (For young babies, this means at least every 2 hours during the day, and at least every 4 hours at night. For older babies, this means at least every 3 hours during the day, and every 6 hours at night.)
  7. Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby (i.e. leaving the baby in the care of someone else with a bottle – even if it is pumped milk – while you get some “time off” from the baby).
Mothers who follow ALL SEVEN of these tenets 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 exactly) may have delay in the return of their cycles, but usually not for as long of a period of time as mothers who do.
Mothers who follow the above guidelines still have about a 1%-2% chance of becoming pregnant in the first 6 months after birth. Between 6 months to 1 year after giving birth, mothers have a 3%-6% chance of pregnancy. Night time feedings are especially important in preventing the return of fertility.
In Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, Dr. Ruth Lawrence explains that it is important that mothers don't expect casual breastfeeding to limit their fertility. She writes:
“A significant distinction should be made between token breastfeeding with early solids and more rigid feeding schedules and the ad lib breastfeeding around the clock with no solids until the infant is six months old. The amount and frequency of sucking are closely related to the continued amenorrhea in most women. When a totally breastfed infant sleeps through the night at an early age, requiring no suckling for six hours or more at night, the suppressive effect on menses diminishes. It has also been shown that if the infant uses a pacifier rather than receiving nonnutritive sucking at the breast, the suppression of ovulation is diminished.”
Menstruation generally occurs after the baby starts to suck less frequently. Babies need to suck at least 65 minutes a day to prevent pregnancy in their mothers. Once menstruation occurs, increasing the number of daytime breastfeeding does not usually affect continuing menstruation. In mothers who wean before menstruation returns, most find that it returns by 2-8 weeks after weaning.
Breastfeeding can and should continue when menstruation resumes. Mothers sometimes notice that their babies become fussy at the start of menstruation, perhaps because many mothers have a slight, temporary drop in milk supply at the start of their period. After a few days of increased nursing, the supply will return. Some women experience moodiness and irritability. It is common for cycles to be irregular for the first few months. Even after the return of menstruation, the cycles may be anovulatory for several more months, meaning that the release of eggs from the ovaries is still suppressed and that pregnancy cannot occur.
Breastfeeding has a powerful effect on the body. Lactational amenorrhea is a normal, healthy part of the reproductive cycle that provides mothers with a natural break from fertility. Many scientists believe that extended periods of lactational amenorrhea may help to explain the lower rates of ovarian, endometrial, and breast cancer found in women who breastfeed.

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