Conceiving While Breastfeeding

Most women who exclusively breastfeed do not ovulate or menstruate until the baby is partially or completely weaned. This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on when the woman plans on conceiving her next child. Conceiving while breastfeeding is tricky because it is so hard to track one’s fertility without a period to go by. There are methods, however, to help a woman take control of her ovulation.

Conceiving while breastfeeding is easy for some women. A select few see their menstrual flow return six weeks post partum just like non-breastfeeding mothers. Others won’t see the return of Aunt Flo for eighteen months even after they do completely wean the baby. But for most, it is a little easier to trick those eggs into returning. (A very lucky few who are trying to conceive never see a period at all because they catch the first egg!)

One step a woman can take in reclaiming her fertility is simply through night-weaning. This is all it takes for some women and it is a good option for those not ready to completely stop providing their baby with the benefits of breast milk. As a baby nears the six month mark, he is less likely to be getting as hungry during the night. If he is still waking to nurse, it is likely that he wants to comfort nurse. Instead of obliging with the breast, find another way to comfort him back to sleep. Patting him softly, singing, or rocking may work.

There are alternatives to night weaning if baby won’t go for it. The general consensus is that if you can go at least six hours between a feeding at least once a day, it may trigger ovulation. Doing it during the day may be easier, as you can distract the baby with other activities and, if he is ready, supplement with solids. (It is important not to deprive baby if he is really hungry, but by six months he should be able to go longer without eating and should be old enough for solids.)

Charting your ovulation is a good way to take control of your fertility. That is done by taking body temperature daily with a basal thermometer, paying attention to changes in cervical mucous, and tracking your period. Without a period, of course, this chart is more difficult. However, it is still a good idea to chart any other information, as you may ovulate the first time before any sign of menstruation.

None of these methods are foolproof, as every woman’s body works differently. However, conceiving while breastfeeding is possible. For some women, the baby will have to be completely weaned, but it is good to try these other methods before going that route if you do not wish to completely stop nursing. There are many books available on the subject that go into much more detail if night weaning and introduction of solids does not prove successful.

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