Women who breastfeed fully (exclusively or almost exclusively) are less likely to become pregnant as long as the following criteria are met:
Women who supplement with formula or other foods, follow a rigid feeding schedule (routinely limiting the frequency or length of breastfeeding), or breastfeed less than 4–6 hours during the day and at night are more likely to become pregnant.
The absence of menstrual periods makes pregnancy unlikely, however, ovulation (egg release) can occur before the start of menstruation. So don’t assume that you are protected (safe) because you haven’t had a menstrual period. You can become pregnant, while breastfeeding, before you resume menstrual periods.
If you don’t wish to become pregnant, you may want use another method of contraception in addition to breastfeeding. Birth control options include natural family planning, cervical cap, female condom, diaphragm, intrauterine device, tubal ligation, male condom, vasectomy, and spermicidal cream, foam, or jelly.
In the past, breastfeeding women were told to avoid birth control pills containing estrogen and progesterone (combination pills), and to use birth control pills (minipills), implants (Implanon, Norplant), or injections (Depo-Provera) containing only progesterone instead.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines in 2010 that allow for the use of combined oral contraceptives as early as 4–6 weeks and the use of contraceptives containing only progesterone within days of birth. Given reports by some women of a drop in milk supply after starting hormonal contraceptives, some makers of hormonal contraceptives recommend that breastfeeding women wait until their milk supply is well established, at least 4–6 weeks after birth, before starting hormonal birth control.
Planned Parenthood provides additional information about a variety of birth control methods—including breastfeeding.
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