Birth Control While Breastfeeding

In between diaper changes and middle of the night feedings, one thing a new mom needs to consider is what method of birth control she will use. It is recommended that women wait at least a year after the birth of one baby before becoming pregnant with the next. Not only does this allow the body time to heal, but it also helps lower the risk of complications in the next pregnancy such as miscarriage, low birth weight and preterm birth.

A longtime abounding myth is that you can’t get pregnant if you’re breastfeeding. We’re here to tell you that you can; breastfeeding is not an effective form of birth control! Women’s periods return at different times after delivery. Some women may not have a period until they begin weaning their babies and/or introducing solid foods. Keep in mind that even if you have not had your period, you can still become pregnant. It’s important to select an effective form of birth control before you have intercourse for the first time after delivery. This may or may not be the same form of birth control you used before you were pregnant and here’s why.

When determining what medications are safe to use while breastfeeding, we always look at two factors. One, will the medication have an adverse effect on the baby if it passes through the breast milk? And two, could the medication hurt the mother’s milk supply?

Many of the available birth control options contain estrogen. While studies have not found estrogen to be harmful to the baby, it has been shown that estrogen can decrease a mother’s milk supply. For that reason, the following progestin-only contraceptive options can be considered:

  • “Mini pill,” progestin-only birth control pill
  • Birth control injection
  • Hormonal Intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Implantable Hormonal Contraceptive

In addition, the following non-hormonal birth control methods can be considered:

  • Non-hormonal Intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Condoms
  • Spermicide
  • Diaphragm
  • Contraceptive sponge
  • Cervical cap
  • Natural Family Planning
    • Please note: natural family planning is more difficult than normal because your period may not be consistent while breastfeeding.

Women who are certain that they do not wish to have any more children may be interested in learning about the options for permanent birth control. It’s important to remember that there is no perfect method for all women – that’s why there are so many options! Before your baby is born, take the time to weigh the positives and negatives of each method with your partner and your health care provider in order to make the decision that is right for you.