Breastfeeding as a birth control (LAM)
LAM – Transcript
You might have heard of a natural way of contraception called LAM – Lactational Amenorrhea Method, and the World Health Organisation have considered this method, alongside a lot of other modern methods as 98% effective. This 98% reliability means that this temporary family planning method is as reliable as the pill, and we know that this method (although is does involve following strict guidelines, and reassessing those over time), can contribute to natural child spacing around the world. So how does LAM work?
Studies have shown that if you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby night and day, for the first six months, and you haven’t had a period, it’s very unlikely that you will fall pregnant. We know that breastfeeding interferes with the hormones involved in triggering ovulation, so the more you feed, the less likely this is going to happen.
If you are breastfeeding you may be relying on barrier methods of contraception, or an intrauterine device or the mini pill, for instance, but it is useful to know that the exclusive breastfeeding combined with those things, will also offer more protection. It is however important to know that LAM would NOT offer any protection against sexually transmitted infections. If you are at risk of these then barrier methods would be really important too.
So how do you use LAM? It’s important that you meet all THREE of the following conditions, and the first one is that you must be exclusively breastfeeding your baby on demand, night and day, with no more than four hours between feeds in the day, and six hours at night. It’s also important that you are NOT giving any supplementary fluids or food to your baby – just breast milk alone.
And the second condition for LAM is that you must not have had a period since given birth – and that is defined as any bleeding that’s occurred over two consecutive days after eight weeks of giving birth.
And the final point for LAM is that your baby must be 6 months old, or younger. It’s far less likely that you will ovulate in that first six months – you’re less likely to be fertile at that time – although it isn’t foolproof, and that’s why the method is 98% effective!
So please be aware, also, that your baby suckling at the breast is really important in suppressing ovulation, and therefore if you are pumping your milk, and giving it by bottle, this will NOT be effective.
If you do decide to use LAM it’s really important that you make sure that you still fit the criteria. Ask those three questions of yourself, and if you find ONE of those things has changed, then it’s really important that you look at alternative forms of contraception.
Review dates, references & further resources
Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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