What’s the Best Birth Control While Breastfeeding?

birth control while pregnant text
Image via bimurch, Flickr

When I get ready to discharge a mom and her new baby from the hospital, I always go over a set of post-partum instructions with her. When we get to the family planning section, if she is a breastfeeding mother, I try to make one thing especially clear:

Breastfeeding alone is not an effective form of contraception.

I know it can be tempting to think that breastfeeding provides protection from getting pregnant again, primarily because I’ve depended on that line of thinking myself. And while breastfeeding generally does help to space out pregnancies, especially for the first six months following birth, the truth is even exclusive breastfeeding is not a guaranteed protection against pregnancy. I’ve heard the way to think about it is that breastfeeding is only a guaranteed form of contraception if you never, ever miss a feeding and feed your baby consistently at the same time every day.

Yeah, right.

I guess that would explain why we see moms having their second babies almost exactly 9 months later.

For many mothers who choose breastfeeding, birth control poses a tricky problem. The most commonly used and most “effective” methods of hormonal birth control contain the hormone estrogen, which has been shown to reduce milk supply. So for those mommas who are looking to continue breastfeeding while turning to other methods of pregnancy spacing, I had to wonder—what kind of birth control is best for breastfeeding?

barrier method birth control
Image via Ryan Somma, Flickr

Barrier methods

While not as effective as some types of hormonal birth control options, barrier methods, such as diaphragms and condoms, are a good choice for breastfeeding mothers since there is no risk of hormones leaking into the mother’s milk.

IUD
Image via Liz Henry, Flickr

Non-hormonal intrauterine device (IUD)

A copper IUD is a small plastic tube that is placed by a doctor into your uterus and releases a small, steady stream of copper into the uterus that is thought to prevent fertilization of the egg. Like the barrier method, it is thought to be helpful for breastfeeding mothers since it is non-hormonal.

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birth control
Image via blmurch, Flickr

Hormonal birth control According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists birth control methods that contain estrogen can decrease your milk supply; therefore, they recommend low-dose progestin-only forms of hormonal birth control.

rhythm method
Image via barbara hastings-asatourian, Flickr

Rhythm method

Natural family planning (NFP) or other “rhythm” methods rely on tracking a woman’s menstrual cycle along with signs of ovulation, such as increased body temperature and cervical changes, to avoid intercourse during times of fertility. While NFP and rhythm methods are completely hormonal-free for breastfeeding, some women find that the delay in their cycle caused by breastfeeding makes tracking their ovulation difficult.

What method of birth control did you use while breastfeeding?

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What do you think?

What’s the Best Birth Control While Breastfeeding?

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

Tell us what you think!

4 comments

  1. Nichole says:

    My favorite form of birth control is depo, I actually only started using it after I gave birth to my 1st child because I wanted to breastfeed but have an effective form of birthcontrol while nursing

  2. Antoinette says:

    The mirena is good but it messed up my milk flow

  3. Theresa says:

    Depo-provera is a good one. It’s safe and can be used during breastfeeding. It’s fine as long as you can deal with a needle prick 4 times a year.

  4. I will be refraining from sex all together.

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