Breastfeeding: Contraceptive, Sleep Saviour, or Both?!

Breastfeeding as birth control. Are the rumours true? Does breastfeeding really work as contraception? And, does breastfeeding help you and your baby get to sleep faster?

In this blog we’re going to explore breastfeeding in more detail and look at some of the extra benefits to breastfeeding.

1. Is breastfeeding a form of contraception?

You might have been told by a friend - or an online forum - that breastfeeding is a form of contraception, and you might be surprised to find out that - yes - it’s true! If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you are less likely to fall pregnant. This is because while you’re breastfeeding, ovulation is supressed. Some women use breastfeeding as a form of natural contraception and this is called lactational amenorrhoea method. Or, you can just think of it as LAM. Breastfeeding takes about 6-8 weeks to become established, if you haven’t introduced any formula. After this time, if your baby is only having breastmilk - and you’re feeding on demand and not against a schedule - then your periods will probably not start until you start to drop feeds. This usually happens around the time you start to wean your baby.

baby breastfeeding and looking at mother

When should you start using contraception if you're breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is not fool proof contraception. So, if you don’t want another baby any time soon, then I advise using extra protection and speaking to your doctor about your options. It’s always best to err on the side of caution!

It’s advised to use contraception if:

  • Your baby is more than 6 months old which is when they’re likely to start dropping feeds due to weaning
  • You give them anything else except breastmilk ie formula, a dummy and solid foods. All of these interrupt breastfeeding and could mean your periods return which increases your chances of falling pregnant
  • Your periods start again
  • You stop feeding overnight
  • You start to drop feeds
  • There are longer intervals between feeds

2. Breastfeeding and sleep…are the two linked?

The short answer is, yes! It’s a myth that formula helps babies to sleep longer. Formula brands have done a fantastic job at marketing their product as a sure fire way of filling up your baby, making them satisfied and therefore supporting them to sleep. Have you ever had a look at formula packaging? It usually shows an image of a sleeping baby or animal – this subtle messaging has lead parents to believe that formula is a sleep aid. That is not true and in fact – it’s not widely known that breastmilk is actually a proven sleep aid.

Breastmilk contains a hormone called melatonin which is the sleepy hormone. It sends your baby to sleep after a feed. At night, you have higher levels of melatonin which means that you and your baby are able to drift off after a feed. When your baby is a newborn they don’t produce melatonin and so your breastmilk is a natural sleep aid. Once your baby starts producing melatonin they will slowly start to fall into a sleep pattern whereby their circadian rhythm helps them to sleep for longer stretches at night and take naps during the day.

If you think about the process of feeding your baby with formula - you usually have to get out of bed, make up a bottle, wait for it to cool, feed your baby and then try and get back to sleep…until the next feed which could be only 2 hours later!

By breastfeeding you can usually stay in bed and just put your little one back down when they’ve fallen asleep after the feed.

How to get more sleep if you're feeding with formula

And if you’re formula feeding, try and have quick systems set up in your room so you can make up a feed easily and quickly. You can do this with pre prepared bottles of formula or machines that make up what you need at the right temperature. It’s also worth factoring in time for burping your baby after a night feed so that when you lay them down, you won’t be kept awake by a baby who is struggling to digest their milk.

baby being fed by bottle while looking at mother

Who knew that breastfeeding had such amazing hidden powers?!

For more free guidance and support be sure to continue searching through the butterbean blog!

baby breastfeeding and looking at the camera

Breastfeeding: Contraceptive, Sleep Saviour, or Both?!

baby breastfeeding and looking at the camera

Breastfeeding as birth control. Are the rumours true? Does breastfeeding really work as contraception? And, does breastfeeding help you and your baby get to sleep faster?

In this blog we’re going to explore breastfeeding in more detail and look at some of the extra benefits to breastfeeding.

1. Is breastfeeding a form of contraception?

You might have been told by a friend - or an online forum - that breastfeeding is a form of contraception, and you might be surprised to find out that - yes - it’s true! If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you are less likely to fall pregnant. This is because while you’re breastfeeding, ovulation is supressed. Some women use breastfeeding as a form of natural contraception and this is called lactational amenorrhoea method. Or, you can just think of it as LAM. Breastfeeding takes about 6-8 weeks to become established, if you haven’t introduced any formula. After this time, if your baby is only having breastmilk - and you’re feeding on demand and not against a schedule - then your periods will probably not start until you start to drop feeds. This usually happens around the time you start to wean your baby.

baby breastfeeding and looking at mother

When should you start using contraception if you're breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is not fool proof contraception. So, if you don’t want another baby any time soon, then I advise using extra protection and speaking to your doctor about your options. It’s always best to err on the side of caution!

It’s advised to use contraception if:

  • Your baby is more than 6 months old which is when they’re likely to start dropping feeds due to weaning
  • You give them anything else except breastmilk ie formula, a dummy and solid foods. All of these interrupt breastfeeding and could mean your periods return which increases your chances of falling pregnant
  • Your periods start again
  • You stop feeding overnight
  • You start to drop feeds
  • There are longer intervals between feeds

2. Breastfeeding and sleep…are the two linked?

The short answer is, yes! It’s a myth that formula helps babies to sleep longer. Formula brands have done a fantastic job at marketing their product as a sure fire way of filling up your baby, making them satisfied and therefore supporting them to sleep. Have you ever had a look at formula packaging? It usually shows an image of a sleeping baby or animal – this subtle messaging has lead parents to believe that formula is a sleep aid. That is not true and in fact – it’s not widely known that breastmilk is actually a proven sleep aid.

Breastmilk contains a hormone called melatonin which is the sleepy hormone. It sends your baby to sleep after a feed. At night, you have higher levels of melatonin which means that you and your baby are able to drift off after a feed. When your baby is a newborn they don’t produce melatonin and so your breastmilk is a natural sleep aid. Once your baby starts producing melatonin they will slowly start to fall into a sleep pattern whereby their circadian rhythm helps them to sleep for longer stretches at night and take naps during the day.

If you think about the process of feeding your baby with formula - you usually have to get out of bed, make up a bottle, wait for it to cool, feed your baby and then try and get back to sleep…until the next feed which could be only 2 hours later!

By breastfeeding you can usually stay in bed and just put your little one back down when they’ve fallen asleep after the feed.

How to get more sleep if you're feeding with formula

And if you’re formula feeding, try and have quick systems set up in your room so you can make up a feed easily and quickly. You can do this with pre prepared bottles of formula or machines that make up what you need at the right temperature. It’s also worth factoring in time for burping your baby after a night feed so that when you lay them down, you won’t be kept awake by a baby who is struggling to digest their milk.

baby being fed by bottle while looking at mother

Who knew that breastfeeding had such amazing hidden powers?!

For more free guidance and support be sure to continue searching through the butterbean blog!