One of the frequently cited benefits of breastfeeding is that it is Mother Nature’s contraceptive. You may notice that breastfeeding women commonly enjoy no periods, and thus no ovulation means no baby #2! Medically speaking, this condition is known as ‘lactational amerrhoea’.
The reason this happens is because every time you bring baby to your breast, you are sending your body an important message: “This baby needs me!” Breastfeeding is an intensive, energy-draining process (that may be why you feel thirsty and hungry ALL the time), so halting your reproductive facilities is actually your body’s way of helping you cope with all the changes that a new baby brings. It’s a way of helping your baby survive and thrive.
Now while this makes sense, you may still wish to have closely-spaced children. And why not? It’s a common fear that an only child will grow up lonely, and having children close together ensure that they grow up together. But many mums also worry that getting pregnant again means having to limit, or give up breastfeeding their first baby altogether.
Do I have to give up breastfeeding to get pregnant?
The common advice for getting pregnant while breastfeeding is not super encouraging. Give your baby a pacifier. Space feedings. Stop night-nursing. Introduce solid foods. Wean baby from the breast.
All of the above are simply ways to reduce breastfeeding in order to kickstart fertility. They aim to send the message to the body that baby doesn’t need Mum that much anymore. And while the advice may be good for your fertility, it may not be so for your baby.
The good news
New studies have shown that the key to getting pregnant is sending your body a new message: “I’ve got my hands full…BUT it’s still safe to get pregnant right now”. How? By ensuring you get enough nutrition. Because what you eat while you breastfeed can affect your fertility.
Giving your body enough energy-dense food kickstarts a process that assures your body that food reserves are plentiful and it is safe to get pregnant. There is enough leftover energy even after breastfeeding to sustain another baby. No need to reduce breastfeeding!
This may be why many women in developed and prosperous countries report that their periods come back relatively quickly, or announce a “surprise” pregnancy while their first is still breastfeeding.
So basically, eating more food increases your chances of conceiving! How delightful is that, to have your cake and eat it too?