Should I cut back on breastfeeding to try to ovulate?
My husband and I would like to have another baby; however, I'm still breastfeeding our first. If I cut back to two times a day, will I start to ovulate again? And if so, would our baby still get the benefit of the breast?Question:
The issue of fertility while breastfeeding has been extensively researched. Most of these studies have focused on decreasing a mother’s fertility to enable the spacing of pregnancies. The lessons we have learned may help you decide how you would like to proceed.
There are several factors affecting a woman’s fertility that appear to be directly related to, or influenced by, breastfeeding. These include the frequency and amount of suckling, the stage of the breastfeeding process and the mother’s nutritional status.
The frequency and amount of suckling will vary depending on the age of the baby, whether the baby sucks on other items (pacifiers, finger, bottles) and if the baby has other sources of nourishment. Almost half of the women studied began to ovulate when solid foods were added into their babies’ diets.
The average period of amenorrhea (absence of menstrual cycles) in populations studied was initially found to be about 13 months. More recent studies have shown that mothers with good nutrition resume menstruating about one to two months sooner. For many women, the return of menstruation is their first sign that they have begun to ovulate.
Other factors that may influence your fertility include your age and the fertility of your husband. When this question was posed to me in the past, it was the mother’s age that prompted her eagerness to expand her family. Your doctor would be able to guide you regarding how your overall fertility may be affected by the passing of time.
In spite of these concerns, your interest in maintaining breastfeeding with your first child suggests that you do not feel he is ready to wean. In addition to the social and emotional benefits of continuing to breastfeed, you may be pleased to know that the health benefits continue throughout the period of breastfeeding and beyond. The degree of protection your baby receives is dependent on how much breast milk he receives in his lifetime. This has prompted many mothers to breastfeed longer, even continuing after becoming pregnant. (Women with a history of miscarriage may be advised not to breastfeed while pregnant).Answer: