Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding: FAQ about Fertility and Breastfeeding

Pregnant mother looking at baby bottle

If you are breastfeeding your baby, chances are that you won't be getting pregnant anytime soon. In fact, exclusive breastfeeding has been shown to be 98 percent effective in suppressing ovulation. For the first 6 months of breastfeeding, it is almost impossible to get pregnant again (but not unheard of). The hormones that cause you to produce milk will simultaneously cause you to stop ovulating and having a period. The average amount of time for this halt in fertility is about 14 months, but for some women, fertility can return within 6 months.

Baby holding mother with stove in background

How Can I Increase My Fertility While Breastfeeding?

Prolactin is the hormone that produces milk and suppresses menstruation and ovulation. Once these hormone levels start to drop, you might start ovulating again. Prolactin levels can be lowered if you start reducing feedings. Teaching your baby to sleep through the night without feeding, known as night weaning, will help reduce prolactin levels.

If you feed your baby 6-8 times per day, this is usually enough to suppress ovulation. Reducing the number of feedings as your baby develops and is able to take solid foods can help with fertility.

What if I Don't Have a Period?

The vast majority of women won't have a period during their first 6 months of breastfeeding. The prolactin hormone will clear from your bloodstream very quickly once you reduce the number of feedings, so expect your period to come back soon if you reduce feedings or start weaning your baby. In 95 percent of cases, your first period after childbirth will not be preceded by ovulation. After you have that first period, though, you should be fertile once again. It will be very difficult to conceive if your baby is less than 6 months of age and you're breastfeeding.

Sleeping mother holding sleeping baby holding stuffed animal

Do I Need to Wean my Baby?

Weaning should be a last resort if you want to get pregnant while you're still breastfeeding. Again, night weaning can be very effective in triggering your body to start ovulating again. You can supplement your baby's nutrition with solid foods and reduce feedings during the day, but you don't have to completely stop breastfeeding in order to get pregnant.

Is Breastfeeding Safe during Pregnancy?

Your body was made to bear children and to produce milk. Breastfeeding during pregnancy can complicate things a little bit, though, so you'll want to consult with your health care provider. Since your body will be nourishing your breastfeeding baby and the baby that is developing in your womb, it becomes especially important to stick to a healthy diet and eat plenty of nutritious foods. You will need to nourish yourself during this time as well!

There is a debate in the medical field as to whether there is an elevated risk of miscarriage or preterm labor for women who breastfeed while pregnant. Very few studies have been done on the issue, but the latest research indicates that there is no theoretical basis to support the claims of increased risk for preterm labor. If you have a history of preterm labor or miscarriage, talk to your primary care provider about getting pregnant while breastfeeding.