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Breastfeeding

A woman may become pregnant within 4 weeks of giving birth. Pregnancy can occur even before the woman has had her first period following the birth. Allowing at least two years between pregnancies gives both the mother and her babies the best chance to be strong and healthy.

Breast milk is the perfect food for the baby during the first six months of life. 

A mother who breastfeeds her baby may reduce her risk for becoming pregnant for six months following the birth of her baby when her baby is solely breastfeed. Breastfeeding must start at birth and does not included pumping or bottlefeeding, even when the bottle contains breast milk. Each time her baby breastfeeds hormones increase in the mother’s body.  These hormones help prevent an egg from being released and help the mother avoid becoming pregnant. If the baby does not breastfeed frequently there may not be enough of the hormones to prevent an egg from being released.

Mothers who rely on breastfeeding to avoid becoming pregnant must breastfeed frequently, including during the night. Pumping of breast milk or use of a baby bottle for feeding breast milk or formula, can place the mother at risk of unplanned pregnancy because there will not be enough of the hormones necessary to prevent an egg from being released.

Advantages of breastfeeding to avoid unplanned pregnancy include:

  • It is healthy for the mother.
  • It is healthy for the baby.
  • It may be effective for up to six months following birth when the baby is fed only breast milk and no other foods or drinks.
  • It is very safe.
  • Does not require use of any chemicals that cause allergy for some people.

Possible disadvantages and side effects of breastfeeding include:

  • Women who take medicines need to discuss the safety of breastfeeding with their doctors before breastfeeding.
  • HIV infection may be passed to the baby during breastfeeding, so breastfeeding is best avoided among mothers who are HIV positive.
  • Some privacy is usually necessary.
  • It may be inconvenient for some mothers who need to be away from home for more than 4 hours at a time.
  • As will all contraceptive methods, other than the condom, breastfeeding does not offer protection from HIV/AIDS or other STDs such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, warts, hepatitis, or HPV.

Possible health risks include:

  • There are no known risks.

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