Should You Stop Breastfeeding If You Want to Get Pregnant Again?

Breastfeeding, Fertility, And Infertility: Do You Have To Stop Breastfeeding If You Want To Have Another Child?
Do you have to stop breastfeeding if you want to have another baby?. Shalom Ormsby/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Breastfeeding And Your Fertility

To get pregnant again after you have a child, your body has to become fertile once again. After you go through childbirth, it takes approximately six weeks for your body to heal. If you do not breastfeed, your period may return at about this time. Once your period returns you can consider yourself fertile and able to become pregnant again. However, if you breastfeed, you may not see the return of your period and your fertility for much longer.

Younger women who want to have more children don't usually find this to be much of an issue. After all, the delay in the return of fertility can help with family planning and child spacing. But, for older women who hear the ticking of that biological clock a little more loudly and fear that they don't have the time to wait, or for women who have struggled with infertility in the past, the delay in fertility may be more of a concern.

How Breastfeeding Affects Your Ability To Get Pregnant Again

If you're breastfeeding exclusively around the clock without giving your child any supplementation, your baby is under 6 months of age, and your period has not yet returned, then there is very little chance that you will become pregnant.   

For many women, fertility returns once breastfeeding is no longer exclusive. This usually occurs when your baby is about 6 months old. By six months, your child will start eating solid foods and may also be sleeping through the night. Since you will naturally be breastfeeding less often and having longer stretches of time between nursing sessions, your fertility may begin to return.

Do You Have To Stop Breastfeeding If You Want To Have Another Baby?

If you do not want to give up breastfeeding but you are anxious to start trying for another baby, you can try to cut back on nursing and partially wean the child you're breastfeeding. Breastfeeding less often, such as only in the morning and at bedtime, may be enough to bring about the return of your period. It also allows you to continue the special breastfeeding relationship that you have with your child.

When you stop nursing altogether, menstruation may return within 4-8 weeks. However, even after fully weaning some women do not experience a menstrual period for many months or even longer.

When To See Your Doctor

If you are older and more anxious to get pregnant again right away, you may want to talk to your doctor. You should also consult your doctor if you've had trouble getting pregnant with the child you're now breastfeeding, or if you think you will need to use fertility treatments to get pregnant again.

Breastfeeding Through Fertility Treatments

You may be able to continue to breastfeed during certain types of procedures depending on your treatment plan, the age of the child you're breastfeeding, and how often your child is nursing. If your period has returned and your child is older or breastfeeding only a few times each day, you may be able to have the following treatments:

A Clomid Cycle: You may be able to take Clomid (clomiphene citrate) and continue to breastfeed. Clomid is believed to be safe to take during breastfeeding, but it can decrease your supply of breast milk.

An Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) Due To Male Factor Infertility: An insemination does not necessarily require the use of any medication. If your doctor is only monitoring the timing of your ovulation to have an IUI because your partner has a low sperm count, there may be no need to stop breastfeeding.

A Frozen Embryo Transfer: Frozen embryo transfers only require the preparation of your uterine lining to accept an embryo. Depending on the medication that your doctor uses for this procedure, you may be able to continue to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding And Injectable Medications: IUI and IVF Cycles

If you have not seen the return of your period or you need to take injectable gonadotropin medications for an IUI or in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure, your reproductive endocrinologist will almost certainly want you to fully wean your child before beginning treatment. The hormones produced by your body while you're breastfeeding can prevent ovulation and may work against the fertility medications making them less effective. There also really isn't enough information about the safety of taking many of these fertility medications while breastfeeding. For most of them, it is unknown how much will enter your breast milk and how it can impact your child.

Making A Decision

Choosing to have another baby while you're breastfeeding can be difficult when you're faced with these types of decisions. Ultimately, every situation is different so talk to your doctor or fertility specialist to help you determine the plan that will work the best for you and your family.  

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Article Sources
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.
  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.
  • McNeilly, A. S. Lactational control of reproduction. Reproduction, Fertility and Development. 2001.13(8): 583-590.
  • Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.