Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding

How Breastfeeding Affects Fertility and Fertility Treatments

Woman breastfeeding child holding partner's hand
Shalom Ormsby/Digital Vision/Getty Images

You can get pregnant while you're breastfeeding, but moms who breastfeed exclusively tend to experience a delay in the return of their fertility. 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 waiting may be more of a concern. Here's what you need to know about getting pregnant again while you're breastfeeding.

How Breastfeeding Affects Fertility

It can take a few weeks, a few months or even longer for your body to become fertile again once you have a baby. After childbirth, it takes approximately six weeks for your body to heal. If you do not breastfeed, you may see the return of your period at about this time. When your period returns, you can consider yourself fertile and able to conceive your next child. However, if you choose to breastfeed, you may not see the return of your period and your fertility for much longer.

Breastfeeding can hold off the return of your period and therefore your ability to get pregnant again for a while. You are not likely to get pregnant if these three things are happening at the same time:

For many women, the ability to get pregnant returns once breastfeeding is no longer exclusive. 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 going for 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 don't want to give up breastfeeding, but you're anxious to start trying for another baby, you can go ahead and try. If you aren't finding success, you can 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 breastfeeding altogether, menstruation may return within four to eight weeks. However, even after fully weaning some women do not get a menstrual period for months or even longer.

When to See the 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 through certain types of procedures. It depends 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 for an IUI due to your partner's low sperm count, there may be no need to stop breastfeeding.

A Frozen Embryo Transfer: If you're going to have a frozen embryo transfer, you only to prepare the lining of your uterus to accept the embryo. So, 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 haven't started to get your period again 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 wean your child completely before beginning treatment. The hormones your body makes while you're breastfeeding can prevent ovulation and work against the fertility medications making them less effective. Plus, there really isn't enough information about the safety of taking many of these fertility medicines while breastfeeding. For most of them, it is not known how much will enter your breast milk and how it can impact your child.

A Word From Verywell

For moms who don't want to have children very close in age, exclusive breastfeeding can help prevent another pregnancy right away. But, when you're older or have fertility issues and time is of the essence, it can be hard to choose between breastfeeding and trying for your next child. And, after waiting so long to have the first one, you may not want to give up that special breastfeeding relationship.

It's OK to continue to breastfeed as you try to get pregnant again. It may work for you. It does for some moms. But, everyone is different. So, if you're having trouble or worried about it, you can talk to your doctor or fertility specialist to get all the information you need and make the best plan for you and your family.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • García PV, Mella C. Analysis of factors involved in lactational amenorrhea. Journal of Biosafety & Health Education. 2013;1(04):1-5.

  • Hale, Thomas W., and Rowe, Hilary E. Medications and Mothers' Milk: A Manual of Lactational Pharmacology Sixteenth Edition. Hale Publishing. 2014.

  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

  • Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.