Women who are breastfeeding have special birth control needs. Breastfeeding, by itself, is not an effective form of birth control. While it can work for some women, it is not completely reliable. The type of birth control method you choose while you are breastfeeding is important because some hormones can decrease your milk supply. Contraceptives that contain only progestins (progesterone) are considered a safe option for both mother and baby. The birth control methods listed below are safe and effective methods that can be used while you are breastfeeding.
Intra-Uterine Device (IUD)
- The Liletta© IUD is a small, plastic device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The LIletta© IUD is effective for up to eight years, but can be removed at any time if you desire to become pregnant again. The Liletta© IUD contains a small amount of the hormone progesterone.
- The Kyleena© IUD is a small, plastic device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The Kyleena© IUD is effective for up to five years, but can be removed at any time if you desire to become pregnant again. The Kyleena© IUD contains a small amount of the hormone progesterone.
- The ParaGard© IUD is a small, copper device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The ParaGard© IUD is effective for up to ten years, but can be removed at any time if you desire to become pregnant again. The ParaGard© IUD contains no hormones.
The mini-pill is a birth control pill that contains only the hormone progesterone. It is taken every day at the same time of day. When used in conjunction with active breastfeeding, the mini-pill is effective at preventing pregnancy.
Once breastfeeding intervals routinely exceed six hours, solids are introduced, or daily bottles are used the contraceptive effectiveness of breastfeeding is reduced and the pregnancy rate for mini-pills can approach 1 out of 200 users. At this point, many women will change to combined oral contraceptives.
Depo-Provera is a birth control method that is administered as an injection (a shot) every three months. Depo-Provera contains the hormone progesterone. Many women will experience some irregular bleeding when they start Depo-Provera, but after the first three months, most women will not have periods while they are on Depo-Provera.
- The male condom is a thin sheath made of latex (rubber), polyurethane (plastic), or animal membrane. It is worn by the man over his erect penis. Only water-based lubricants should be used with a condom. It is unsafe to use oils, lotions, petroleum jelly, olive oil, or cold cream. The pregnancy rate with this form of birth control is 14%.
- The female condom is a thin plastic pouch that lines the vagina. It is held in place by a closed inner ring at the cervix and an outer ring at the opening of the vagina. The failure rate with this form of birth control is 21%.
- The FemCap, or diaphragm, is a small, round rubber dome that fits inside the woman’s vagina and covers her cervix. The failure rate with this form of birth control is 20%. FemCap must be prescribed by a doctor and fitted to your body.
How much progestin gets into breast milk, and will it affect my baby?
If you use progestin-only hormonal birth control, only a small amount of progestin passes into breast milk. With the mini-pill, for example, the levels in breast milk are estimated at 1 to 6 percent of the levels found in the mother. Research to date shows no adverse effects on lactation, or on infant weight gain, health, or development.
Most family planning experts and a host of organizations, including the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Family Health International, consider progestin-only contraceptives compatible with breastfeeding.