Breastfeeding and contraception

Breastfeeding can be used as a contraceptive method, but there are things you need to make sure you do for it to be effective.

It's a good idea to discuss contraception with your healthcare provider before you give birth. You need to start using contraception from 3 weeks (21 days) after the birth. It’s unlikely you will get pregnant earlier than this. Read more about contraception after pregnancy.

Can breastfeeding act as a contraceptive?

Breastfeeding is also known as lactation. It can help to delay when you start ovulating (releasing an egg) and having periods after the birth. This is known as lactational amenorrhoea (LAM) and it can be used as a contraceptive method. LAM can be up to 98% effective in preventing pregnancy for up to 6 months after the birth.

For breastfeeding to be effective as a contraceptive, all the following conditions must be met:

  • You must be fully, or nearly fully, breastfeeding. This means you’re only giving your baby breast milk, or you’re infrequently giving other liquids in addition to your breast milk.
  • Your baby needs to be less than 6 months old.
  • You can't have had a period since the birth.

The risk of pregnancy increases if any of the following conditions apply:

  • you start breastfeeding less often
  • there are long intervals between feeds – both day or night
  • you stop night feeds
  • you use supplement feeding
  • your periods return.

Once your baby is more than 6 months old the risk of getting pregnant increases, so even if you don’t have periods and are fully or nearly fully breastfeeding, you should use another contraceptive method.

Can contraception affect my breast milk?

If you’re using a hormonal method of contraception, a small amount of hormone will enter your milk but no research has shown that this will harm your baby.

Progestogen only pill (mini-pill): The mini-pill can be used safely during breastfeeding and does not suppress milk production. Read more about the mini-pill
Combined pill: It’s advised that you wait until your baby is 6 weeks old before starting the combined pill. The combined pill contains the hormone oestrogen which may affect your milk production starting. Read more about the combined pill
IUD: Using the intra-uterine device (IUD) doesn’t affect your milk and copper from it doesn’t get into the milk. Read more about IUDs.
Depo-Provera: The Depo-Provera injection an be used safely during breastfeeding and does not suppress milk production. Read more about Depo-Provera.

Learn more about contraception after pregnancy.

Reviewed by

Dr Alice Miller trained as a GP in the UK and has been working in New Zealand since 2013. She has undertaken extra study in diabetes, sexual and reproductive healthcare, and skin cancer medicine. Alice has a special interest in preventative health and self-care, which she is building on by studying for the Diploma of Public Health with the University of Otago in Wellington.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Alice Miller, FRNZCGP, Wellington Last reviewed: 22 Feb 2021