Breastfeeding can hold off your menstrual cycle for months after birth and create strange cycles. Learning how to manage both breastfeeding and natural family planning can be hard without proper information.
Just like breastfeeding and mothering, I believe that fertility is a natural part of womanhood. Our family made a choice to avoid all hormonal birth control options years ago for a variety of reasons. However, learning how to manage natural family planning and breastfeeding can be overwhelming.
By breastfeeding on demand, my cycle doesn’t typically return until between nine and 13 months postpartum. That doesn’t mean you should rely on breastfeeding as a birth control. It doesn’t work for everyone!
One thing I quickly noticed after I had my first child was that my typical signs of fertility seemed to be different now that I was breastfeeding. My cervical mucus didn’t come in larger quantities, and the date of ovulation was later than average. I had to figure out ways to practice natural family planning while still breastfeeding quickly.
Our family may be open to another child, but spacing is preferred! Here are some tips to help you learn how to manage both without losing your sanity.
- Start charting six to eight weeks postpartum. It can feel strange to start charting after being pregnant for so long! Lochia, or bleeding after birth, can last up to eight weeks after your birth. In most circumstances, you will not ovulate if you are still bleeding. Also, most OBGYNs don’t recommend any sexual intercourse until six weeks postpartum, eliminating the need for charting. I always start by noting my cervical mucus each day and marking it on my favorite cycle app.
- Stick to the 3-Day Dry Rule: Because taking your basal body temperature can be difficult with a new baby waking frequently, you need to rely more often on your mucus. While breastfeeding, we stick to the 3-day dry rule. This rule is simple. If the previous two days were dry and the current day was dry, you should be safe for sexual intercourse.
- Watch for Changing Mucus Patterns: When you have weeks at a time with the same cervical mucus, that means your ovaries are still resting and not preparing for ovulation. At some point, you will notice a mixture of mucus and dry days. When this starts, you should start to watch for possible ovulation signs.
- Start Temping at 12 Weeks: Around 12 weeks postpartum, I start temping again. It can be hard because a breastfeeding baby is likely to still wake often at this stage. Pick the same time each day to take your basal body temperature, which is your body’s resting temperature. Ideally, you would have four to five hours of straight sleep, but you can still get an idea and get into the swing of temping. The goal is to notice a clear temperature increase that indicates ovulation occurred.
These are just a few of the ways I balance breastfeeding and NFP. Despite the belief that NFP is hard, it only requires a few moments each day to watch for signs of returning fertility.
I would love to hear from you! Have you used NFP while breastfeeding? Let us know!