Breastfeeding your baby is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to your infant. Breast milk is liquid gold for your new baby. It contains all the nutrients that a baby needs up to the age of 6 months. It also confers immuno-protection your growing baby and fertilizes their gut with millions of healthy bacteria. It is advised to breastfeed for a period of 6 months to help establish the baby’s immature digestive and immune system.
Many couples like to try to conceive another baby while continuing to breastfeed. Women tend to be more fertile in the immediate months following delivery. However, breastfeeding a baby does impact the female hormonal orchestra and slows down the resumption of monthly ovulation. Nutritionist Gaye Godkin explains what happens at this time and how to support your body when trying to conceive while breastfeeding.
WHEN WILL OVULATION RESUME?
The length of time it takes for the cycle to return is quite variable and depends on several factors including maternal age, lack of sleep, nutrition and the duration and frequency of breastfeeding. In general, it would appear that the longer the duration and more frequent the baby is breastfed, the longer the longer the period of infertility. The main reason the period ceases is the release of the hormone Oxytocin. It’s released from the brain when the breasts fill with milk and the baby sucks on the nipples. Oxytocin interferes with ovulation by sending signals to the brain to suppress hormones that stimulate ovulation. Interestingly, using a pump to express milk does not have the same effect. For this reason, many couples try to wean the baby onto a bottle of expressed milk. It also offers more freedom to Mum and allows Dad to be more involved with feeding.
TRYING FOR BABY NUMBER 2
Some couples may have been lucky enough to conceive their first child quickly, but this does not necessarily mean that they will be able to add to their family as quickly as they might like. Secondary infertility is the inability to become pregnant having had a baby, it is quite common and there are many reasons for it. Fortunately, many of the reasons are associated with lifestyle behaviours which is good news as these behaviours can be changed and managed.
As any mum of a baby or toddler knows they can interrupt a good night’s sleep for a number of years, this coupled with a return to work can leave you feeling utterly exhausted. Poor quality sleep wreaks havoc with the delicate female hormonal balance. Going to bed earlier and catching up on sleep is very important particularly post weaning. Carrying excess weight following your previous pregnancy is common, however this disrupts ovulation and conception. A lack of nutrients is another common cause.
During your first pregnancy, the baby places huge demands on Mum’s nutritional resources. Nature designed reproduction in such a way that it always prioritises the next generation. Unfortunately for mums nature has no regard for her reserves. As far as mother nature is concerned her job is done for now, she has reproduced and its priority is always the developing baby. A woman’s body has no real restorative mechanism, this coupled with lack of sleep and a long stint breastfeeding leaves many women exhausted and nutritionally deficient. Many women don’t find time in the early days to cook and re-nourish themselves with the demands of a newborn always taking precedence.
Making sure you get enough sleep, eat a healthy balanced diet and exercise in addition to taking a good quality multivitamin with sufficient minerals to help restore levels of key nutrients are all important. These factors will help to support the resumption of your cycle.
The good news is most women who are breastfeeding and struggling to conceive the second time around will go on to become pregnancy naturally, but do be aware of the time frames and when to seek help from your GP or Healthcare Professional.