I love being pregnant and I love breastfeeding. Sometimes the two don’t work together so well though. Trying to conceive while breastfeeding is difficult for a lot of women.
I know a lot of you are going to think I’m actually insane for saying this but I wanted to start trying for another baby pretty much as soon as Henry was born. I know, I know… There were a couple reasons for my crazy intention:
Henry has always been a good sleeper (don’t shoot me)
My body is designed to host little humans, and as such, I love being pregnant
My siblings and I are all super close in age and I’ve always wanted the same for my children
So this was my plan and I thought it would be super easy for me to get pregnant again. I mean, it worked the first time right? We started actively trying to conceive when Henry was just 8 months old, but nothing happened. Month after month. Pregnancy test after pregnancy test. There would be that one lonely line.
After chatting with my Doctor and reading up on the subject, I knew that breastfeeding would decrease my chances of becoming pregnant. So as much as I wanted to conceive again, I also didn’t want to deprive Henry of breastmilk. Which, in my opinion, is the world’s greatest miracle, liquid gold, and the most nutritious thing on the planet. So as much as I wanted to give Henry another sibling, I simply couldn’t deprive him of breastmilk. To me, it was selfish and I felt guilty just for thinking about it.
The science behind breastfeeding and conceiving
The reason your body is less likely to conceive while breastfeeding is because of a simple (but actually super complex) little hormone called prolactin. Your body produces prolactin while breastfeeding and this little hormone sends signals to your body saying “I have my hands full right now and cannot handle having another baby”. This is why it takes months (in my case much longer) for most women to get their periods back. Which is like mother nature’s best gift. But when you’re trying to conceive, you kinda want your old annoying friend to come back.
When I stopped breastfeeding
In the lead up to his first birthday, I noticed that Henry was hardly drinking any milk. He would happily latch on and suck for a few seconds before falling asleep, but he definitely wasn’t using breastmilk as his main source of calories anymore. He was eating three meals a day along with kinda sorta breastfeeding three times a day. But our sessions were getting shorter and shorter. To the point where he would either start goofing or simply fall asleep on the boob. Exactly one week after he turned one, he stopped breastfeeding completely. It was so heartbreaking for me and my boobs were so freaking sore but he was ready. But it wasn’t all sad news because we conceived 2 weeks after that!
Do you have to get your period in order to get pregnant?
No. Okay so here’s what happens when your body starts ovulating again after pregnancy (sometimes while breastfeeding, sometimes after stopping). Your body ‘practices’ getting it’s period and can actually ovulate for a few cycles before you actually see any of the bloody evidence. So just because you haven’t gotten your period yet, doesn’t mean you’re not fertile. Your body still might be releasing eggs without you even knowing it!
In my case, this is exactly what happened. I never got my period after giving birth to Henry, even after I stopped breastfeeding. I swear, I’ve never wanted to use a tampon so badly. But alas, my body was working hard behind the scenes. We were able to “catch an egg” before my period actually came. That means that the first egg my body released after becoming fertile again was fertilized. That’s what I call good timing 😉
I had an inkling that I may becoming fertile again because of one subtle clue. Cervical mucus (CM). Whatever, don’t get grossed out – all of us women produce it. What you might not know is that our cervical mucus changes depending on where we are in our cycles. Here are the different stages you should be on the look out for:
Dry or Sticky not fertile as this CM is not conducive for sperm to swim through
Creamy (feels like lotion) this type of CM also restricts sperm and is generally considered non-fertile
Watery or clear Although sperm can now swim unhindered to the egg, it’s still not the most fertile window
Raw egg white & elastic BINGO! This type of CM is super inviting for sperm to swim in and is when you are most fertile.
Some things that might help you conceive while breastfeeding
I’m not going to lie, I got antsy when I got negative pregnancy test results month after month. So I turned to a few things in the hopes that they would help or at least tell me what was going on with my body.
These are little strips tell you if you’re ovulating or not (ie. should we have sex tonight or not kits). I bought these from Amazon and truthfully, I don’t think I’d buy them again. They really stressed me out and if you have a hint of OCD in you, these will literally make you go crazy. I also don’t like the contrived and calculated nature they bring out in people. Sex should be passionate, inspiring and desired. Not ruled by a test strip. That said, I get why some people swear by them because it gives you a good idea of a fertile window, which can be helpful if your partner isn’t always around. But I wouldn’t rely on them too much. Especially because semen can live in you for up to 6 days and the test might only say you’re fertile one of those days. I say, just have sex all the damn time
This a 100% natural plant-derived supplement that helps ladies regulate their hormones. It helps to support the pituitary gland (the one that sends signals to your ovaries telling them how many hormones to make). Vitex has been shown to increase your progesterone levels, lengthen your luteal phase, relieve PMS, and cure amenorrhea (lack of period). It hasn’t been tested on pregnant or breastfeeding women but is deemed safe otherwise. I know of some women who have taken it while breastfeeding and they had luck with it (ie. have become pregnant) but since it hasn’t been scientifically tested, I didn’t take it while breastfeeding nor would I recommend it. I did take it when I stopped breastfeeding though. And I know it didn’t hinder my chances of becoming pregnant but I also don’t know if it helped.
I read a blogger’s review about FertiliTEA and she had great success with it and was able to get pregnant while breastfeeding. I went through 2 boxes of this stuff while breastfeeding and nada.
Basal Body Temperature
Your basal body temperature is your temperature when you’re fully at rest. Since ovulation causes a slight increase in body temperature, taking your temperature as soon as you wake will indicate that you’re ovulating. This method takes some practice though, because it takes a while to get into the habit of doing it each morning (before you even pee). You’ll also need to track your temperatures for a few cycles to notice a pattern. Since you are most fertile about three days prior to ovulating, knowing your own unique pattern might help you predict when you are going to ovulate. I never actually tried this, but if you like to geek out like a lot of my girlfriends then maybe it’s a good method for you too
I spent SO much money on acupuncture. And while I found that it was zen-like and extremely calming for me, it also didn’t provide me with any immediate results. I stopped going regularly and conceive 5 months later…
What it comes down to
Your body will dictate your fertility. You can try as many fancy treatments or doo-dads as you want but your body will really just do it’s own thing. My two biggest pieces of advice if you’re trying to conceive while breastfeeding are to stop stressing (this is harming your chances of conceiving again) don’t spend money unnecessarily. Let mother nature run it’s course, and if your body is ready to conceive again, then great! If not, relax and know that there’s another plan for you. It just may not be on your timeline.
Love, peace & thanks to my TTC while breastfeeding group