Saturday, August 8, 2009

Keeping the monster at bay

It didn't dawn on me until the past week or so that I don't want my baby to sleep through the night... until I'm ready to have another baby. Here's why...

It was around the time my girls started sleeping longer stretches at night that my menstrual cycles returned. But back then I didn't have the sense to realize that being without a period every month was far more valuable (for me) than uninterrupted sleep. I longed and cheered for their extended sleep stretches. I didn't know myself and my body well enough, I guess. So my cycle returned after roughly 5-6 months and, with it, the beast.

You see... I would be my best self if I could spend the rest of my life either pregnant or exclusively breastfeeding. As in... having monthly cycles messes royally with that whole "pursuit of happiness" thing. PMS stinks. The few days before my period starts, it's like a nasty demon moves in and starts gnashing its teeth. I hate who I become. I hate the way I feel.

So I did some poking around on the internet the other day and found out about Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM). I think LAM is my new best friend. How did I not know about this before?!

LAM is primarily considered a form of birth control, but I don't intend to utilize it for that purpose. Even so, LAM is roughly 98% effective at preventing pregnancy in the first 6 months after birth when practiced correctly. You must answer "no" to each of these questions in order to rely on LAM:
* Have your menstral cycles returned?

* Are you supplementing regularly or allowing long periods without breastfeeding, either during the day (more than three hours) or at night (more than six hours)?

* Is your baby more than six months old?
Dr. Sears' website shares the following tips for using breastfeeding to delay ovulation:
1) Practice unrestricted breastfeeding without regard to schedules. Usually six to eight breastfeedings a day will suppress ovulation.

2) Don't train your baby to sleep through the night. (The milk-making hormones that suppress ovulation are highest between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.) Nighttime nursing is important to the suppression of fertility. Sleeping with your baby facilitates unrestricted feeding at night.

3) All of baby's sucking should be at the breast, for comfort as well as food. Avoid the use of supplemental bottles and pacifiers.

4) Delay the introduction of solid foods until age six months or later. Solids should provide additional nutrition, not substitute for breastfeedings.
Fortunately I'm already doing most of these things. But before I learned about LAM, my resolve was wavering somewhat. Bubs is so interested in food and eating. I'm so tempted to introduce solids to him. And what sleep-deprived mother doesn't salivate at the thought of uninterrupted sleep? So I'm grateful to now have a clear purpose to motivate me--keeping the monster at bay. All of Dr. Sears' tips will be beneficial to my baby anyway, so it's all the more reason to embrace them whole-heartedly. I love LAM.

Here's hoping it all pays off. I'm encouraged by this statement from Dr. Sears
[R]esearch has shown that women who practice natural mothering according to the above rules will average 14.5 months without a period following childbirth. Remember, this is only an average. A few mothers will experience a return of menstrual periods by six months, others not until two or three years (source).
No period for years?! Music to my ears! :-)

15 comments:

Hilary said...

I have been talking about this a lot lately!!! My period finally came back for the first time in almost FOUR YEARS! (One of the reasons I LOVE nursing past a year!) And I was shocked how much it affected me! It seems unfair that as Mom's with small children we should have to deal with crazy hormones that make us impatient and short tempered! I felt like my kids were on my VERY. LAST. NERVE., and I felt like I was losing my mind, then all the next day my period started, and I went from someone who never had even given a second thought to PMS, to suddenly realizing it can greatly affect how we deal with and react to small children, and I HATE it.

Buscando la Luz said...

I'm so sorry you must suffer through that, but it is kind of nice to know I'm not alone! :-/

Kayce Pearson said...

I weaned my daughter at 9 months, but I didn't have my first period until the week after her 1st birthday.

I did miscarry right after I weaned, so that may be why the later period, but I HATE that time of the month.

I get cranky and emotional and I hate myself and my daughter and my husband.

Good luck and I hope yours holds off awhile longer!!

Deanna said...

I'm a relatively new reader to your blog so I'm not sure what your views on birth control are. But, with the Mirena IUD I did not have my period AT ALL. I suffered no PMS and it didn't effect my milk supply. I nursed my daughter until she was 18 months. I got it removed to start trying for baby #2, started my period 2 days later and was pregnant 2 wks later! If you haven't already you may want to look into it. No worrying about periods, getting pregnant, and you can sleep through the night. I am a fan and plan to get one inserted after every child now!

The Reluctant Crunchy Mama said...

Getting a break from periods was great while it lasted! Unfortunately, I did everything you listed and when my baby was 5 months, the monster was back! It was worse than prepregnancy. Longer, heavier periods and hotflashes. I eventually learned that the hotflashes are due to low estrogen. As a breastfeeding woman, you have low estrogen. Estrogen is low during menstruation. Put the two together and it's no fun! I hope it works for you.

Buscando la Luz said...

Thanks for all the comments, everyone. And welcome new readers! :-)

Azúcar said...

OK.

We need to talk about solids.

But first, LAM, I'm a believer.

Oldest was 17 months when my period returned and youngest was 15 months. I'm ALL about LAM.

Now, about the solids...

I truly believe, just like you believe in natural childbirth, that solids shouldn't be introduced until a child is able to feed themselves, and that doesn't usually happen until after 6 months of age.

It's called baby-led weaning: no purees, no jars, just real food that a child picks up and eats. If they can't pick it up and put it in their mouth, they're not physiologically capable to process solids.
There is a growing body of research that indicates significant, long term, life-long issues that results from feeding food other than milk to children before 6 months of age.

Quite simply, this is the way we USED to do it before Gerber convinced us that we needed purees (btw, purees are a holdover from when we'd force them down the gullets of two month old babies, and NO ONE thinks that's a good idea anymore.)


I believe we could change the health of all of our children by allowing baby-led weaning.

Azúcar said...

Deanna,

Mirena contains progesterone, which makes me a zombie-lunatic. In fact, all of my current health issues (which are blessedly few) are rooted in my used of a progesterone-based birth control; it ruined my life.

Every woman's body is different, and the response we have to hormones is individualized, but my experience with progesterone has been nothing but horrible. I can't imagine having to pay out of pocket for an IUD (which I have to do) and then finding out that it was causing irreversible weight gain, hair loss, and fertility problems. I'm glad it worked for you, but progesterone turned out to be my permanent nightmare.

Fig said...

Might I add to Azúcar's articulate comments and say that contraceptives are the devil?

Just kidding. But kind of not. I know periods are crappy, and I'm grateful that my symptoms are not as severe as some, but I wish I could tell every woman in the world to just consider a life without oral contraceptives, IUDs, patches, etc. It might not be as bad as you think, and some of the benefits are astounding.

My mental and emotional health were wrecked by progesterone-based birth control. My marriage almost was. The one positive effect of my experience was that it brought me to question (and sometimes mistrust) the things the medical industry routinely tells women.

I love the idea of LAM and can't wait to utilize it!

Missy said...

I totally agree, PMS is the worst thing to deal with hands down! You don't realize it until you've gone without for a long time and then BOOM you're nutzo all of a sudden. I guess that's one of the reasons why Michelle Duggar is always so happy and never yelling at her 18kids...she hardly ever has a period to deal with!

Linda said...

I started my period when Ethan was 6 weeks old! I was giving him a bottle because he wasn't getting enough milk from me. But, I nursed him and pumped milk for every feeding for 3 months and never got very close to enough milk for him.

Sarah H said...

interesting post and comments! I have a bit of my experience to add.
I'm so jealous of women who don't get their period! Fortunately, I don't have bad periods, no cramps or PMS and it's not too heavy. But even solely nursing twins I got it back at 8 months, and with Audrey even though I was nursing on demand I got my period at two months post partum! That was a bummer.
I did have an IUD after the twins and loved it, but I had to get it surgically removed because it wasn't lined up properly, so I don't want to go that route again. I'm just doing FAM now. I actually like getting my period every month. I know it's weird but it just makes me feel...womanly.
Also, I love Azucar's idea of feeding children. I vowed not to get into baby food with Audrey because I always say "there's nothing magic about powdered rice" and I would add pureed jarred foods. Audrey was really interested in solids and I started to share little bits of soft foods with her around 6 months. I was hoping to hold out till later.
Anyway, great post, love your blog.

Deanna said...

Wow, I'm really sorry that some of you have had such problems with progesterone contraceptives, including Mirena. I have had no emotional or mental side effects whatsoever. I also lost all my baby weight, plus some. (I think that had more to do with nursing than anything though) And on the contrary, my marriage has been strengthened by not having to worry about birth control. So, I guess every woman is different because for me the benefits of Mirena are astounding and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Anonymous said...

You will enjoy reading "Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing" by Sheila Kippley.