Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)
Effectiveness in Preventing Pregnancy
- Out of 100 women who use LAM during the first six months following childbirth, one to two of them may become pregnant.
- LAM only works if you exclusively nurse your baby on demand (whenever your baby wants to nurse on your breast). You should not rely on LAM as a birth control method once solid foods are introduced to your baby.
What is LAM?
LAM is a form of natural birth control that relies on the new mother feeding her baby only breastmilk for up to six months and having no periods or spotting during that time. LAM is a temporary form of birth control when used correctly. LAM requires exclusive (only), frequent breastfeeding (at least every four hours during the day and at least every six hours during the night) of an infant less than six months old.
How does it work?
LAM prevents the release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation) when a mother breastfeeds her child as often as the baby wants, day and night, and does not give the baby any other foods or liquids.
When breastfeeding, the baby naturally puts pressure on the mothers nipple. The pressure on the nipple sends a message to the mother’s body to produce a hormone that prevents egg production (ovulation) in the mother.
Expressing milk using a pump is not a substitute for breastfeeding in terms of preventing (inhibiting) ovulation.
Women considering LAM should get counseling from a healthcare provider to make sure it is the right choice for their lifestyle, as well as to plan for a new form of birth control as soon as breastfeeding frequency decreases or solid foods are introduced.
How effective is it?
LAM is a highly effective, temporary method of contraception. New mothers can use LAM if they meet all three of these criteria:
- Menstrual bleeding, including spotting, has not returned after two months post-partum.
- Your baby is fed “on demand” (at least every four hours during the day and at least every six hours during the night), exclusively from your breast and no other food, water, or liquids are given to the baby.
- Your baby is less than six months old.
For effective protection against pregnancy to continue, you must use another method of contraception when one or more of these occur:
- Menstruation resumes.
- The frequency or duration of breastfeeds is reduced.
- Bottle feeds are introduced.
- The baby reaches six months of age.
LAM is highly effective as a transitional method of birth control, but another method of birth control should be used as soon as any of the three LAM criteria are not met.
Advantages of LAM
- LAM can be used immediately after childbirth.
- It is economical.
- It is entirely natural.
Drawbacks of LAM
- LAM is most effective only within the first six months postpartum.
- The mother must breastfeed only, and when the baby demands it, which may be inconvenient or difficult for working mothers to maintain.
- It does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV. Always use a condom to reduce the risk of STDs.
- Breastfeeding might not be recommended for women or infants with certain conditions or on certain medications. Check with your healthcare provider for more information on medical conditions and drug interactions when using the LAM method.
- HIV can be transmitted from mother to infant through breast milk. Check with your healthcare provider for more information.
Content last reviewed on August 30, 2017