As most of you know, we have a 5-month-old. What most of you don't know: we're already trying to have another baby. It's always been part of our “plan” to have children close together. My sister and I are six years apart and while we're the best of friends now, the age gap was apparent when we were growing up. Nate and his brother are – brace yourselves now – only 11 months apart! Nate feels like he was really lucky to have his playmate at such an early age, and he's on the same page with me about trying to have another baby as soon as possible.
Just look at that face. How could we NOT want another one? There's just one problem. Getting pregnant while breastfeeding can be tricky. As my OBGYN put it, “When your body is focused on creating food, it's far less likely to put energy towards reproducing.” We've tried the – ahem – traditional method and so far, no dice. I'm starting to feel like the guy from the Verizon commercials. “Am I pregnant now? Am I pregnant now? Am I pregnant NOW?” A watched pot never boils, I suppose, but we're taking steps to increase our chances of getting pregnant while breastfeeding. Here's the lowdown on making babies when you already have a baby.
Ovulation is when your uterus releases eggs in preparation for pregnancy. If you're not ovulating, you won't get pregnant. You can do the deed until the cows come home, but there's nowhere for the sperm to go unless there's an egg floating around in there. It's like baseball without a home plate or hockey without a net: all you're doing is playing with a stick and some balls. Heh. Heh. When a woman is breastfeeding constantly, her body is less likely to expend energy on releasing eggs, so it's more difficult for her to get pregnant. Not impossible, mind you, but difficult.
How to Know if You're Ovulating
If you're ovulating, you'll have a period. A period occurs when the egg and lining from the uterus leave the body without being fertilized. So theoretically you CAN get pregnant while breastfeeding before your period comes back if that first lucky little egg that makes its way out of your uterus happens to meet a lucky little sperm, but it's not extremely likely. Until you have your period again, you can pretty much assume that you're probably not ovulating yet.
How to Ovulate Sooner
I hear new moms complain all the time that their period came back too soon after having a baby. I always ask, “What's your secret?!” There are a few ways to encourage your body to ovulate sooner. Night-weaning and stretching your baby's feeding times out are the most helpful methods of triggering your body back into baby-making mode. There are quite a few supplements available at GNC that also encourage ovulation, including vitex, raspberry leaf tea and vitamin B6 (as far as I know, these are all safe to take while nursing…but I advise you to speak to your OBGYN about any supplements you plan to take). Exercising regularly will also help get your body back into its normal rhythm.
You're Ovulating. What Now?
I bet if you could tell the junior high version of yourself that you'd one day be excited about getting your period, she'd totally roll her eyes. Once your body is back to its regular cycle, you need to keep it in tip-top condition. Keep taking prenatal vitamins, avoiding alcohol and doing all the normal pre-baby stuff. And sex. Sex is a pretty important part of this equation – you'll probably have to work a little harder to make it a priority now that you have a little tyke constantly demanding your attention.
It's Not Working
Give it time. Your body can sense the extra stressors in your life and may naturally delay pregnancy in an attempt to give itself a break. Do your best to relax and not get hung up on it. If you've already started having your period again and are truly concerned that you may not be able to get pregnant anymore (particularly if you had a hard time conceiving initially), take a fertility test. This is a good first step in getting to know where your body is in terms of ability to get pregnant. The First Response Fertility Test assesses your body's egg quantity and quality, which is a strong indicator of fertility potential.
Keep in mind that this is all based on my own experience and research. I'm not pregnant yet (stop asking or I may wind up with a complex!) but I know quite a few women who have gotten pregnant by accident because they believed breastfeeding would serve as a natural form of birth control. To all those women who are hoping to start the next Duggar family: take heart! Getting pregnant while breastfeeding can be difficult, but it's far from impossible.