(Thanks so much to Jenna for sharing her experience using Billings while in the Postpartum Period! If any moms (or dads!!) out there would like to share their experience using NFP postpartum, email us at email@example.com)
Oh boy, are you in luck. I just got my period back so I have lots of fresh info up in this head. TMI? Sorry. Anyway, let’s talk postpartum NFP, shall we?
Here is my situation:
Ellen was born in July 2011, and I have been nursing her since. I never introduced formula, but I did pump bottles to give myself a break once in a while – can I get a Hallelujah for Medela? We didn’t start charting again until my postpartum visit with my doctor. At that point, I emailed my NFP instructor for any information she had. Here are the main points I took away from what she told me:
- Breastfeeding doesn’t guarantee delayed fertility; it just depends on your body
- If breastfeeding does delay fertility, it is most effective when you exclusively and consistantly nurse around the clock; no bottles or pumping or breaks
- If your baby starts to refuse nursing or gets fussy while nursing, it could be a sign of estrogen increasing (therefore your milk tasting different) and fertility returning
- The presence of fertile mucus indicates that there is ovarian activity – eggs are growing – not necessarily maturing to the point of ovulation. Days of fertile mucus must be considered as possibly fertile since it is not known when the eggs will actually mature and ovulation will occur.
- Nursing is a difficult situation and much patience is needed by both father and mother. Eventually the fertility signs become more clear – but it takes
So, Mike and I charted and observed (Ok, I observed. I don’t torture the guy.), and it was really sporadic. We use Billings, so every time I noticed fertility, we would abstain until the fourth night. It was a lot of abstaining. And, as it turns out, a lot of unnecessary abstaining. I wasn’t trusting myself or my signs so I recorded the smallest (and most not-even-close-to-being-fertile) cues. Looking back now, I know I was not experiencing fertility in most cases where we abstained; instead, I was experiencing fear that I was doing it wrong. (And can I just say it wasn’t fear of having another baby ever…just the fear of getting pregnant while I was mentally unable to wrap my mind around the fact that I was in charge of another human’s well-being forever-and-ever-amen?)
The biggest lesson I had to learn was to trust myself – trust my body. I know the signs of fertility. We have been charting for such a long time now. The signs were no different after having Ellen; they were just more unpredictable. But, when I started trusting the signs my body was giving me and realizing that patterns would be different now that I was postpartum, charting became easy* once again.
*I finally started ovulating this month (one year after birth) because I am in the process of weaning Ellen. I have entered the mind set that I need to let go of the need to control. I chart my signs and remind myself that I don’t know what my fertility or menstrual cycle is going to look like postpartum. It is still constantly changing, and trying to predict it is just cray-cray. Trust yourself and go with the flow, so to speak.