We had been hoping for and planning to try for another child -- so the news I was pregnant was welcomed by both of us -- but I share this story to let you know that holiday weaning -- and an unexpected holiday-conceived baby -- aren't just theories for me!
A mere two months prior to that positive pregnancy test, when our oldest child turned two years old, I had visited my doctor to let her know that my fertility (both menstruation and ovulation) had not yet returned. Due to my prior history of infertility, she had advised that we begin to investigate possible causes. However, I had done nothing more than talk to the doctor when we conceived our dearly loved second child. Surprise! What happened?
After giving birth, a breastfeeding mother has two different hormonal "sides" that can be imagined as the two sides of a scale. On one side, she has breastfeeding hormones that promote lactation (and tend to suppress ovulation) -- and on the other, reproductive hormones that promote ovulation, and which may lead to another pregnancy. While the timing of her return of fertility varies from woman to woman, and even from baby to baby by the same mother (due to many different factors) the general principle is that frequent and unrestricted suckling at the breast is the most important factor that keeps the breastfeeding hormones side of the scale "heavier," resulting in continued natural suppression of fertility.
However, the further out in time from the birth, the easier it is for the reproductive hormones to tip the scales, so that menstruation or ovulation may return. This is part of the reason why the holiday season is indirectly responsible for many late summer and fall babies!
What factors contribute to this unexpected holiday-related return of fertility? Here is a partial list:
If, like my husband and me, you are hoping for another baby, then just pay attention to your signs of fertility and enjoy making your holiday baby if the signs point to being fertile!
However, especially if your baby is under a year old, you may want to protect your breastfeeding relationship, discourage weaning, and delay making a new baby until later in the future. In that case, you definitely want to do what you can to avoid changes in your usual nursing and sleeping routines as much as possible. This may not be the year to host holidays and celebrations! Keep your meals and preparations simple, and maybe even skip some of this year's parties. Remember, you need to maintain your normal routines as much as possible, so that baby's frequent suckling at the breast remains as consistent as possible. At the same time, be vigilant to observe and record your signs of fertility, so that if you do detect any changes that indicate fertility, you and your husband can still celebrate, but in less intimate ways.
If a more detailed discussion of how to protect your breastfeeding relationship during the holidays, how to interpret your signs of fertility, or how to understand the return of fertility after birth would be helpful to you, contact me (Christelle) to book a free online, phone, or in-person consultation. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and fertility educator, I can help!
For Catholic breastfeeding mothers, "Navigating the Holidays as a Breastfeeding Family," and the unexpected return of fertility are the discussion topics of our online Catholic Nursing Mothers' Group in November. Reach out if you would like to join us for this free online breastfeeding support group!
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