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Results and Thoughts on the Survey: Breastfeeding vs. Return of Menstrual Cycle
Posted By Stephanie Langford On August 26, 2010 @ 3:00 am In Babies,Breastfeeding,Mothering | Comments Disabled
At long (long) last, time to analyze this survey on Breastfeeding vs. Return of Menstural Cycle that just blew me out of the water with all of the responses it received!
I thought that the answer would become more clear, but although I feel like there are some definite trends and general aspects of the relationship between the two, overall my answer would have to be "Well, it really depends...". How's that for clear as mud?
I did manage to confirm something that I already thought, which is that I have a pretty crunchy readership- over 75% breastfed for more than 12 months, and over 36% breastfed for 18 months or longer! Mamas, you rock!
This is one of the results that blew me away. Those fuzzy numbers say that over 39% of moms were still nursing at night when their cycle returned! Additionally, less than 40% were feeding baby any sort of solids, only 15% offering a pacifier, and 6% offering supplemental bottles.
What that means is that significantly more than half of breastfeeding moms see the return of their fertility while they are NOT offering bottles, NOT using a pacifier, NOT feeding solids, and CONTINUING to nurse through the night!
The next part of the survey asked moms when their cycle returned, in comparison with how long they breastfed in total. You can see that there is definitely a significant holding-off factor that more extended breastfeeding offers. For those moms who continued to breastfeed past the 6 mth mark, another 7.5% of them managed to stave off the return of their fertility.
BUT, for the great majority (over 80%) that didn't seem to make a difference.
In fact, if you look also at the two charts below, which are for moms who breastfed for 12-18 or 18+ months, most moms still get their cycle back by the time their baby is 6 months old. A whopping 72%, according to my oh-so-scientific survey!
Extended breastfeeding does make a difference, obviously, as a much greater percentage of these moms who breastfed for 12 months or longer saw their cycle hold off for much longer. As many as 10-15% of moms did not regain fertility until after baby was 1 year old.
When I look at these results, I have to extrapolate the fact that perhaps we North American women (brace yourself for the broad, sweeping generalization...) are NOT practicing the kind of ecological breastfeeding that naturally prolongs the return of fertility.
Glad you asked! I did a bit of research and found these 7 basic tenets of ecological breastfeeding, as put forward by Sheila Kippley, author of Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing 
From an article on the La Leche League International site , by Sheila Kippley
Anyone want to do a quick run-through of the standards and see how your breastfeeding practices matched up, according to when your cycle returned?
For me personally, with my first I was only practicing #1, 6, and 7 completely when my cycle returned at 12 months (though fertility didn't return until 15 mths). She was in our room for night nursings as well (#4) until she was 6 mths and night-weaned at 11 mths. With my second, I was practiced #1, 2, 3, 6 and 7. He also slept near me until 6 months. He was 18 mths old and still getting one early morning (3-5am) feed when I caught the first egg and conceived my third.
Currently, I'm nursing my 12 mth old frequently, but just night-weaned (naturally- I didn't force it) about a week and a half ago. I've practiced #1, 2, 4 and 6 with her, but have had times when I've had to pump and use bottles for her while I was away. She also slept near us until about 11 mths old, as I continued to night feed. My cycle is just showing signs of returning.
That's just my story, though. As I said earlier in this post, my true answer as to the relationship between fertility and breastfeeding is that there are definitely some practices that seem to have a fairly consistent effect on the return of fertility. And there also seem to be a whole lot of women for whom there isn't a lot of rhyme or reason, but their bodies just seem to work in a particular rhythm of fertility no matter what.
It's a whole lot of food for thought. I've come to the conclusion that perhaps there is no conclusive answer.
I'm quite certain that trends in the North American diet, environmental toxins, etc. play a role in our hormones and fertility. I also think that (as a general rule) most of us don't practice true ecological breastfeeding, as it is practiced in many other cultures.
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URLs in this post:
 Image: http://www.keeperofthehome.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/baby-nursing.jpg
 this survey on Breastfeeding vs. Return of Menstural Cycle : http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2010/06/take-my-survey-breastfeeding-vs-return-of-menstrual-cycle.html
 Image: http://www.keeperofthehome.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/600question2bfsurvey.jpg
 Image: http://www.keeperofthehome.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/600bfsurveyquestion2.jpg
 Image: http://www.keeperofthehome.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/600question3bfsurvey.jpg
 Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1435746546?ie=UTF8&tag=keeofthehom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1435746546
 article on the La Leche League International site: http://www.llli.org/NB/NBSepOct08p4.html
 Image: http://www.keeperofthehome.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/mom-and-baby-sleeping.jpg
 tedsblog: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tedsblog/
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