In Honor of World Breastfeeding Week
With the world’s population growing, particularly in developing countries, breastfeeding is one of the most cost-effective and nutritious options for most mothers. From August 1–7, World Breastfeeding Week highlights breastfeeding as a contribution to women’s family planning. WHO states, "Breastfeeding is the best way to provide newborns with the nutrients they need." WHO also recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.
• Giving infants antibodies to protect against common childhood illnesses.
• Reducing risks of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers later in life.
• Helping to prevent obesity and return women to pre-pregnancy weight.
There is also some preliminary evidence that people who were breastfed perform better in intelligence tests and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol as adults.
What is LAM and Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy?
Breastfeeding week also raises discussion about Lactational Amernorrhea Method (LAM) and the Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy (HTSP). According to the LAM Toolkit, "LAM is a modern temporary contraceptive method based on natural infertility resulting from certain patterns of breastfeeding that has multiple nutrition benefits for mothers and infants.”
In order for the process to work, first, a woman must make a decision to breastfeed fully day and night, and fit into the following two criteria: menstrual bleeding has not resumed and the infant is under six months of age. LAM is not a passive form of birth control, but rather an active contraceptive method. Therefore, without the preceding three criteria, it is not proven to prevent against pregnancy. LAM requires no pills or supplements and is easily implemented in resource-limited populations.
LAM is also an effective way to prevent pregnancy and increase the time between pregnancies. Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy (HTSP) is extremely important to the health of the mother and child. According to the HTSP Toolkit, WHO and USAID recommend the following:
• Delay first pregnancy until at least age 18.
• After a live birth, wait at least 24 months before attempting another pregnancy in order to reduce the risk of adverse maternal, perinatal, and infant outcomes.
• After a miscarriage or induced abortion, wait at least six months before attempting another pregnancy to reduce risks of adverse maternal and perinatal outcomes.
As the world population continues to expand, it is vital for women to have multiple options for contraception. Methods such as LAM require no extra resources for women who do not have control over their contraceptive choice due to lack of resources or threat of partner violence, so it can be an effective temporary solution to long-term contraception. For more information, review K4Health’s LAM and HTSP Toolkits. Also, check back throughout this week as Knowledge for Health continues discussing breastfeeding and various aspects of maternal health.
Rebecca Shore is a Communications Specialist for Knowledge for Health.