Breastfeeding and Periods
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Many factors contribute to comfortable and effective breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers usually do not get periods as breastfeeding suppresses the onset of the menstrual cycle. However, some women do get their periods, even when they continue breastfeeding their babies. Several factors contribute to getting a period during breastfeeding. Read on to know more.
Video : Breastfeeding and Periods – Everything that You Need to Know
When Can You Expect Your Period During Breastfeeding?
Each woman will get her first period after delivery at a different time. It could vary from between 11 to 12 weeks after delivery, to up to a year. The average time for your first period after the baby is delivered, while breastfeeding, is typically six months. As mentioned earlier, many factors contribute towards you becoming fertile once again after delivery. Mothers with lower progesterone levels will probably get their periods faster than those with higher levels. Also, the levels of prolactin affect the onset of periods. While you are breastfeeding, the hormone helps produce the required quantity of breast milk and stops your body from ovulating and getting your periods.
Factors That Affect Periods After Delivery
Mothers should know the factors that affect their menstrual cycle after delivery to be able to deal with them. Below are some of them that influence the timing of your period after delivery:
1. Your baby sleeps for more than four hours during the day or more than six hours during the night.
This means that the baby will not be breastfeeding while he is sleeping. This will result in a reduction in the production of breast milk, and your menstrual cycle might start soon. If you are still breastfeeding your baby, the decrease in the breast milk will be temporary, till the hormones balance out.
2. Your baby has started to consume solid foods or formula milk.
When the baby starts getting nutrition from external foods, the production of breast milk starts dwindling and leads to hormonal changes that restart your menstrual cycle. Similar changes are seen when mothers supplement their feeding with formula.
3. You co-sleep with your baby.
Often, co-sleeping mothers end up breastfeeding their babies in the middle of their sleep routines. This leads to an increase in the production of breast milk, which further delays periods.
4. You carry your baby close to you so that he can latch on whenever he wants to.
Carrying your baby close to make latching easy for him is another way you will end up breastfeeding your little munchkin often. This, in turn, delays periods.
In short, the factors that influence how soon your period returns while breastfeeding are:
- Nursing style
- Uninterrupted sleep
- Bottle feeding
- Nursing duration
If you do happen to get your periods while you are breastfeeding, you must know that it is most probably because there is a decrease in the production of the prolactin hormone. Wondering how else periods could affect breastfeeding? Let’s find that out too.
Do Periods Affect Breastfeeding?
If you do get your period while breastfeeding, the chances are that you will not notice any difference. However, some women will notice a few changes, which include:
- Increased nipple tenderness during menstruation.
- Shortage in milk supply a few days before menstruation.
- A slight change in the taste of breast milk due to which the baby might not want to feed.
- Your breasts size may grow a little.
Menstruation should not interrupt or stop breastfeeding. The change in hormones is normal, and within a few days, your body will adjust to the changes. Nursing during your menstrual cycle will not pose any harm to your health or your baby. If you do notice a drop in the supply of breast milk, you must consult your doctor or a lactation specialist, who might recommend some natural supplements that could boost the milk production. Be sure also to consult a paediatrician to ensure that your baby is getting the right amount of nutrition by assessing your baby’s weight.
When your baby is only dependent on breast milk, you may want to maintain or increase the supply of breast milk. In that case, your specialist might recommend some steps to delay your menstrual cycle. Here are some ways of delaying your periods.
Ways to Delay Menstrual Cycle While Breastfeeding
Steps that you can take to delay your menstruation during breastfeeding:
- Make sure that you feed your baby at intervals of no more than 4 hours during the day, and no more than 6 hours during the night.
- Let your baby feed whenever he wants to. Keep your baby close and let him latch on when he needs to.
- Make sure that you breastfeed during the night. Long breaks between each feeding session will cause your body to revert to its old cycle.
In the rest of the article, we’ve tried to address as many frequently asked questions as we can. If any of your concern is not addressed in here, do consult your medical practitioner and follow his/her advice.
1. Can I Become Pregnant While Breastfeeding, If My Period Has Returned?
Getting your periods after pregnancy while breastfeeding is a sign that your body has started to ovulate again. Every month, an egg is released by your ovaries, and your uterus thickens in preparation for pregnancy. When the egg is not fertilised, the egg and the lining of the uterus is expelled. This is known as menstruation. Since your body is releasing eggs that can be fertilised, you can also get pregnant if you are not using any contraception. In case you want to delay your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about viable contraceptive methods and ensure they do not affect breastfeeding.
2. How Can I Cope With Period Pains While Breastfeeding?
Make sure that you are getting your daily recommended dose of minerals, especially magnesium and calcium. These minerals will ease the pain and tenderness associated with periods. You must discuss the same with your doctor and seek clarity on which supplements are safe for you and your baby during breastfeeding. You can also use other coping methods, such as using a hot compress on your lower back and abdomen. You must also walk around a little as it eases up cramping.
3. Are Irregular Periods During Breastfeeding Normal?
Irregular periods while breastfeeding is perfectly normal and common. The stimulation of the nipple causes a change in the hormones produced that increases milk production and suppresses the menstrual cycle.
4. Can Periods Vanish and Then Return Again?
Irregular periods while breastfeeding is a completely normal occurrence. You can miss a few periods while breastfeeding, and that is okay too. You should consult your doctor if you are concerned about missing your period. Be sure that you have an effective contraceptive method in place to avoid any unwanted pregnancies.
5. Will the Return of My Menstrual Cycle Mean That I’ll Produce Less Milk?
Some women do experience lesser milk production a few days before menstruation. You should ask your healthcare provider/lactation specialist about taking natural supplements to increase your milk supply during those days.
6. Will I Need to Wean My Baby Because the Breast Milk Tastes Slightly Different During Periods?
A change in the taste of breast milk due to menstruation does not mean that you will have to wean your baby onto solids/formula milk. This change will not last for many days. However, you may consult your medical practitioner to report these changes and find a solution if your baby doesn’t feed.
Getting your period during breastfeeding is common. Make sure you talk to a healthcare provider about the various changes you experience in your body, including menstruation during breastfeeding. Seeking medical advice will help you plan your baby’s diet accordingly.
Also Read: 30 Best Foods to Increase Breast Milk