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One of the silver linings of being pregnant is a lack of your menstrual cycle. A lot of women are lucky to not have to deal with their period while breastfeeding. However, your period can return at any point postpartum regardless of exclusively breastfeeding or not. Some women ovulate in the first month after giving birth and thus have their cycle back before their six-week check-up. Others see a return as their baby starts to wean, as their baby starts eating more solid foods and sleeps longer stretches through the night with the average return of a postpartum cycle being 9-18 months. Every woman is different and despite your best efforts, you may end up with your period while breastfeeding.
Your period and breastfeeding are connected, however, that does not mean that you can only have one or the other. It was a common myth that women who exclusively breastfed did not have to worry about their period returning or birth control for that matter. As nice as that sounds, most women will not have their menstrual cycle return until they begin weaning their baby. Despite exclusively breastfeeding your period can return at any time postpartum, typically after six weeks postpartum At a minimum most women don’t have a return of their cycle until after their baby starts to sleep through the night or they return to work and have to pump while away from the baby. This is due to your hormones fluctuating back to normal and signaling your body that it is getting ready to procreate again. Some women find that once they return to work and start pumping for most of their feeds their cycle returns. No matter how often your baby latches or how much you produce your period will return when it wants.
What to Expect of Your Period While Breastfeeding
Women often see a slight drop in their supply during their period while breastfeeding. Luckily this does not mean your baby will be getting less from you. As you feed on demand your body will produce enough for your baby, your baby just might demand an additional nursing session or two. If you are pumping you may notice a slight drop in your output. This is not a cause for concern, it should only last a couple of days and will return to normal towards the end of your cycle. A lot of women get stressed while pumping as they get less than they know they need for their baby. You can add in an extra pumping session in the morning or evening to make up the difference. It also helps to disconnect from work while pumping, having a light snack, and look at pictures of your baby to help the letdown. Ideally, you have a bit of a frozen stash that you can dip into as needed. Some women will also add an extra pumping session during the rest of the month to have extra to make up for the difference. The La Leche League International addresses this as well and notes that some women can see an increase with a calcium and magnesium supplement during their cycle. It is also important to stay well hydrated and eat nutrient-dense foods as well during your cycle. Since breast milk is mostly water, your hydration can alter your output as well.
How Hormones Affect Your Period While Breastfeeding
Due to the change in your hormones, sometimes your period while breastfeeding could alter the flavor of your milk. Most babies won’t bat an eye at the difference, but some will noticeably react. This could mean your baby wants more or fewer nursing sessions during this time. Again not a cause for concern as your baby will get used to the fluctuations of your milk just as different foods can sometimes affect the flavor.
With the return of your period while breastfeeding, means the return of fluctuating hormones during the month. Cramps, sensitive nipples, and fatigue are common symptoms that women experience during this time. Continue to nurse your baby as normal, as skipping a nursing session could cause engorgement and clogged milk ducts which could lead to mastitis. Sore nipples are usually the hardest symptom for women to navigate during their period while breastfeeding. As your baby is in direct contact with your nipples for hours a day. Wearing a supportive, yet not tight bra and a cool washcloth or breast gel pads can help reduce tenderness and a good nipple cream post nursing session can help. Kelly Mom addresses this topic as ovulation or the lead up to your period starting can cause sore nipples.
If you are experiencing extreme tenderness and choose not to nurse, make sure you pump during those times so as to not lose your milk supply. Some women will choose to nurse their baby in the morning and evening and pump during the day to reduce the amount of contact. Make sure to stay hydrated and eat nutrient-dense foods during your period while breastfeeding as well. In addition to getting as much sleep as possible (which is not always easy with a newborn), going to bed early can really help. However, your period while breastfeeding will mean your body will need even more rest and nourishment. It can take anywhere from six months to two years for your cycle to completely regulate. Some women will have their period return while breastfeeding only to have a couple of months off before it returns again. None of this is to cause concern, your body will take at least a year or two to regulate back to pre-pregnancy self. Please talk to your doctor about any concerns you might have.
Read More: Ovulation Pain and What It Means
Does Your Period While Breastfeeding Really Prevent Conception?
Despite exclusively breastfeeding your period will return whenever your body sees fit. You might be able to stave it off as long as possible but in no way is this a means of birth control either. As you know, ovulation occurs about two weeks prior to your period starting, so in theory, you can get pregnant postpartum before the return of your cycle. American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you use an additional method of birth control if you are trying to avoid pregnancy during this time.
Read More: How to Know When You’ve Ovulated
Occasionally women also can experience an inconsistent cycle while breastfeeding. Babies will nurse more or less because of teething, sleep regressions, sickness, or mental developmental leaps. This can cause your cycle to be shorter or longer in between periods. Again, all completely normal for your period while breastfeeding to be a little different postpartum as your body regulates itself. Luckily, a quick return of your period while breastfeeding means that you are most likely fertile and your body is quick to regulate back to its pre-pregnancy self. While a period during breastfeeding is not ideal for most women, it is also really nice to know and be able to track your cycle again.
Having your period while breastfeeding is completely normal and many women experience it. Although there might be some ups and downs as your body regulates back, soon it will be literally just like clockwork. Be prepared to learn even more about your body as you enter this next phase in your postpartum journey and happy breastfeeding.
WANT TO READ MORE?
8 Benefits of Breastfeeding you Need to Know.
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