With both of my babies, I got my period back at 9 months postpartum, which means that there were a few months of dealing with having my period and exclusively pumping at the same time. Aside from the hassle of having your period, one thing that many women struggle with is the drop in milk supply that can occur at this time. This drop is caused by hormonal fluctuations.
For some women, this drop in supply lasts just a few days. For others (like me), it is a full week before my period and another few days into it, so it was important to try to get my supply up in the meantime.
There are lots of strategies out there for getting your milk supply up long-term (including these) – but what if you just need a short-term boost to get you through your period? Here are some ideas.
1. Take a Calcium/Magnesium Supplement
The drop in milk supply that is associated with your period can be associated with a drop in blood calcium levels which occurs in the middle of your menstrual cycle, around the time that you ovulate. To combat this, you can take a calcium/magnesium supplement.
If you decide to try this, you should start taking the supplement when you ovulate until the third day of your period. (If you don’t know when you ovulate, it’s generally about two weeks before you’re due for your period. Another option, if you’re not up for tracking ovulation, is to just take it for the whole month.) The supplement should be 1000(mg) calcium/500(mg) magnesium. Make sure that you buy the combination calcium/magnesium supplement, as that much calcium should never be taken alone.
2. Eat Oatmeal
Many women report an increase in pumping output on the days that they eat oatmeal for breakfast as opposed to the days they don’t. (I don’t normally eat oatmeal because I don’t really like it, but I did an unscientific experiment to see if it would work for me and had good results.)
Surprisingly, the effect of oatmeal on breast milk production is apparently not at the top of researchers’ lists of things to study, so there is no scientific evidence for this phenomenon or explanation as to why this happens. However, the anecdotal evidence is strong enough that many lactation consultants recommend it.
The good news is that this is an easy change to make to try to compensate for less milk – just eat oatmeal when you have your period. The bad news is that you have to eat oatmeal when you have your period! Seriously, though, if you don’t like oatmeal, oatmeal cookies seem to work, too, so you can make oatmeal chocolate chip lactation cookies to make it less onerous.
3. Drink Nursing Teas
Nursing teas contain galactagogues (such as fenugreek, blessed thistle, and alfafa) that may increase milk supply in some women. Generally, because the doses are fairly small, you need to drink the tea every day to continue seeing results (unlike fenugreek, which can be discontinued once your milk supply increases). If you track your cycles, I would suggest starting to drink the tea the day or two before you anticipate your monthly dip in supply.
4. Pump for Longer and Get Another Letdown
It’s tempting to stop pumping after the milk stops flowing, but try to get a second (or third) letdown. If you take a break for a minute or two and then start the pump over again, you can usually get another small letdown of milk (maybe about 1/4 of what was expressed in the first letdown).
You can also try adding another pumping session. How effective this will be depends on how your body responds to the pump. If it takes a few days for your body to see an increase in supply, adding an extra pumping session might not give you the extra milk that you need. At best, it will probably get you an extra ounce or two at first. However, if your supply drop lasts more than a few days (mine is more than a week, as I said above), it’ll be worth it to pump more often.
Do you experience a drop in supply when you have your period? Has anything worked for you to bring it up?