Pretty much anything is normal when it comes to getting your period while breastfeeding! You could get your period at 4 weeks postpartum or not until you wean completely. Once you get it, it could come regularly, or you could get one period and then nothing. You could be super fertile once you start cycling, or not able to conceive until you wean. Your periods might be longer or shorter than they used to be – and this may or may not change after weaning.
So if anything is normal – what’s common? I wanted to know what to expect when it came to getting my period back while breastfeeding.
Will anything happen to my milk supply when I have my period?
Many women see a supply dip when they have their periods. For me, it was a progressive supply dip that looked like this:
- Within a few days of my period, my supply would drop about 5oz
- My period would end and my supply would recover by 3oz, for a permanent net loss of about 2oz
- Repeat each month for a gradual decline of 2oz per month
Other women don’t have a supply dip at all or have one that is temporary and recovers completely afterwards. If you find that your supply is impacted by your period, here’s more information about what to do when your period affects your milk supply.
What might cause my period to come back earlier or later?
What factors play into when you get your period back? Here are the big ones:
- Length of time between lactation sessions, either nursing or pumping
- Physical contact with your baby – amount of time spent holding, wearing, or snuggling your baby
- Nipple stimulation separate from lactation (essentially allowing your baby to use you as a pacifier)
Frequency of lactation is considered the most important factor, and this was backed up in my informal poll results (below). Many of the women that responded commented that their period came back shortly after dropping a pumping session. It’s also not uncommon to get your period back when your baby stops waking up at night, or when you drop your middle of the night pumping session.
Hormones, the last one on the list, is kind of (in my opinion) a catch-all for “luck.” (“Crappy luck,” if you’re one of those who gets her period back at 6 weeks.) Women’s bodies react differently to lactation and the postpartum period in general – while one woman might nurse or pump twice a day for a year and not get her period until she weans, another might do the same every two hours and gets hers at two months post-partum.
When do exclusive pumpers usually get their periods back?
To find out when exclusive pumpers tend to get their periods back, I did a quick (obviously unscientific) survey. In looking at the graph below, it’s obvious that there is no clear answer to the question “when do women who exclusively pump get their periods back,” though it does seem to skew on the early side:
Of the 42 women that responded, almost half of them (48%) of them got their period back before their baby turned six months old. For comparison, only 7% of women who practice ecological nursing (nursing on demand, nursing lying down, no bottles or pacifiers, comfort nursing) get their periods back before 6 months.
Do I have to worry about getting pregnant while breastfeeding before I get my period back?
Yes. Even if you haven’t gotten your period back yet (your first ovulation will happen two weeks prior to that first period), you are exclusively breastfeeding, and your baby is less than 6 months old, it’s possible that you might get pregnant. If all of those three things are true, it’s very unlikely, but it’s still possible. If you definitely want to avoid pregnancy, you should take the appropriate precautions.
Make sure that if you take hormonal birth control that you confirm with your doctor that it won’t cause issues for your milk supply. Generally speaking, you want to avoid birth control methods that contain estrogen while lactating because of the possible effect on milk supply.
How I got my period while breastfeeding
When I was six weeks postpartum with my first baby, I went to the bathroom and noticed a great deal of bright red bleeding. The bleeding that I’d had after giving birth had tapered off significantly, and I was surprised and a little worried.
So I did what no one should ever do – I googled my symptoms. “Bright red bleeding six weeks postpartum” found me some helpful links, most of which indicated that I was probably hemorrhaging and should seek medical care. Luckily, I happened to have my six week checkup that morning. However, I was concerned that if something was really wrong with me, and I’d have to be admitted to the hospital, who would take care of the baby? So I told my husband he had to take off work and come with me.
(So I don’t sound crazy, I will note that both myself and my baby had each been unexpectedly admitted to the hospital in the the past six weeks.)
When I got to the exam room, I hurriedly told my doctor all about the bleeding.
“I think you have your period,” she said.
Pure genius! I made my husband take a day off of work to take me to the doctor because I had my period.
At that appointment my doctor and I talked about pumping, and she said that she tends to see women that are exclusively pumping get their periods sooner than those who nurse.
After that period, I didn’t get another one until nine months postpartum – so my experience with breastfeeding was my period started then stopped. I’m not really sure why or what happened.
At nine months, I started getting periods regularly. At first, I thought this probably had something to do with adjustments that I’d made to my pumping schedule. However, looking back, I got my period back at nine months with my second and third babies, too, and I nursed them – so it’s possible that my schedule didn’t have anything to do with it.
What has your experience getting your period while breastfeeding been?References
- Condon, Susan. “When can nursing mothers expect to get their period?” https://www.babycenter.com/404_when-can-nursing-mothers-expect-to-get-their-period_2288.bc
- Bonyata, Kelly, IBCLC. “Breastfeeding and Fertility.” https://kellymom.com/bf/normal/fertility/
- Bonyata, Kelly, IBCLC. “Birth Control and Breastfeeding.” https://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/meds/birthcontrol/
- Valdes, V. “The efficacy of the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) among working women.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11172791?dopt=Abstract