Some women don’t get their periods back until they wean, but others end up both menstruating and breastfeeding for a time. Here’s what you need to know about having your period while breastfeeding – when it might come, how it may affect your milk supply, and what to expect.
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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
Longer breaks between lactation sessions (either nursing or pumping) may result in an earlier return to menstruation.
Because of this, it’s not uncommon for new moms to get their period back when their baby stops waking up at night, or when they drop their middle of the night pumping session.
Physical contact with your baby
More physical contact with baby (time spent holding, wearing, or snuggling your baby) may result in a delay in menstruation.
Nipple stimulation separate from lactation
This basically means your baby essentially “using you as a pacifier”/you choosing to comfort nurse; this may also cause a delay in menstruation.
Hormones can make a difference in ways we don’t fully understand.
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 postpartum.
Will anything happen to my milk supply when I have my period?
Many women see a temporary supply dip when they have their periods, where their supply goes down by a few ounces when their period starts and then rebounds when it ends.
Other women don’t have a supply dip at all.
I experienced a progressive supply dip that looked like this:
- Within a few days of my period, my supply would drop about 5 oz
- My period would end and my supply would recover by 3 oz, for a permanent net loss of about 2 oz
- Repeat each month for a gradual decline of 2 oz per month
If you find that your supply is impacted by your period, here’s more information about what you can try when your period affects your milk supply.
Are irregular periods while breastfeeding normal?
Once your period comes back, it could come regularly, or you could get one period and then nothing for months. Instead of a regular schedule, you may constantly miss periods while breastfeeding and get it somewhat randomly.
In addition, your periods might be very long or super short compared to how they used to be; they could also be heavier or lighter than you’re used to.
Obviously, if you have any concerns about your period, see your OB/GYN.
Why is my baby fussy when I’m menstruating?
This could be happening for a few reasons.
1. There might be less milk
As noted above, your milk supply could be lower than normal, and your baby could be frustrated that she isn’t getting as much milk as she would like.
Here are some ideas if you think this might be the case.
2. The taste might be different
Your period might also slightly change the taste of your breast milk.
It’s still totally fine for baby to eat – it doesn’t make the breast milk sour or bad or anything. He just might not like way it tastes quite as much (or he might like it more)!
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, you are exclusively breastfeeding, and your baby is less than 6 months old, it’s possible that you might get pregnant. If all three things are true, it’s unlikely, but it’s still possible.
If you definitely want to avoid pregnancy, you should take the appropriate precautions.
It’s possible to get pregnant before you get your period back, because ovulation occurs about two weeks before your period.
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.
When do exclusive pumpers usually get their periods back?
So how long does it take to get your period after having a baby when you’re breastfeeding?
To find out when exclusive pumpers tend to get their periods back, I did a quick (obviously unscientific) survey of my email subscribers. 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”:
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 past six weeks after his birth.)
When I got to the exam room, I hurriedly told my doctor all about the bleeding.
“I think you have your period,” she said.
So. I made my husband take a day off of work to take me to the doctor because I had my period.
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?
- 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/
- Flores, Becky, IBCLC. “Menstruation while Breastfeeding: Do I Have my Period?” https://www.motherandchildhealth.com/breastfeeding/menstruation-while-breastfeeding/
- Valdes, V. “The efficacy of the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) among working women.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11172791?dopt=Abstract