Some women don’t get their periods back until they wean, but others go through a time where they are both menstruating and breastfeeding. 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’s normal.
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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, either nursing or pumping (longer breaks between lactation may result in an earlier return to menstruation)
- Physical contact with your baby – amount of time spent holding, wearing, or snuggling your baby (more physical contact may mean a delay in menstruation)
- Nipple stimulation separate from lactation (essentially allowing your baby to use you as a pacifier; this may also cause a delay in menstruation)
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 to the poll 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 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.
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.
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. 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.
Are irregular periods while breastfeeding normal?
Yes. Pretty much anything is normal when it comes to getting your period while breastfeeding! 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.
Why is my baby fussy when I’m menstruating?
This could be happening for a few reasons.
First, 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.
Your period might also slightly change the taste of your breastmilk. It’s still totally fine for baby to eat – it doesn’t make the breastmilk 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 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.
(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. 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.
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.
I made my husband take a day off of work to take me to the doctor because I had my period. Nailed it!
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/
- 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