|Menstruation and Breastfeeding
Almost anything is considered normal when it comes to your periods
while breastfeeding. All women experience a time of postpartum bleeding
following birth which is not considered a menstrual period. If
bottle-feeding, most mothers will have their first real period not long
after this. Breastfeeding, however, suppresses menstruation at least
for a while. For some mothers, there may be an absence of menstruation
for weeks, months, and even years while still breastfeeding. Some
mothers will even need to completely wean before they see their first
period. Others, once their babies begin taking supplemental foods or
sleeping longer periods at night, will see the first period. Once
menstruation returns it may continue to be irregular during lactation.
It's not uncommon to have a shorter or longer than normal period while
breastfeeding. It's also not abnormal to skip a period or see the first
period return and then find that months pass before the next one.
When the first period returns depends upon several factors: how
frequently the baby is nursing, how often the baby is supplemented with
bottles, whether or not the baby takes a pacifier, how long the baby is
sleeping at night, whether or not solids have been introduced, and the
mother's own individual body chemistry and the way it responds to
hormonal influences associated with breastfeeding. Any time the
stimulation to the breast is decreased, especially at night,
menstruation is likely to return soon after.
When menstruation does return, you should consider yourself
fertile and take precautions against pregnancy if desired. Some women
consider their first period as their "warning period" that they are now
capable of becoming pregnant. However, it IS possible to become
pregnant before the first period returns, although quite rare.
The return of menstruation does not mean the end of
breastfeeding. The milk does not sour or "go bad" when you are having a
period. The milk is no less nutritious when you are menstruating than
when you are not. Some women do notice a temporary drop in milk supply
in the days just prior to a period and for a few days into one. This is
due to hormonal fluctuations. Once the period begins and hormone levels
begin to return to normal, the milk supply will boost back up again.
Most babies can compensate well for this temporary drop in supply with
more frequent nursing.
Nipple tenderness occurs for some women during ovulation,
during the days before a period, or at both times. Some mothers report
a feeling of antisiness while nursing at these times, too. As with the
drop in supply this is also hormonally influenced and therefore
Some babies may detect a slight change in the taste of the milk
just before a period, again, due to hormonal changes. These same babies
may nurse less often or less enthusiastically during this time as a
Written by Becky Flora, BSed, IBCLC
Revised by Katherine Wilson-Thompson
Last revision: September 25, 2010
How Can I Increase My Milk Supply?