Breastfeeding during Your Period: When Aunt Flow comes to visit

How many of you thought (or hoped) that breastfeeding was going to keep your period away forever (or at least for the time you were breastfeeding???)  I know I definitely thought that would be the case.  Boy was I surprised when my dear old friend (cue sarcasm) came to visit 5 months after my son was born.  And I was even more surprised when she didn’t show back up after her second visit….yep, apparently you can get pregnant while breastfeeding as well!

 

So, what’s the deal with breastfeeding during your period and how can you keep the crimson wave away for as long as possible?

 

When will my period return while breastfeeding?

Unfortunately, there is not a definitive answer to that question.  Breastfeeding will definitely suppress your period for a while.  Some moms may not menstruate for months or years while breastfeeding and other women may start their periods after a few weeks or months. 

 

Here are a few factors that determine when your period will return:

  • How often your baby nurses
  • How often your baby receives a supplement (other than your milk) in a bottle
  • If your baby use a pacifier
  • How long your baby is sleeping at night
  • If your baby eats solids
  • Your own body chemistry

Essentially, it comes down to this… the more time your baby is at breast, both during the day and during the night, the longer your period might be delayed.  My son was sleeping for about 8 hours a night at 5 months and was using a pacifier, which I think contributed to the early return of my period.  My sister, on the other hand, never used a bottle or pacifier, nursed her son until he was almost 3, and breastfed a few times a night up until he weaned.  Her period didn’t return for over 2 years.  This was nature’s way of holding off conception for my sister for a while.  In my case, nature thought my little guy was old enough to have another sibling, so bring on the period.

 

Will breastfeeding be different when I have my period?

Some women don’t notice much of a difference in their breastfeeding while they have their period.  Other women may notice some changes, such as:

  • Nipple tenderness during ovulation and menstruation
  • Temporary drop in milk supply the few days prior to getting your period and for a few days during.
  • Baby wanting to feed more frequently, due to the temporary dip in milk supply
  • Baby wanting to feed less, as your baby may detect a slight change in taste of your milk during this time.

These types of changes are all temporary and are related to a fluctuation in hormone levels.  A few days into your period, you should feel like your ‘normal’ breastfeeding relationship and supply have returned.

 

 

What can I do to compensate for this temporary dip in milk supply?

  • Let your baby nurse as often as he/she wants to (it may seem like a temporary growth spurt)
  • Take a combination magnesium and calcium supplement (500-1000mg a day) from the beginning of ovulation until the 2nd or 3rd day of your period to minimize any drop in milk supply
  • Increase your iron during your period with iron-rich foods (like meat, green leafy vegetables, and beans) or with a supplement, like Floradix or Green Super Foods
  • Add a few milk-increasing herbs (galactagogues) to your routine

(*** disclaimer: always speak with a healthcare provider before taking supplements or herbs)

 

We asked our Facebook friends how they deal with the temporary dip in their supplies and here is what they had to say:

Monica: Since my first cycle, I add an extra pumping session while at work daily.  On weekends I nurse on demand and notice that my daughter wants to nurse more often just before and during my period. 

Ariel: I up my intake of iron-rich foods, lactation cookies, and letting baby cluster feed.

Amanda: oatmeal, water, legumes, and yoga!

 

Do you notice a dip in your supply when you have your period? 

How do you deal with it?