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Breastfeeding and Period. How does it really work?

There are so many myths about breastfeeding and period that it is sometimes difficult to discern what is true and what is not. Although the work of breastfeeding groups and counsellors has made information on breastfeeding much better known and, above all, more accurate, there is still some way to go.

For example, the relationship between breastfeeding and menstruation is a breeding ground for false truths. Questions such as what happens to menstruation while breastfeeding, whether a new pregnancy is possible or even whether breastfeeding can be continued if the period returns are common. Let’s answer some of them.

breastfeeding and menstrual cycle

The body in general, and that of women in particular, is regulated by a complex hormonal balance. It is a hormone, prolactin, that causes the initial secretion of milk and it is also the peak of this hormone produced after birth that inhibits ovulation, as well as the decrease of estrogen and progesterone. Three or four months after delivery, prolactin will return to pre-pregnancy levels and oxytocin, along with other hormones, will be responsible for maintaining lactation.

What happens to menstruation during breastfeeding?

It’s obvious, but every woman is different. In this matter, and because of the pace of life that we lead today, it’s such normal that a woman who breastfeeds does not menstruate again until after many months, or even years, as if she does it soon after giving birth.

Although it can be said that breastfeeding is a natural contraceptive, there must be some requirements for it to be so:

  • The baby has to be less than six months old.
  • Breastfeeding must be exclusive and on demand (the baby must only drink milk).
  • The baby should not go more than six hours without breastfeeding.
  • The mother must still not have her period.

The moment one of these requirements is no longer present, there will be the possibility of get pregnant again. At the age of six months, the baby usually sucks less, spacing the feedings and starting the complementary feeding. If you do not want to become pregnant again, it is advisable to use contraception. It could be the case that at the first ovulation, if you have seen your period come back, you will get pregnant again.

breastfeeding and period

What happens to breastfeeding during your period?

Although one of the most widespread myths says that when menstruation returns, breast milk disappears, this is not really the case. The hormones that cause the period do not stop milk production. Nor is it necessary to wean. 

What certainly could happen is that, when the mother is menstruating, the milk changes a little in taste. While some babies are not affected at all, others notice it and suck a little less. Don’t worry if this is your case, because after a few days everything will go back to normal.

After postpartum confinement I had a bleed. Is that my period?

After childbirth there are some losses called loquios, those bleeds don’t have to last the whole postpartum confinement, far from it. All losses prior to 52 days postpartum are considered loquacious.

Any tricks to make your period as late as possible?

Although it is difficult to guarantee, there are some things we can do to delay the onset of a period as much as possible: 

  • Breast-feeding frequently, on demand, day and night. And especially at night.
  • Avoid the use of pacifiers and teats.
  • Breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months.

At the end of the third postpartum month, only 33% of breastfeeding women have had a menstrual period, while 91% of non-breastfeeding women have had at least one period.

period emoji. Nursing a baby while period

And if I do all this, why has my period returned?

Prolactin is produced in the pituitary gland, in the center of the brain, and it inhibits ovulation, but it is not foolproof. And sometimes, despite breastfeeding day and night and all the other considerations, your period comes back very soon.

When is it normal for me to get my period?

If you breastfeed, it is almost certain (if you follow the recommendations above) that you will not see your period for the first six months. From then on, and with the start of complementary feeding, it is more likely that your period will return. There is no such thing as “normality” and it is a mystery to know when your period will return.

Will I have less milk?

This is a complicated point. As far as we know, there should not be a drop in production, but many mothers report that they do notice it, which often makes them very anxious. For some women, the decreased milk supply and associated nipple sensitivity are a monthly challenge.

Treatment for these symptoms associated with returning periods is considered by adding a calcium/magnesium supplement to the diet after ovulation and continuing it until the second or third day of a period. The supplement should be 1500mg calcium / 750mg magnesium, but can be as low as 500mg calcium / 250mg magnesium (the higher the dose, the more effective and faster the results).

It should be a combination pill, as this amount of calcium should never be taken alone.

nursing baby while menstruation

Is all bleeding menstrual?

Not all vaginal bleeding is menstruation; and it is likely that the first bleeding will be anovulatory (no expulsion of the egg from the ovaries).

The intensity of breastfeeding and the time after birth affect the occurrence of ovulation; 78% of women ovulated before their first menstruation.

My baby doesn’t seem to want to breastfeed, why?

Sometimes they notice small variations in the taste of the milk and reject it. It seems that during menstruation the milk may be slightly more salty, which makes some little ones uncomfortable.

Why do my nipples hurt?

As estrogen and progesterone increase from the beginning of ovulation and at the end of the luteal phase, the sensitivity of the nipples increases. This discomfort can remain until the start of menstruation, without much being done to relieve it.

best foods to eat while breastfeeding

My baby poops more. Why?

When we are menstruating, the prostaglandins in our milk increase. This hormone can cause more bowel movements in the baby and that’s why you may poop more temporarily.

Is it bad not to have your period that long?

Not at all, despite the fear of prolonged absence of menstruation, there is no risk to maternal health. On the contrary, sustained amenorrhea prevents anemia and decreases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Can I get pregnant again without having my period?

Of course you can, you just have to get it right at the moment of the first ovulation. If this happens, you can get pregnant without seeing your period.

How was the relationship between breastfeeding and period in your case? Did you notice any of the things we discussed?

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