Menstruation and Breastfeeding – Everything You Need To Know
One of the biggest blessing during those 9+ months of pregnancy – apart from the baby of course – was the fact that you did not get your periods. Every woman, whether she has problematic periods or not, finds its absence a “yaay” moment. However, once you give birth to the child, you know that the blessing would not last for a long time now.
We tend to have a lot of questions and concerns around periods – ,when will I get my first periods after pregnancy? Can you get periods when you are breastfeeding? If yes, will it impact breastfeeding? Is it a sign that you should wean the baby off breast feed? Will the periods after pregnancy be different? Will I have more bleeding or less? How will I manage the pain and discomfort while taking care of the new born? Do the questions look familiar? Read on.
When Will You Get Your First Period After Pregnancy?
Experts say this – almost anything is considered normal! Some women get their first periods within 2 months of giving birth. Some women do not get it for 2 years. Some women – hold your breath – will get it right after giving birth. All the above scenarios are considered normal. However, you will still be curious if you will get it sooner or later. Here are some factors that will affect the timing of the first menstruation:
Frequency of breastfeeding: More you feed, later will be the periods
Baby being on formula: If baby is on formula-fed as well, then you will get periods sooner
Baby’s sleep schedule: The longer your baby sleeps in the night, faster will the periods appear
Baby’s food: If baby is on solids, then he will be less dependent on your breast milk and this is a welcome sign for the body to start ovulation
You can find more in detail on this here Essentially it comes down to this:
You will get periods sooner if you wean the baby off from breast milk or if you use bottle feed or if you introduce solid foods or if he gets uninterrupted sleep in the night and if you nurse less frequently. You will get periods later if you breastfeed exclusively, do not give the child bottle or solids and co-sleeps with the child. The science behind this is simple. When baby sucks your nipples for milk, it stimulates your body to release a hormone named prolactin. High levels of prolactin in the body is known to keep the body from ovulating – hence avoiding periods. This is nature’s way of holding off conception or pregnancy.
Of course, there is a big disclaimer here. Your body type also plays a big role in deciding when you will get your periods. So, even if you are exclusively breastfeeding, you might get your periods in 2-3 months. And even if your baby is on solids, you might not get periods for a year. So exceptions are definitely there. Which brings us back to what the experts say about this – anything is considered normal!
How Will Periods Impact Breastfeeding?
Okay, now you have accepted the fact that the periods are bound to return sooner or later, even when you are breastfeeding. So the next biggest question is, how menses will impact your breastfeeding. Here are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
Will the breast milk’s taste change?Yes, there will be a slight change in the breast milk due to hormonal changes during ovulation and periods. You will notice this change if your baby suddenly turns his head away from your breast after tasting the milk. However, this does not mean that the milk has gone bad or that you need to start weaning the baby off it. It just means that there is slight taste change and the baby – who is very sensitive – noticed it. The taste will return to normal in few days.
Will the milk supply reduce?Yes, there might be a drop in the milk supply. You will notice this when your baby demands feeds more frequently. Again this is caused by hormones. Once your periods are over and hormones stabilizes, the milk supply will go up once again. So, nothing to worry.
Will the milk be as nutritious during periods? Absolutely. Your breast milk will continue to be the best thing you can do for your baby. It will be as healthy and nutritious as before.
Will you face any difficulty during breastfeeding?Yes, you might. Tenderness of the nipple is something most women complain of during menstruation after pregnancy. This might cause some discomfort during breastfeeding, but again this is not damaging.
All this looks complicated. Should I just wean my baby off breast milk? When to wean is definitely your decision, but menstruation should not be a contributing factor to that decision. This is because all the changes you are feeling are just a play of hormones and it will all stabilize. Your milk is still very healthy for your child. And breastfeeding while having periods causes no health threat to you or the baby. So why stop?
How Can I Make Myself And My Baby More Comfortable During Periods When I Am Nursing?
Let us deal with you first: Use comfortable sanitary napkins. Experts do not recommend tampons as there are higher risks of bacterial infections. Your usual pads will do – but if you are experiencing more-than-normal bleeding, then use your maternity pads for a while. Keep infections at bay by changing pads every 4 hours
Now the baby: The shortage in milk supply is what will bother him the most. One of the easiest fix for this is to feed the baby more often. You can also opt for many natural ways to increase breast milk – like including fenugreek seeds (methi), iron-rich foods like meat and green leafy vegetables in your diet. There are also over-the-counter medicines available that can increase your breast milk. Taking multivitamins can also help. Please check with your doctor before taking any medicines though. Read more about this here: 5 Natural And Simple Ways To Increase Breast-milk
When Should I See A Doctor For Periods After Pregnancy?
We know we said anything is normal when it comes to menstruation after pregnancy. But watch out for the following signs. If you notice them, then it is advisable you take your doctor’s consult to ensure everything is alright with you.
If the bleeding continues for more than a week and is bright red in color throughout (usually the bleeding will turn darker or lighter towards the end)
While spotting blood clots in your pad is normal, big blood clots, if seen often requires to be checked by the doctor. (you would know what is not normal for you in terms of blood clot size and frequency)
If the vaginal discharge has a very bad odor, it might be a sign of infection and again needs a doctor consult. Of course, the discharge is foul smelling even normally. Again, you would know what is abnormal here
If you experience pain, that is far more than the usual menstrual cramps, then again your doctor might want to examine you
If you thought that your periods were coming to an end as the quantity and the color decreased/lightened, and then you suddenly start seeing bright red bleeding again, then please consult your doctor to rule out any internal bleeding
Once again, these are all rare abnormalities and you do not need to panic with a little extra bleeding or cramps.
Can I Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding, But Before Menstruation Strikes?
Although this article is not about pregnancy, we wanted to address this question here as it is one of the biggest misconception among everyone. Even the educated class misunderstands the science behind it. Yes, technically, menstruation is the sign of ovulation happening and you can get pregnant only if you ovulate. However, you need to remember that ovulation happens before you get your first periods. So you have no way of knowing yourself at a given point of time if you are ovulating or not. So if you engage in unprotected sex during this time, then you might just get pregnant! This is why most doctors would talk to you about contraception and protected sex before discharging you.
So ladies, the monthly “aunt’s visit” will resume, whether she is welcome or not. But there is no need to fear or worry about it. You are a rock star mom, and will continue to be so, periods or not.