Breastfeeding And Your Period- What You Need To Know

period and breastfeeding

Getting a break from your period is one of the perks of being pregnant, but now that your baby is here, you may be wondering if you can predict when your cycle will resume. Well, since we’re dealing with hormones, the answer is not clear-cut or particularly reliable. Lactation suppresses the hormones responsible for your menstrual cycle, a process called lactational amenorrhea. Generally speaking, the more exclusively you breastfeed, the longer you are likely to be period-free. 

However, there is no guarantee that your cycle will remain on pause just because you breastfeed. There are some contributing factors that may help you to get an idea of whether you will be someone who experiences the return of your period before you expect it. Read on to learn more about menstruation and breastfeeding.

Why did my period return while breastfeeding? 

There are a variety of factors that contribute to when your period will return. Although it is common for breastfeeding to delay it, the length of delay will vary from person to person. 

Considerations:

  • Your body chemistry (hormones!)
    • Some people naturally have higher or lower levels of fertility hormones like progesterone and estrogen, which play a role in the ease of getting pregnant.
  • How frequently you nurse or pump for your baby
    • When your body releases milk, it suppresses the release of hormones that would allow your body to prepare for a new pregnancy. Therefore, the less time between nursing or pumping sessions, the less likely those hormones will be to release. 
  • How often your baby eats from a bottle

Those who nurse exclusively and often, without long periods of time in between nursing sessions, tend to not have their cycle return for several months, or even as long as a year or more! However if your baby gets bottles, even if they are breast milk bottles, your period may return much more quickly.

How Does My Period Affect My Breastfed Baby?

Your period has little impact on your breastfed baby. While milk composition does change a bit during this time, and it may have a slightly saltier taste, it has no negative effect on your baby. Your milk is still perfectly healthy and nutritious! 

Will My Period Affect My Milk Supply?

For some, milk supply is unaffected by their cycle. For others, breast milk production can drop during ovulation (mid-cycle), until the first day or two of the next menstrual period. 

While this hormonal supply dip can be stressful, keep in mind that your supply will increase again once your hormones return to their normal levels. Keep reading to learn how to protect your supply if you do notice a dip during your menstrual cycle.

How Can I Increase Or Maintain My Milk Supply During My Period?
  • Take a calcium/magnesium supplement
    • Typically, the drop in milk supply is caused by the dropping of blood calcium levels during your cycle. To combat this, a calcium/magnesium supplement (not calcium alone) is recommended. The typical dosage is either 500mg/250mg or 1500mg/750mg (calcium/magnesium, respectively). The magnesium allows for the calcium to be better absorbed, making it the perfect combination!
    • If you plan on taking any supplements, we highly recommend speaking with your lactation consultant first. We’re here to help create an individualized plan!
  • Eat a varied diet rich in galactagogues.
    • Oats, brewers yeast, dark cherries, leafy greens
    • These foods are not only said to help boost milk production, but they also are great for supporting a healthy diet.
    • Read more about galactagogues in our article here.
  • Maintain hydration
    • Hydration plays a vital role in breast milk production. Be sure to stay hydrated to help your supply!
    • To learn more about hydration and using electrolytes to optimize your efforts, read our article here.
  • Frequent milk removal and power pumping. 
    • At the end of the day, one of the best ways to boost supply is to frequently remove milk.
    • Power pumping mimics cluster feeding, which tricks the body into making more milk. We highly recommend that if you experience a dip in supply during your period, you pump on and off for about an hour, with 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off. 

One last consideration to keep in mind is that once your cycle returns, it is a good time to look into the different forms of contraceptives. Read our article to learn more about the options, and find a birth control method that works best for you and your needs.

We understand that the return of a menstrual cycle can be intimidating and frustrating, but we are here to support and help you if you need us.