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Often we think about menstruation being directly connected to fertility, but did you know it is also associated with breastfeeding? Yep, breastfeeding and periods can go hand in hand. Whether you’re currently awaiting your period to come back after childbirth, or hoping that it doesn’t return quickly, we cover everything you need to know about breastfeeding, periods, and other changes your amazing body experiences after childbirth.
One of the key hormones involved in breastfeeding, prolactin, works to increase milk supply which simultaneously can prevent menstruation. Because of this, periods and breastfeeding are interlinked. Oxytocin, the other key hormone involved with breastfeeding, can help to relax a new mother’s uterus after birth which results in a faster healing process. This uterus reflex may produce some blood, but is not always the main sign that a period has returned.
Prolactin suppresses menstruation, but this doesn’t mean that your period will abruptly stop while nursing; sometimes light bleeding is common with other menstruation symptoms. Keep in mind that like a menstruation cycle, breastfeeding affects your hormones. The longer you breastfeed, the less likely you will experience a normal period.
Periods often start to come back around the same time that you start weaning your baby from breast milk (9-18 months). A recent study found that on average, less than 25% of women menstruate by 6 months postpartum.
Periods can also start while breastfeeding if your baby is sleeping more often, or doing a combination feeding schedule with formula. Ultimately, the less you breastfeed, the more likely your periods will return back to normal. Periods are less likely to start if you are consistently breastfeeding throughout the day, or co-sleeping with your baby.
It is completely normal for periods to start and stop while breastfeeding. It all depends on how often you breastfeed. The more often you exclusively breastfeed, the less quickly your period will return to normal. If you are suffering from consistent spotting or heavy bleeding, visit your doctor to make sure there aren’t any underlying health issues. Remember that once you start ovulating during breastfeeding, you can get pregnant again.
Because prolactin helps you produce milk while preventing ovulation, the more milk you are producing, the more likely your period will stop. This is common for mothers who exclusively breastfeed day and night. If you want to stop your period while breastfeeding, spend as much time with your baby as possible while staying away from supplementing with bottles and pacifiers.
Periods can affect breast milk, but it’s often not something to be concerned about. Listen to your body and accommodate any changes you experience, you got this, mama!
While your period does not affect the quality and nutritious value of your breast milk, it can affect your milk supply. During your menstruation period, you may produce less milk due to lower prolactin levels. This is not something to worry about, but your baby may want to feed more frequently when you are producing less.
Your period can also affect the taste of your milk, causing your baby to become fussy during feeding time. If your baby eats less during this time, be sure to express the same amount of milk that you would during a normal feeding time.
Our bodies are amazing. Your period may come and go during the baby years, but know it’s all normal. Like everything else...you got this. Want to learn more about all-things breastfeeding related? From exclusive pumping schedules to hand expression tips, we’ve got you covered. Join the Willow community today!
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