Every woman knows that menstruation is important for pregnancy and fertility, but they may be surprised to learn that breastfeeding can affect their periods and vice-versa.
When you miss a period, it could be a sign of pregnancy, and you won’t have one for the duration of the pregnancy. Women who chose to breastfeed may find that their period could stay away for months. It’s important to know when your period could return and how it might affect your breastfeeding abilities and baby.
After having a baby, you will bleed much like you would on your period, but that isn’t traditional menstruation. Lochia is the mucus, blood, and uterine lining tissue. It starts out bright red and can be quite heavy or have blood clots in it. This slows down within a few days and turns pink. Then, it will become brown, yellow, and white. Sometimes, it lasts up to six weeks.
That First Post-Baby Period
Therefore, you can get your first menstrual period about six weeks after giving birth. Those who choose not to breastfeed may have to wait three months for their period to arrive. However, each woman is different, so this can vary.
Breastfeeding often puts your period off even longer. However, some women do get their period almost immediately when breastfeeding.
You might get your menstrual period sooner if you:
• Don’t breastfeed
• Breastfeed but not all the time
• Use bottles for feedings at times
• Begin weaning the baby
• Start providing your baby with solid foods
• Have a baby who is old enough to sleep through the night
Is It Safe to Breastfeed While on Your Period?
If your period returns sooner than later, you don’t have to wean your child from breastmilk. You can still breastfeed while on your period, and it won’t hurt the baby or you. Breast milk is nutritious and healthy. However, you should note that hormonal changes right before your period can affect the breast milk and how your baby eats for a few days.
How Menstruation Affects Breastfeeding
Some women don’t notice a change during their period while breastfeeding. If there are any, you and your baby aren’t likely to mind. However, there could be some issue, such as:
• Lowered supply of breast milk
• Nipple tenderness
• Taste of the breast milk
Research has shown that the breast milk composition can change in mid-cycle (around ovulation). Chloride and sodium levels in your milk may go up while potassium and lactose go down. Therefore, the nourishment may taste salty and less sweet at this time.
Around ovulation time and right before you start your period, progesterone and estrogen levels can change. This affects your milk and the breasts. When these levels go up, your breasts feel tender and full. High estrogen levels might interfere with the production of milk, as well. Some studies have shown that calcium levels within the blood go down after you ovulate. This might also reduce the amount of milk you produce and increase your chance of having sore nipples.
How to Deal with Tenderness in the Nipples
Many women have sore nipples when they get their period. Therefore, it could be more uncomfortable for breastfeeding in the days leading up to it. There are some tips to help you handle it and make it a little more bearable:
1. Try not to stop breastfeeding, even if there is some minor pain or discomfort.
2. Putting your baby to your breast ensures that you maintain the milk supply. Other breastfeeding problems can also be prevented. These include nipple blebs, breast engorgement, mastitis, and plugged milk ducts.
3. Never relieve the pain using a numbing cream. Such products could numb the baby’s mouth or interfere with your production of breastmilk.
4. You might be able to use an OTC pain reliever if your breasts hurt. Make sure to talk to your doctor about it first.
5. If it’s just impossible to breastfeed because of the pain, consider pumping the breast milk. This helps you maintain the milk supply while the nipple pain/tenderness passes. Plus, you can still provide your baby with breast milk, which is much healthier.
Tips to Help You Increase Low Milk Supply While on Your Period
Sometimes, your milk supply may decrease temporarily while you’re on your period. The dip can occur a few days before the period and will increase again when your hormones balance out. To help prevent the low supply of breast milk during your period, you could:
1. Use natural ways to build up the milk supply.
2. Drink herbal teas designed for promoting breast milk to boost production.
3. Eat the right foods, which include iron-rich items (leafy greens and red meat) and milk-producing foods (almonds, oatmeal, and fennel).
4. Drink a lot of water.
5. Try using supplements with high magnesium and calcium contents (up to 1,000mg calcium and 500mg magnesium) in the days leading up to and right after you start your period.
6. Talk to a lactation consultant or your doctor about other options.
Sometimes, the milk supply could drop too low; this could become dangerous for your baby. Make sure you:
• Watch for signs that your baby is still getting enough of your breast milk.
• Go to your pediatrician regularly and ensure that your baby is gaining weight and growing appropriately.
With these tips, you should be able to breastfeed your baby even if your period returns sooner. That way, you can support your baby’s growth and ensure that they have the best start in life. To learn more about this and other related topics, please fill out our contact form.