Irregular Periods While Breastfeeding

When a woman’s body goes through such a major change as pregnancy and giving birth, one side effect of this and subsequently breastfeeding a child is irregular periods. Any women can face issues related to irregular periods when breastfeeding. Even women who had a perfectly regular menstrual calendar before pregnancy can experience disruption to their cycle.

Is It Normal to Have Irregular Periods While Breastfeeding?

It is quite normal to experience irregular periods during breastfeeding. While breastfeeding, it not at all uncommon for a woman to have a period one month and then miss the next two cycles. However, if you continue to have irregular periods when breastfeeding has stopped, it is recommended that you consult your GP.

Why Does It Happen?

During the breastfeeding process, the pituitary gland releases the hormone prolactin which helps to produce breast milk, but it also suppresses ovulation. Prolactin also suppresses levels of estrogen, which can lead to lactational amenorrhea that can make your periods irregular or stop them altogether.

What Affects Your Period While Breastfeeding?

There are a number of different factors that can alter the regularity of menstrual cycle and cause irregular periods while breastfeeding, these include:

  • Hormones
  • Nursing style
  • A switch to bottle–feeding
  • Uninterrupted sleep
  • Nursing duration

While your hormonal changes cannot be altered or changed, factors like your sleeping pattern, your nursing style and your nursing duration can be directly affected by choices that you make. A good night’s sleep allows the body to fully regenerate and therefore stand a better chance of retaining a regular cycle. Sharing the nightly baby care load with a partner, for example, could be the key to getting your periods back quickly onto a regular cycle.

A regimen that combines breastfeeding and bottle-feeding means that you do not have to be nursing all the time, and the sooner your baby moves on to full time bottle-feeding, the sooner your menstrual cycle will begin to regulate itself again.

However, if for any reason you do not wish for your periods to come back quickly, then it is perfectly acceptable to continue to breast feed until your baby reaches an appropriate stage to stop.

Is It Safe to Breastfeed During a Period?

Yes. There is no evidence to suggest that you need to wean your baby when your period starts to return. Nursing whilst menstruating is not harmful to your baby at all, and it does nothing to reduce the quality of the milk that you produce. However, certain hormonal changes that occur when you begin menstruation again might cause a change in taste to your breast milk, and there may be a slight decrease in the amount that you are able to produce. In these instances, you may find that your baby becomes fussy about the new taste and amounts, but this fussiness usually only lasts for days.

What to Do If You Experience Milk Reduction

If you experience a reduction in milk production when your periods return, you can attempt to increase the supply through a number of natural remedies including drinking a nursing tea, and there are also different vitamins and mineral supplements that you can take to encourage an increased production. Before trying any of these remedies, it is recommended that you consult with a doctor to discuss your symptoms and options.

During this time, you should also continue to see a pediatrician on a regular basis to make sure that your baby is actually getting enough milk in to their body and is gaining sufficient weight. You will need to start on a course of supplements immediately if your baby is not getting the sustenance that it needs.

When Should Your Regular Period Resume After Giving Birth?

You may experience irregular periods while breastfeeding, but your period should become normal after some time.

Nursing Mothers

As we have discussed, breastfeeding will almost certainly delay the return of your menstrual cycle for a period of time. A mother who has been exclusively breastfeeding, night and day since the birth of their baby can expect to wait up to six months before having a normal period again. The general rule is that the less often the baby nurses, the sooner your menstrual cycle will begin again.

Non-Nursing Mothers

If you have chosen to bottle-feed your baby with formula, you can expect to start menstruating again between one and three months after giving birth. If you have still not started your period after this time, you are advised to visit your doctor to explore any unforeseen or unexpected results. It may be the case that you are experiencing something called secondary amenorrhea.

All Mothers

It is important to remember that your body will release its first postpartum egg before you start to menstruate. Therefore, there is the potential of getting pregnant again if you are having sex but have not begun to have your periods again. It is a complete myth that a woman somehow becomes infertile while she is breastfeeding. In order to avoid any unwanted pregnancies, be sure to practice other forms contraception during this time. Again, consult with your doctor to discuss all of the options.

And lastly, do not be alarmed if your periods return and they are much heavier or lighter than they used to be. It may be a case of your body re-wiring itself until it reaches the level that you were at before you gave birth or it may find a new level that will become the norm.

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