I was always told that one of the perks of breastfeeding was that I wouldn’t have to deal with Aunt Flo for a good long while. Yay! Like every female I know, I was more than happy to say goodbye to her for a bit. And who the heck wants to deal with PMS, cramps, and bloody bathroom visits while parenting an infant for the first time? It seemed to me that nature had my back on this one.
Much to my surprise, I got my first postpartum period when my baby was just shy of 5 months old (he was exclusively breastfeeding around the clock, too). BLECH. Eff you, mother nature. It totally sucked.
After working with a zillion breastfeeding moms (both as a lactation consultant and volunteer breastfeeding counselor), I’ve since learned that it’s kind of a myth that exclusive breastfeeding keeps your period away. Or rather, it does for most women, but certainly not all. (Kind of like the losing weight from breastfeeding thing. For some, the pounds fly off while breastfeeding; for others, they stick around like stubborn jerks.)
So I present to you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about getting your period while breastfeeding (and my hope for you is that you don’t follow in my footsteps, and that bitch stays away for as long as bloody possible).
It varies A LOT, but most moms who are exclusively breastfeeding will not get a period.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding (no formula or solids), and you are doing so on demand, including in the middle of the night, it is very unlikely that you will get a period. Once you are nursing less, that can change things. And yes, there are exceptions (I’m one!), but this is the general trend.
Some very unlucky moms get their period very early on.
One of my best girlfriends got her period eight weeks after her baby was born. She was exclusively breastfeeding. At first, she thought it was just more postpartum bleeding, but nope. It was the real deal. She thought it was maybe a fluke, but the same exact thing happened with her second baby. Some women just don’t luck out in that department.
Some mothers don’t get a period the entire time they are breastfeeding.
I have another dear friend who breastfeeds her babies into toddlerhood and doesn’t get a period the entire time! That’s an extreme case, but lots of women who breastfeed past a year don’t get their periods back until their babies are 12–18 months. It’s totally normal, and you should enjoy it if you can. If you are aching to get pregnant, you might have to cut back on nursing to become fertile again because most (but not all!) women aren’t fertile until their periods return.
Your first postpartum period might be a little weird.
Some women report that their first periods are heavier and crampier than usual. Others report the opposite: that their periods are so light, they aren’t even sure if it “counts” (it does, especially in terms of fertility). If you think anything is really out of the ordinary, see your doctor, of course.
It can take a few months for your cycles to be regular.
Even after your get your period back, things may be wonky for a while. I remember not getting another period for six weeks after my first postpartum period (the only saving grace for its early arrival). Some women report spotting in between. Again, see your doctor if you have concerns, but it is normal for things to be irregular as your hormonal makeup adjusts.
A drop in milk supply is common during your period.
Because of the influx of progesterone right before our period, you might notice a little dip in milk supply then. Some moms don’t notice it so much, and some babies don’t really care (other babies get really pissed!). But if it is an issue, remember that it is temporary and won’t impact your supply overall. After the first day or two of your period, your supply should bounce back up.
As soon as you get your period back, you are fertile.
I almost never tell a mother to rely on breastfeeding as a means of birth control (I’ve seen quite a few moms get pregnant this way!), but most moms are unlikely to get pregnant while exclusively breastfeeding. As soon as your period returns, though, you are fertile, and if you want to avoid getting pregnant, you should think about protection.
…and you can get pregnant before you even get a postpartum period.
Little known fact: You can absolutely get pregnant before you even have a period. The reason why is that you can ovulate before your first postpartum period comes, and if the stars align (whomp whomp), you’ll be holding a baby in your arms nine months later. This is especially likely if you are past the exclusive breastfeeding stage, have an older baby, and are waiting for your first postpartum period to show up.
So why is there just so much variation when it comes to menstruation while breastfeeding? Well, all women are different, and they respond to the hormones of breastfeeding differently. For most, the hormone release that happens while exclusively breastfeeding is enough to suppress the menstrual hormones. For others, not so much. And it can totally vary from baby to baby too, depending on how frequent a nurser your baby is.
If you are one of the lucky ones who doesn’t get a period for many months while breastfeeding, kudos to you, and enjoy. And for the unlucky ladies out there, I feel your pain (literally). Feel free to come over anytime while you’re PMS-ing. We can chill in our sweatpants and nursing bras eating Ben & Jerry’s by the barrel. We deserve it.