All About Breastfeeding and Your Period

Lochia, Return of Menstruation, Breast Milk Supply, Fertility, and Sore Nipples

Young Woman With Period. Menstruation, Breastfeeding and Breast Milk Supply?
How does your period affect breastfeeding and your breast milk supply?. Chris Andrews / Getty Images

Your body goes through many changes while you're pregnant, during childbirth, and as you breastfeed. One of these changes has to do with your menstrual cycle. Missing a period is one of the first signs of pregnancy, and while you're pregnant, the hormones in your body keep your period away. Then, if you decide to breastfeed, your period may stay away for weeks, months, or longer. 

What About The Bleeding Right After Childbirth?

The bleeding that you'll have right after your baby is born may seem like a period but it's not actually a period.

It's called lochia, and it consists of blood, mucus, and tissue from the lining of your uterus. Lochia starts out as bright red bleeding. It can be very heavy, and it may contain blood clots. After a few days, the bleeding will start to slow down and turn pink or paler in color. Then, as the days go on, it will turn brown and eventually yellow or white. Lochia and spotting can last for up to six weeks.  

When Will You Get Your First Postpartum Period?

You could get your first period as early as six weeks after the birth of your baby. If you don't breastfeed, you can usually expect menstruation to return within three months. However, everybody is different, so the time frame varies from one woman to the next. Even if you do breastfeed, you could get your period back right away. But, it's possible that breastfeeding will put off the return of your menstrual cycle for many months, a year, or even longer.

Your period may stay away longer if you are breastfeeding exclusively around the clock. Once you start breastfeeding less often because your baby is sleeping through the night or you have started weaning, your period is more likely to return. Although, for some women, menstruation does not return until a few months after breastfeeding has completely ended.

Pumping or expressing breast milk by hand does not have the same effect on your body as breastfeeding does, so you will not be able to hold off your period unless you continue to put your baby to the breast. When your period does return, it will continue to come each month. You will not be able to stop it again by breastfeeding more.

Breastfeeding and the Return of Your Fertility

Once you start to get your period again, you can consider yourself fertile. Although, there is a chance of becoming pregnant even before your period comes back since you can ovulate, release an egg from your ovary, before your period returns. So, if you're involved in an intimate relationship, and you're not using birth control, you may find yourself expecting again without ever getting your first postpartum period.

If you're not ready to have another baby right away, you may want to consider birth control.  Your doctor will most likely talk to you about your birth control options during your first postpartum doctor visit at approximately 4 to 6 weeks after your baby is born. If not, bring it up and be sure to tell her that you're breastfeeding since some types of birth control can interfere with your supply of breast milk.

Is It OK to Breastfeed While You Have Your Period?

You do not need to wean your baby once your period returns. Breastfeeding while you have your period is not harmful to your child at all. The quality of your breast milk is still good. However, hormonal changes that happen around the time of your period can cause the taste of your breast milk to change, and you may also notice a decrease in your breast milk supply. Occasionally, these changes will cause the baby to become fussy or refuse to nurse, but this usually only lasts a few days.

How Will Your Period Affect Your Milk Supply?

While you have your period, you may experience a drop in your breast milk supply.

If you notice your supply is lower during your period, you can try to increase your breast milk supply naturally. You can also try an herbal breastfeeding tea, or another galactagogue to help boost your milk supply. Talk to your doctor, a lactation consultant or a local breastfeeding group for advice and assistance.

It's also important to continue to see the pediatrician regularly to be sure your baby is getting enough breast milk and consistently gaining weight. If your breast milk supply does go down to a point where your child is not getting enough, the pediatrician may recommend a supplement.

Breastfeeding, Your Period, and Sore Nipples

Another breastfeeding issue that you may experience when your period returns is sore nipples. For a few days before your period starts, it may be a little uncomfortable to breastfeed your baby. Try not to let the pain prevent you from breastfeeding. Continue to breastfeed so you can maintain your supply of breast milk and prevent problems such as breast engorgement, blebs, plugged milk ducts, and mastitis.



American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

Visness CM, Kennedy KI, Ramos R. The duration and character of postpartum bleeding among breast-feeding women. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 1997. Feb 1;89(2):159-63.

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