Last Updated on February 8, 2023 by Jada Glover
Many mamas wonder when their menstrual cycle or period will return after having their baby. If that’s you, I understand, mama! To fill you in on a little secret, I didn’t get mine back until my son was over two years old. In this post, I’m going to explain all the details about your period and breastfeeding milk supply.
Reasons Why Your Period May Return
- Baby is sleeping through the night.
- You’re bottle-feeding rather than feeding on demand at the breast.
- You’re nursing, but not exclusively.
- Baby is sleeping longer stretches of at least 5-6 hours at night.
- Baby is not relying on you solely for nourishment because you’re supplementing with something like donor milk or formula.
- Baby is older than six months, and they’re getting complementary foods through baby-led eating with solid foods.
- Your baby’s primary source of nutrition or nourishment is no longer breastmilk.
- You start weaning your baby.
Any of the above reasons may trigger your period to return. According to the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, which is written by La Leche League Leaders, almost all mothers who are fully breastfeeding their babies are free of menstrual periods, three to six months or longer.
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, your period will likely stay at bay for three to six months or longer. Most breastfeeding mothers will resume their periods between nine and 18 months after your baby’s birth.
My son was not very interested in solid foods until he was at least 12 months old, we introduced baby-led feeding when he was ready, around month seven. We also co-sleep, which may be another reason why he still nurses two to three times during the night.
I’ve stopped keeping track of when he wakes up in the night. I just know that he does, and he’s looking for mama to nurse him back to sleep. Everyone’s situations, babies, and preferences are different. Everyone has a different idea of what works for them, how they prefer to sleep. I mention these things because they may be a contributing factor as to whether or not your period returns, and when it returns.
How Your Period Affects Breastfeeding Milk Supply
Now let’s talk about your period and breastfeeding milk supply. You’re more likely to experience a drop in quantity during the second half of your menstrual cycle, around the time of your period. Not all women experience a decrease in supply. If you do, though, I’m going to give you some tips to help manage it.
Getting your period can also cause hormonal changes in your breasts, making it less comfortable to nurse your baby. Your nipples may be more sensitive during this time as well. Although temporary, these hormonal changes can cause discomfort while breastfeeding. Don’t give up on these days; they will pass!
Did you know your period can cause your breastmilk to change taste? This may occur during the pre-menstrual phase of your cycle. You may notice that your baby drinks less or doesn’t want to drink or nurse at all. This may be because they don’t like the taste of your breast milk during this time. Research tells us that the make-up of your milk changes; it becomes saltier and less sweet around the time of ovulation.
Magnesium and Calcium Supplementation
If you experience a drop in milk supply, you may be able to improve your milk supply by taking a daily dose of calcium and magnesium supplements the two weeks before your period starting until about three days after. This combination of magnesium and calcium shows it may help minimize a drop in supply. It doesn’t increase calcium levels in your breast milk necessarily, but it can relieve symptoms of PMs, and that’s if it’s taken for several months. And many breastfeeding mothers have difficulty metabolizing calcium during the latter half of their menstrual cycle.
This explains why supplementation helps in that regard—taking 1000 milligrams of calcium per day and 500 milligrams of calcium per day.
It’s important to note that these supplements don’t absorb well in the body when you pair them together, taking them at the same time. So you’ll want to take the calcium before a meal and the magnesium after for the best absorption.
Tips to Manage Your Period While Breastfeeding
- If you’re experiencing a loss in supply, try not to get upset. Stay calm for you and your baby. Practice breathwork if your nipples are sensitive during this time.
- Supplement with previously expressed milk if you need to, and nurse as much as you possibly can to tell your body to keep producing milk.
- Try magnesium and calcium supplementation.
- Stay well hydrated and eat whole, nourishing foods.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Try including lactogenic foods in your diet, like oats, fennel, flax seeds.
Always keep an eye on your baby to ensure she/he is getting plenty of milk during this time, especially if you notice a decrease in supply. You can look for appropriate diaper count and adequate weight gain. Read more about signs to look for in my post here- What to Do If Your Milk Supply is Low and get my free tips for increasing your milk supply by filling in the form below.