Why did I get my period back if I’m exclusively nursing/pumping?
That’s difficult to answer. Many mommas can go their entire breastfeeding journey without the return of their period. This is called “Lactational amenorrhea”- a period of temporary infertility that accompanies breastfeeding and is marked by the absence of monthly periods. According to LLL, “In 1988, scientists and fertility specialists gathered in Italy at the Bellagio Consensus Conference to define the conditions for using lactation amenorrhea as birth control. They established that in order for LAM to be effective three important conditions must be met:
- The infant is less than six months old,
- The menstrual cycle is absent, and
- The baby is exclusively breastfeeding.”
And since you’re going to ask, YES… exclusive pumping counts under #3.
Important note: The “Lactational Amenorrhea Method” of birth control can provide a certain level of protection, but please note that as soon as you get your period back, you are considered fertile. And even before you get your period back, there is a possibility you could become pregnant, because sometimes women ovulate before they get their first postpartum period.
However, your period can return at any time, especially if you are nursing or pumping infrequently (like when you are not removing milk overnight or when you begin supplementing.)
Oh crap, there goes my milk supply…
Scenario- Your period DID come back, and there went your milk supply. *facepalm* So… is your milk supply going to come back? Many mommas experience a decrease in supply after their period returns. For some, this dip in supply only happens during menstruation. For others, the dip is more permanent.
Why did my period affect my milk supply? Hormones are powerful, momma…. remember, hormones are the reason you are lactating in the first place, right? They giveth and they can taketh away! When your cycle returns, the increase in estrogen causes a decrease in calcium levels in your blood, which can interfere with milk supply. (Which is a reason you might have been prescribed an estrogen-free birth control option, if that applies to you.)
So… can I bring back my milk supply after getting my period?
There are a few things you can try that have worked for many mommas… no guarantee, but why not give it a try? Deep breath… it’s gonna be ok!
- Take a calcium-magnesium supplement (This is my go-to advice. Some mommas take it during their period week, some take it every day. Just make sure you get a vitamin with these combined- affects absorption) As always, consult your healthcare provider before starting supplements.
- Add additional pumping sessions into your schedule.
- Pump slightly longer, stopping then starting to initiate a second or third let-down, try power-pumping once a day for a week straight in an attempt to boost demand on supply.
- Galactologues! Foods like oatmeal, flax, brewer’s yeast, and many herbal supplements can increase milk supply. Increase intake of Iron-rich foods, protein and healthy fats.
My period is so much different now…
Did you know that your period might change when it returns after baby? Some mothers have cramping when they didn’t before, fewer PMS symptoms than before, a lighter or heavier flow than before, or irregular periods as their body begins cycling more regularly post-baby. (For some, there is no change. Just don’t be surprised if you do experience a change.)
If you are concerned at all about your period/period symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider.
Ouch! Why does pumping suddenly hurt since my period returned?
Another unpleasant side-effect of the return of your period can be increased sensitivity of your nipples. When hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone) go up, breasts can feel tender. Nursing and pumping can become uncomfortable during mid-to-late cycle. Ease off on the suctions strength of your pump during this time and know that it’s usually temporary discomfort!
Baby seems to be fussy during feeding now.
Another side-effect from the return of your period is that the flavor of your breastmilk may temporarily change, becoming less sweet and slightly saltier. Levels of lactose (sugar) decrease in your milk composition, and levels of sodium chloriade (salt) increase. While many babies don’t notice the change, some may become fussy during feeding and even reject the milk altogether.
If your baby refuses to nurse, protect your supply by pumping in place of nursing until your period is over.
If baby rejects your pumped milk, try mixing it with frozen milk or adding a drop of nonalcoholic vanilla. If you are supplementing with formula, try preparing the formula as directed and mixing it with the breastmilk.
When did your period come back? Did it affect your milk supply? What worked for you?