Periods And Breastfeeding

Perhaps one of my more personal posts, but a post that I think is important to discuss, because I can't say that I had any forewarning when I was pregnant, or once I'd given birth, about the changes that might happen to periods especially when breastfeeding.

I know this is a nitty gritty subject, and perhaps one that people often shy away from, however, it's natural and normal and why shouldn't we be able to be open about it?

This blog post is not medical advice, this is written from my own experience and so is purely my own views. If in doubt, always talk to your doctor!

'How long will it take for me to get a period after giving birth?' 'how long will I bleed for after having my baby?' 'can you get a period whilst breastfeeding?' 'is it normal to not have a period whilst breastfeeding?'. The list really is endless about periods and breastfeeding

From personal experience, which I've more than likely mentioned before, I found that once I'd 'ticked' the box to say that I had chosen to try to breastfeed, then all of the support seemed to disappear. There seems to be a huge pressure on women whilst pregnant, and almost immediately after birth, that says that you should breastfeed. Again, if you've followed my blog, you'll know that I'm very passionate about breastfeeding, and also trying to spread support and advice about breastfeeding where I can. Of course, I'm no expert, and I can only give advice based on my own experience, but I think having these discussions about breastfeeding are really very important. 

Anyway, so you've 'ticked' that box, but now what? Does any new, especially first-time, mums really know what they are doing when it comes to breastfeeding? Do you know the changes that breastfeeding will cause your body to go through? Maybe, maybe not. I didn't!

After birth

As you may also have known, my birth story involves an elective c-section. As a first-time mum I wasn't sure what to expect after birth, in terms of bleeding afterwards. It was never really spoken about in depth, other than 'you might bleed for a few weeks' and 'you might get painful after pains'. Brilliant, so informative. However, what I didn't know was that breastfeeding can cause a mother to bleed more at the beginning. 

In my experience, I did have a haemorrhage during my surgery, and so they wanted to monitor my bleeding whilst I was in recovery, and once I had been taken to my ward. Within 10-15 minutes of being in recovery, I had given Edith her very first breast feed. Obviously, I had no idea what I was doing, but luckily Edith seemed to have a good idea of what she needed to try doing (I know this isn't the same for everyone, again this is just my experience). 

Edith was latched to me, for what seemed like a long time. Probably to try and trigger my milk coming in quicker. With breastfeeding you really do have to feed on demand to make sure that you produce enough milk for your baby's needs. However, what you may not have also been told is that breastfeeding can cause the uterus to contract back down to it's original, post-pregnancy size, much quicker than not breastfeeding. With that in mind, more bleeding might come as a result, which was exactly what happened in my case. However, although all was normal in my recovery, any heavy bleeding, heavy pain and/or clotting should always be mentioned to a healthcare professional.

Establishing breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is tiring. It's not as easy as sticking the baby on and then getting on with your time. Our bodies work hard to make breast milk. Your body is busy creating nutrition and anti-bodies and it take a lot of effort on your body, as well as going through all of the changes to adapt to life without a pregnancy and learning it's new norm.

So, once you've established breastfeeding, you may have continued to bleed for those few weeks after birth, or you may not have bled for very long. Everyone is different. However, once your post-birth bleeding has finished, it may take a long time for your periods to come back again, they might not come back whilst breastfeeding, or you may jump back in to how your cycles used to be pre-pregnancy. 

In my experience, my periods completely disappeared. In the long short of it, I did not get my first period until Edith was 16 months old, making it more than two years since my last natural period (the period before falling pregnant). It really surprised me, but I'm definitely not complaining! 

'Can I get pregnant even though I'm breastfeeding?'

There are so many different pieces of conflicting advice out there. Whilst I was in the hospital I was practically pounced on by midwives insisting that I needed to be on contraception, almost immediately as women tend to be highly fertile once they have given birth. At my six week check with my GP, I was told that breastfeeding in itself serves as it's own form of natural contraception. I couldn't believe how different that advice was, and in all honestly I find it so dangerous that the advice was so conflicting! 

So, ladies, even if you're not having periods, it doesn't mean that you aren't ovulating. Sure, in the normal way of things, ovulation=periods (unless you fertilise the egg, of course!), however, like I've mentioned, breastfeeding can stop your periods. However, this won't stop you from getting pregnant, so unless you want more pitter patter feet, make sure you're on contraception! If you are breastfeeding, the different options of contraception are worth considering as some of the hormones can be passed through in breast milk so definitely check beforehand!

'What will my periods be like after having my baby?'

Again, every woman is different and there is no one size fits all. It's about what's finding what's normal for you, as an individual. It's honestly like starting from scratch all over again to find out if you're regular, irregular, whatever. It's a whole new learning curve, learning about your new body and what your new normal is. 

It seems to be pretty common that the first period isn't great (are they ever?). They can be super heavy, especially if breastfeeding has stopped you from having a period in a long time. They can also be longer than normal, however after a week of bleeding, it is suggested to speak to your doctor to make sure everything is ok.

In my personal experience, there was no pain other than a few cramps, however the bleeding was heavier than I had anticipated and heavier than I had pre-birth.

'Can my periods affect my breast milk?'

After a lot of reading, and searching online, the general gist was that your period could affect your breastmilk in that you may not feel like you're producing as much, or your baby may want to feed more than normal, or your baby might not want to feed as much as normal. Again, it really just depends on your own body.

I want to point out that when your baby is feeding more than normal, it does not indicate that you don't have enough milk. Your baby may want comfort, they may be having a growth spurt and so are feeding more to trigger your breasts into making more milk, or they may simply want to just feed, the list is endless. The indicators that your baby is getting enough are:

  • Regular wet and dirty nappies
  • Feed on demand as and when your baby wants to
  • Baby is gaining weight

Your milk production can be influenced by your own menstrual cycle, and hormones can cause boobies to feel more tender, or fuller. However, you may not even notice (I didn't!). I did notice that Edith was wanting 'boobies' more often on the few days that approached the start of my first period, however that was the only thing that had changed. Other than that, I had no indication that a period was looming!

I hope this post was a bit helpful, or at least brings peace of mind that we are all different and we just have to find our own normal!

How were your periods during your breastfeeding journey?

Thanks, lovelies.


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