With my first two children, despite breastfeeding exclusively and co-sleeping, my menstrual cycle returned about a month after delivery and remained on a normal cycle thereafter. So, when after my third child my period resumed and then suddenly stopped, I was admittedly a bit scared I was pregnant again despite always using protection. Upon attempting to research why exactly this would happen, all that could be found were forums, lots and lots of forums, that required a lot of reading to find even half answers. I decided to combine this info with some information from my mid-wife to provide answers for others who experience an irregular period while breastfeeding.
When should your period while breastfeeding resume, if at all?
When menstruation returns depends largely on how often you breastfeed and your personal hormone balance. According to the lactation experts at the La Leche League, on average those who exclusively breastfeed, including at night and delay the introduction of solid foods, do not have a period while breastfeeding for 14.6 months. About seven percent of women experience a period within the first six months postpartum, 37 percent within seven months to a year, 48 percent during the second year of their child’s life, and a mere eight percent exceed year two, likely from the introduction of solid foods. These percentages are not accurate for those who supplement with formula or introduce solid foods within the first year. Menstruation is also more likely to return in mothers whose infants sleep longer at night. The rule is, the more a baby nurses, the higher the chance there will be no period while breastfeeding.
Are irregular periods normal while breastfeeding? Can menstruation stop as a result of breastfeeding?
Yes. You may experience irregular periods or spotting as a result of variances in the hormones released while breastfeeding. This could be a result of a decrease in nursing from say, a sickness in your baby, teething, getting a sitter, or just changes in appetite. This is why some women may have a first period after delivery, and maybe even begin having a normal period while breastfeeding, and then stop as an increase in nursing can cause menstruation to stop. Your own hormonal balance prior to breastfeeding may also affect how your cycle functions while nursing. This explains why in two previous pregnancies I had experienced a period while breastfeeding, but not with the third, my third baby was a piglet–always nursing. Unfortunately, thanks to the volatile nature of hormones while nursing, there is no “normal” menstrual cycle while breastfeeding, but that also means there is no abnormal.
Can you get pregnant while breasting?
Finally, with all those missed or irregular periods, how are you supposed to know if you are pregnant? Can you get pregnant at all? Yep. It’s a pretty huge misconception that you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding. In most women fertility is decreased while breastfeeding, but not non-existent. You can be on the look-out for other pregnancy symptoms if you experience no periods at all, especially when protective measures may have failed, or if you want to be extra cautious take a pregnancy test every month.
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