I am currently nursing my third child. She is seven months old and still nurses 4~6 times a day. The problem? I started my period today! Yuck! With both of my other babies it took MONTHS after they weaned to get my period back. So what is going on? Do you think that my hormones are all out of whack or something? Should I call my OB/GYN? I am totally upset…one of the best parts for me about breastfeeding (besides a hundred other wonderful reasons to nurse) is not having a menstrual cycle!
Answer: It doesn’t sound to me like there is anything wrong at all. We nursing mothers consider not having a period one of the little “perks” associated with breastfeeding, but individual experiences vary widely.
During the period of exclusive breastfeeding (no supplements, night and day nursing, and little or no pacifier use) most moms won’t have a period during the first six months. If these conditions are met, breastfeeding is a very effective method of birth control (more than 98% protection).
However, once you introduce any supplemental foods (formula or solids) your baby will typically cut back on nursing and you will usually start your period within a few months.
When you consider how often babies nurse in the early stages of breastfeeding (newborns often eat 10-12 times or more in 24 hours), then you can see how only nursing 4 times a day might not be enough to suppress ovulation.
Some women will have periods even when they are exclusively nursing, but this is uncommon. Moms can nurse for months or years after starting their periods.
Some mothers (but not most) will notice a temporary decrease in their supply during their period, but it builds back up quickly.
Just be aware that you are now officially fertile again, so be careful!
The article Breastfeeding and Birth Control has more details about fertility cycles and nursing, as well as a discussion of the pros and cons of various birth control methods during lactation.
Anne Smith, IBCLC