Your menstrual cycle eventually comes back after having a baby. But how do you know when to expect your period and what to expect when it comes back postpartum? Keep reading to learn more.
Your first postpartum period is different from the bleeding you have postpartum (called lochia). Lochia is a mixture of your uterine lining but your body is also shedding any tissue left over from the pregnancy. Lochia goes in stages from bright red, to rust red, to white, to clear over the course of a few weeks. Read more about lochia here, including learning what’s normal and when to call your provider.
Your postpartum period, however, is not the same as lochia. Your period is your cycle returning. You ovulate and have a chance of becoming pregnant! Here are some facts about your menstrual cycle returning after having a baby.
You can still get your period even if you are feeding by exclusively lactating (breast/chest/pumping).
Getting your period back after having a baby is…not what we always expected! After bleeding postpartum for sometimes up to 10 weeks, some delivering parents get their menstrual cycle back even when feeding by exclusively lactating (breast/chest/pumping).
But isn’t lactation a form of preventing ovulation? Also known as lactational amenorrhea, lactation can delay your period, but not in all cases. This is completely dependent on your body and can vary even between pregnancies. If your baby is sleeping through the night, your cycle may return even faster (or may not at all until you completely wean!) In either case, please know that you can still ovulate and get pregnant while you are breastfeeding – take it from Kate – this happened twice! She got her period back at 5, 6, and 4 months postpartum, even while exclusively breastfeeding.
If you formula feed, you’ll get your period back sooner.
In general, Aunt Flow will make her appearance sooner if you are not lactating. This can even be a few weeks after having a baby if you formula feed from the start (around 4-8 weeks postpartum). Have you seen our How to Formula Feed From Birth blog post?
Inconsistency in milk removal.
Lactation (as well as your period) are controlled by hormones. To keep your hormones consistent, milk removal by directly feeding (breast/chest feeding) and/or pumping should be consistent, too. This means removing milk every few hours, especially during the day. The drop in hormones associated with longer stretches without removing milk can cause menstruation in some individuals. That being said, if your baby is SLEEPING at night, you should sleep, TOO! Sleep and stress are directly linked to milk production in my experience as a mom and as a certified breastfeeding consultant, so don’t worry if your baby is sleeping longer. You should sleep too.
Weaning (a little or totally).
A drop in the lactation hormones cause the ovulation hormones to rise – which means your period comes back! Some parents seen their menstrual cycle return with weaning just a few feeds, while others see it only once they are completely done weaning from breastfeeding/chest-feeding/pumping. It depends on your body! Have you seen our step by step weaning e-guide?
Supplementing with formula for some feeds.
This ties into the inconsistent feedings a bit – the same hormones will drop if you are supplementing more. BUT this isn’t something that should prevent you from supplementing! You should still supplement if your baby needs it.
Your baby starts sleeping through the night.
Back to the hormones! Your body isn’t removing milk at night, so those ovulation hormones could rise, causing your period, even if you are providing exclusive breastmilk during the day.
If you are starting solids with your baby.
Starting solids, can, but doesn’t always, cause your baby to drink a bit less breastmilk or formula. You should still offer your baby the same amount of milk and feed to your baby’s hunger cues, even when you are offering solids.
Expect a heavy flow.
The first postpartum period is heavy! It may be heavier than your normal pre-pregnancy period. If you’re bleeding through more than 1 pad an hour, you have a fever, or your discharge has a foul odor, contact your provider immediately.
Is there a way I can predict when my period will come back?
Unfortunately, not really. But knowing your body and your cycle will help. Being aware of cervical mucous can help you know your cycle is returning. Some breastfeeding parents experience an abnormal dip in supply before their period, too. Have you seen our How to Conceive Simplified post about how to track ovulation and your cycle?
Will my supply dry up if I get my period?
Your supply may temporarily dip due to hormonal changes, but you can still breastfeed/chest-feed and/or pump, even exclusively, when your menstrual cycle returns. Everyone’s body is very different and some may be more affected by their cycle returning than others.
What are my birth control options while lactacting?
Hormonal birth control such as the pill, an IUD, condoms and other barrier methods are birth control options. Hormonal forms of birth control can decrease your milk supply, so please be aware before starting. See our Sex After Baby post for more info.
What products can I use?
You might find your body needs a different product for your period after you have a baby. Your cervix changes as well as your flow!
You may choose to switch over products after baby. Tampons are still an option! Kate also loves the Diva Cup – it’s a silicone, sterilizable and reusable. It holds more than a tampon and only needs to be taken out and cleaned once a day. Kate likes this vag friendly foaming soapthe to clean your menstrual cup that doesn’t throw off the pH of vagina. These flexidiscs are similar but disposable!
**Reminder – you cannot insert anything into your vagina postpartum for at least 6 weeks postpartum, including menstrual cups and tampons – until cleared by your provider.
Having some thin pads around will be helpful too. Periods tend to be heavier after baby and leaking is common. If you want something environmentally friendly, these Knix absorbent underwear are amazing – you can use them postpartum too! Great for the last few days of your period when you just don’t feel like wearing something inserted into your vagina.
Have more questions? Schedule a text or video chat consult with Kate, Lauren or Natalie (NICU RNs) and they can help answer any questions that you have!
**This post is educational and not meant to take the place of your provider. Bumblebaby makes a small commission on some of the items listed above