Your Period While Breastfeeding

When will your period return and will it affect your breast milk supply?

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Many new breastfeeding parents wonder if and when they'll get their period while breastfeeding. The answer varies, however. If you are breastfeeding consistently, your period will likely not return for a few months or even a year after childbirth. This is because the same hormones that help to produce breastmilk also suppress ovulation and menstruation, meaning you're also less likely to conceive while exclusively breastfeeding, although it is possible.

Learn more about how breastfeeding can not only impact fertility and getting your period, but also your milk supply and your baby.

Lochia starts out as bright red bleeding. It can be very heavy, and it may contain blood clots.

After a few days, it will start to slow down and turn pink or lighter in color. As the days go on, it will become brown and eventually yellow or white. Lochia and spotting can last for up to six weeks.

Your First Period After Baby Is Born

You could get your first real period as early as six weeks after you have your baby. This period might be lighter than pre-pregnancy with fewer PMS symptoms, but everyone is different. Once your period comes back, your cycles may be irregular for a while.

If you don't breastfeed, you can usually expect menstruation to return within three months. However, everybody is different, so the time frame varies from one woman to the next.

Breastfeeding could hold off your period longer. However, even if you do breastfeed, you could get your period back right away. You are more likely to get your period back sooner if you do not exclusively breastfeed or if you use bottle for some feedings. It can also come back if your baby starts sleeping through the night or if you start giving your child solid foods.

Pumping or expressing breast milk by hand does not have the same effect on your body as breastfeeding does. If you choose to pump and bottle feed your baby, it will not hold off your period.

How Your Period Affects Breastfeeding

When your period does return, it doesn't mean you have to wean your baby. Breastfeeding while you have your period is perfectly safe. It's not harmful to you or your child at all.

Your breast milk is still healthy and nutritious for your baby. However, hormone changes in the days leading up to your period can affect your breast milk and your baby's breastfeeding pattern for a few days.

You may not notice any difference in breastfeeding when your period returns. And, even if there are some changes, your baby may not mind and continue to breastfeed as usual.

It's also possible that the return of your period can cause nipple tenderness, a dip in your breast milk supply, and for the taste of your breast milk to change.  

For instance, research shows that the composition of breast milk changes around ovulation (mid-cycle). The levels of sodium and chloride in the milk go up while lactose (milk sugar) and potassium go down. So, the breast milk becomes saltier and less sweet during this time. 

Also around the time of ovulation and just before the start of your period, estrogen and progesterone levels change which can affect your breasts and your breast milk. When estrogen and progesterone levels go up, it can make your breasts feel full and tender.

Higher estrogen levels can also interfere with milk production. Studies also show that calcium levels in the blood go down after ovulation. The lower level of calcium may also contribute to sore nipples and a drop in the milk supply.

Dealing With Nipple Tenderness

It's not uncommon to experience sore nipples when you get your period. So, for a few days before your period starts, it may be a little uncomfortable to breastfeed. Here are some tips to help you deal with nipple tenderness.

Try not to let the pain prevent you from breastfeeding, if possible. Continue to put the baby to the breast so you can maintain your milk supply and prevent other breastfeeding problems such as breast engorgementnipple blebsplugged milk ducts, and mastitis.

Avoid using a numbing cream to try to relieve the pain. These products can numb your baby's mouth and interfere with the let-down of your breast milk. Ask your doctor if it's safe for you to use an over-the-counter pain reliever for the few days it hurts.

If it's too painful and you just cannot breastfeed, pumping will help you keep up your milk supply while you're waiting for the tenderness to pass. This also allows you to continue to give your baby your breast milk.

Increasing Low Milk Supply

The decrease in your milk supply related to your period is usually temporary. You may notice the dip during the few days before your period arrives. Then, once you get your period, your supply should begin to increase again as the hormones balance out.

Drinking an herbal breastfeeding tea or another galactagogue can help boost your milk production. You should also eat a well-balanced diet with iron-rich foods such as red meat or leafy greens and milk-making superfoods such as oatmeal, almonds, or fennel. Drink plenty of fluids and consider taking a combination of calcium and magnesium supplements before and during your period.

If your milk supply drops too low, it could be dangerous for your baby. Keep an eye out for signs your baby is getting enough breast milk and continue to see your pediatrician regularly to make sure your baby is growing appropriately.

If your breast milk supply does go down to a point where your child is not getting enough, the pediatrician may recommend a supplement.

Your Period and Your Baby

The return of your period may not have any effect on your baby or your milk supply all. Some infants continue to breastfeed well and without any issues. On the other hand, some infants will not like the taste of the breast milk or the drop in the amount of breast milk that can happen when your period returns. Your baby may become fussy and breastfeed either more or less than usual. They may even refuse to nurse.

These changes in your baby's behavior should only last a few days. Then, your child should settle back into her regular breastfeeding routine. If you do not see any improvement in a few days, you should talk to your doctor. 

Your Period and Your Fertility

When your period returns, you should consider yourself fertile. If you're not ready to have another baby right away, you may want to look into birth control.

Your doctor will most likely talk to you about your birth control options during your first postpartum doctor visit at approximately four to six weeks after your baby is born. If not, bring it up and be sure to tell her that you're breastfeeding since some types of birth control can interfere with your supply of breast milk.

Pregnancy Before Return of Period

You can release an egg from your ovary (ovulate) before your period returns. Therefore, there is a chance that you can become pregnant while you're breastfeeding even before your period comes back.

So, if you're involved in an intimate relationship, and you're not using birth control, it is possible to find yourself expecting again without ever getting your first postpartum period.

A Word From Verywell

Breastfeeding can affect your period, and your period can affect breastfeeding, your breast milk, and your baby. While many women do not notice any changes when their period returns, some women experience inconvenient or concerning issues.

Luckily, the most common breastfeeding problems that result from the return of your period are temporary. Of course, you may decide that the sore nipples and extra work it takes to keep up your milk supply are just too much. While it's still safe and beneficial to breastfeed when you have your period, some moms choose to wean once their period returns.

It may even be easier if the baby is breastfeeding less due a lower breast milk supply and change in the flavor of the milk. While it's true that the longer you can breastfeed, the better it is for you and your child, it's really up to you and what works best for your family.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Sharman A. Menstruation after childbirth. J Obstet Gynaecol Br Emp. 1951;58:440-445.

  3. Hartmann PE, Prosser CG. Acute changes in the composition of milk during the ovulatory menstrual cycle in lactating women. J Physiol (Lond). 1982;324:21-30. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.1982.sp014098

  4. Dullo P, Vedi N. Changes in serum calcium, magnesium and inorganic phosphorus levels during different phases of the menstrual cycle. J Hum Reprod Sci. 2008;1(2):77-80.

  5. American Pregnancy Association. Do I Have A Low Milk Supply? 2018.

  6. Gross BA, Burger H. Breastfeeding patterns and return to fertility in Australian women. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2002;42(2):148-54.

Additional Reading
  • Danforth DN. Danforth's Obstetrics and Gynecology. Gibbs RS, editor. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2008.

  • Ellison PT. Breastfeeding, Fertility, and Maternal Condition. Breastfeeding: Bicultural Perspectives. 2017.

  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding: A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

  • Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

  • Wiessinger D, West DL, Pitman T. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Random House Digital, Inc. 2010.

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.