The first weeks after you give birth are pretty intense for your body. You’re healing. You’re leaking. You’re bleeding. . . a lot. If you’re breastfeeding, all of that gets amplified. You’re probably wondering when things will go back to normal or even normal-ish, but those postpartum hormones and breastfeeding hormones can really do a 180 on your bod and menstrual cycle.
It turns out, there’s not one straight answer for you, because every person who breast/chestfeeds is different. I contacted a few OB-GYNs to get the scoop on when you can be expecting to dust off that old menstrual cup if you’re nursing your baby. Dr. Sarah Yamaguchi, OB-GYN, tells Romper that most people “do not get their period if they are exclusively breastfeeding, but some occasionally do.”
It’s a pretty unsatisfying answer. Personally, even though I breastfed exclusively, I can tell you that I got my period back when my kids were around 6 months old, just as I started introducing solids, and as Dr. Kimberly Langdon of Medzino tells Romper, this makes sense because when you get your period back depends largely on the frequency of feedings. “The less frequent you breastfeed, the more likely you are to have spotting or return of menstruation. This is because you may ovulate,” says Langdon. So not only are you getting a period, you can also get pregnant again.
Dr. Yamaguchi says that she tells her patients, “They can get their period anywhere from four weeks after their delivery to three to four months after the last time they comfort feed their child. So for my patients who are still breastfeeding at night to comfort their 2 to 3-year-old, they still might not be getting their period and that is normal.”
Thanks, human bodies, for being so consistently inconsistent. Really, we love it.
This time of having no period while exclusively breastfeeding is known as lactational amenorrhea, and is even used as a birth control method for some families. The suckling of your baby reduces the release of hormones that help you ovulate, keeping your period at bay. But as your baby nurses less — like around 6 months old — those hormones start releasing again and ovulation can occur.
On top of that gem, it’s important to note that your period may not arrive how you expect it to — that is, every 28 days with a shiny bow and hankering for Shake Shack. “When your period first comes back, it is usually a little irregular the first month, but then usually becomes regular after that,” says Dr. Yamaguchi. “However, the return of your period greatly varies from person to person.”
Dr. Langdon notes that if it does come back, or if it takes a while to return after you stop breastfeeding, it might be just normal hormonal weirdness that is the reproductive system, or it might be that you’ve created another little womb interloper, so it’s a good idea to get a pregnancy test just to make sure. (Not to be paranoid, but just to be prepared.)
And don’t worry about your milk supply either. While some parents notice that their baby seems fussy while nursing during their menstrual cycle, it could just be a tiny dip from hormones and should be fine, reports La Leche League International.
Your body is doing an amazing thing when you’re feeding your child, but it’s so overwhelming a time in your life, that it’s easy to get confused and frustrated. I know that I certainly felt more than a little irritation at my body’s irregularity, but hopefully understanding that so much of what happens or doesn’t happen is normal will ease some of that for you. You may get your period back when your kids take their first bite of avocado, you may not get it back until you finally wean their night feedings because they’re happier watching Cocomelon at night than nursing. It’s all normal, and it’s all wild, but if you’re worried, reach out to your provider. They can answer all the questions you might still be grappling with.
Dr. Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, FACOG of DTLA Gynecology in Los Angeles, California