Periods and breastfeeding. Arghh!

Practically every breastfeeding book/website/advisor promised me that if I exclusively breastfed I wouldn’t have any periods. At least for the first few months. Well for me that didn’t turn out to be the case. Mine started five weeks, yes WEEKS, after Bub was born.

I am exclusively breastfeeding, rarely express, never used a dummy and was feeding every 2-3 hours on demand day and night at that point. But still, back they came. At least we weren’t using BF as contraception…

I’ve long had a negative relationship with periods. Eighteen months of trying to conceive meant I had plenty of sad days marking their start.

But now that I’m breastfeeding the challenge is a different one. It’s taken me a few months to figure it out as there’s not much info out there on the web. But at a certain point in my cycle my otherwise contented and happy Bub, a distractable but satisfied eater, suddenly goes off his milk. He pulls off the breast, crying and turning away. He barely drinks, or drinks for ages. He needs me to switch sides repeatedly. And in the evenings he can feed for HOURS before bed, waking up frequently for more. I can no longer rely on the old ‘magic boob’ to help him to doze off. And I’m struggling to sleep too, particularly after night feeds. We both end up tired, grouchy and irritable.

I can find very little reliable information about this on the web. Which surprises me as it must be a common issue for extended breastfeeding mums. Our health visitor said that your period should not affect your milk taste or production. The La Leche League helpline weren’t sure. Breastfeed Essentials is the only site to give this much consideration. It says that:

The return of menstruation does not mean the end of breastfeeding. The milk does not sour or “go bad” when you are having a period. The milk is no less nutritious when you are menstruating than when you are not. Some women do notice a temporary drop in milk supply in the days just prior to a period and for a few days into one. This is due to hormonal fluctuations. Once the period begins and hormone levels begin to return to normal, the milk supply will boost back up again. Most babies can compensate well for this temporary drop in supply with more frequent nursing.

Some babies may detect a slight change in the taste of the milk just before a period, again, due to hormonal changes. These same babies may nurse less often or less enthusiastically during this time as a result.

The site recommends a calciumagnesium supplement, which I’ve not yet tried but think I might. Other recommendations have been helpfully collated on Blogging About Babies.

I guess that most advice for low supply is valuable in this situation, though as Bub seems to dislike the taste he’s not keen to keep sucking (probably exacerbating the issue.) I have been using fennel tea though, which seems to have helped a bit.

Anyone else faced this problem? What did you do to boost your supply? Does it get worse as time goes by?

UPDATE: Just a quick update one month on. What I didn’t mention here was that I was thinking of taking the Progesterone Only Pill to see if that helped. Firstly cos I’d read it can boost supply and secondly as it can suppress your menstrual cycle. Well I’ve started on Cerazette and it has really helped. My periods have stopped and whilst my supply is still varying it has significantly improved. I get better and worse days (that I can no longer predict, sadly.) However the low days are definitely higher than they were. So it’s not sorted things completely but might be a useful idea for anyone else in this boat.

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5 Responses to “Periods and breastfeeding. Arghh!”

  1. Formula first « Jenmum's adventures in parenting Says:

    […] 12, 2010 Have decided to start to give Bub a bottle of formula before bed. My cyclical low milk supply issues have returned with a vengence and my milk supply seems to have dropped off a cliff. Given that Bub […]

  2. My name is Jenny… and my son is a feed-to-sleep addict « Jenmum's adventures in parenting Says:

    […] milk supply gets very low in the evenings and it’d been taking longer and longer to feed him before bed. I kept telling […]

  3. Our five steps to better baby sleep. Or how my son became slightly less of a feed-to-sleep addict « Jenmum's adventures in parenting Says:

    […] to my low milk supply in the evenings I always had a doubt in my mind over whether it might simply be hunger causing the […]

  4. Moving from breast to bottle « Jenmum's adventures in parenting Says:

    […] until nearer my return to work but in the end my body made the decision for me. My supply has been something I’ve struggled with since Bub was about four months old and it got so bad I just wasn’t enjoying feeding him any more. Our night time feedings were […]

  5. One month old baby ‘routine’ | Don't wake the baby! Says:

    […] led to longer and less fulfilling feeds for Baby. [UPDATE: A few days after I wrote this my period started which may better explain the reduced milk […]

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