Once you have had a baby, the next obvious step is to feed your baby. Like all mammals, women lactate and nourish their babies with their breast-milk. It allows mothers to bond with their babies and pass on their natural immunities for a variety of illnesses. When a mother is breastfeeding, she brings her baby’s source of nourishment with her everywhere she goes.
Menstrual Cycle After Giving Birth
If you’re breastfeeding, you probably have questions about how it will affect your menstrual cycle. One of the first things you may wonder is when your menstrual cycle will return after giving birth. Because of the effect that breastfeeding has on your body, this can actually vary. Breastfeeding is a natural way to inhibit your menstrual cycle. Because your baby needs your milk (and arguably your complete attention) in the early months of their life, their suckling prevents your menstrual cycle from resuming while they are feeding.
This has a few important secondary effects such as allowing for siblings to be spaced far enough apart for the first baby to be old enough to handle the competition of a new sibling’s arrival. This also has the effect of lowering the rate of population growth.
How does this work? It is tied to the rate at which your baby is breastfeeding. Frequent nursing will prevent your body from releasing the hormones that trigger your monthly menstrual cycle. Breastfeeding acts as a signal that your body should not prepare for another pregnancy. The tapering off and end of breastfeeding allows those hormones to be triggered again so that your body can prepare for another pregnancy.
Thus, if you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby, it can be months (six months on average) before your period returns. This varies from woman to woman. Some women have gone up to two years without menstruating while they were using solely breastmilk to feed their baby. This phenomenon is known as lactational amenorrhea.
Now you may be thinking that this actually sounds like a great way to ensure you won’t get pregnant again for a while after giving birth. If that is what you are thinking, then there are a few things to consider. For starters, you will want to make sure that you are not bottle feeding at all. The best way to ensure that your hormones won’t be triggered is to breastfeed exclusively. Even better is breastfeeding on demand. This is easier to accomplish if you sync your sleep schedule with your baby’s sleep schedule. Conversely, if you bottle feed and use formula, it often triggers the return of your period. So does weaning and starting your baby on solid foods.
Other factors like using a pacifier and your baby sleeping through the night are also known to start your cycle up again.
There are a few other things that you should know about breastfeeding and your period. Most of the time, the first period you have after giving birth is what lets you know that you are fertile again; however, there is a chance you can get pregnant again before getting that first period. This is somewhat rare, but it does happen.
You can follow up with your doctor regarding birth control methods that are safe to use while still nursing. Condoms are also safe to use without interfering milk production. It has also been noticed that the resumption of ovulation will cause a change in the taste of your milk. This may lead to a change in the amount your baby will feed.
If you would like to get more information on this topic, there are a number of articles out there that you can read. Here is one to get you started.