Low Milk Supply During Menstruation
You aren’t alone if you’re wondering what to do about low milk supply during your period.
Some moms experience it and want to know how to increase their milk supply once they’ve gotten their period. Other moms haven’t had their period return but they want to be prepared for when it does.
This article answers all your questions concerning your breast milk supply during your period and how to increase it if it drops.
Does Breast Milk Supply Drop During Your Period?
First, I want to start off by saying that every mom is different.
Breastfeeding is largely influenced by hormones… but that doesn’t mean you WILL have a drop in your milk supply during your period. Some moms don’t notice a difference at all.
But some moms do.
What Causes Milk Supply to Decrease During Your Period?
This study shows that after ovulating, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels rise. At the same time, her calcium levels drop. This fluctuation of hormones can cause breast milk supply to drop in some women.
A similar thing happens when women take birth control with estrogen in it. High estrogen levels can cause a decrease in milk supply.
Another thing that can happen is your breast milk can change flavors during your period.
Some babies don’t like the change in flavor and so they’ll breastfeed less. When your baby breastfeeds less, your body gets the signal to produce less. So some moms notice a drop in their milk supply around their period as a result of their baby suckling and eating less.
How to Increase Milk Supply On Your Period
If you notice your breast milk supply dropping during your period, there are some steps to take to increase it:
- Take a calcium (and magnesium) supplement.
- Take an iron supplement.
- Eat oatmeal.
- Add galactagogues to your diet.
- Eat a healthy diet and drink adequate water.
- Breastfeed (or pump) more.
- Do breast compressions.
- Hand-express after feeding or pumping.
- Power pump.
- Find breastfeeding support.
Take a Calcium Supplement
Because your calcium levels drop during your period, taking a calcium supplement might help. The recommended dose is usually between 500 and 1500 mg of calcium per day.
Calcium should be taken along with Magnesium in order to be well absorbed. So usually the dosages are 500mg calcium/ 250mg magnesium or 1500mg calcium/ 750mg magnesium.
Be sure to discuss any medication use with your doctor before starting supplements. Depending on your diet, you may need to take more or less.
Women who find that the drop in calcium during their period makes their milk supply decrease may find that calcium supplements bring their supply right back.
Take an Iron Supplement
When your menstruation returns while breastfeeding, you might be at risk of low iron levels (also known as iron-deficiency anemia). Some iron makes it into breast milk so you may be at a higher risk for low iron levels during your period.
If you have low iron levels while breastfeeding on your period, you may feel extremely exhausted. Exhaustion may cause you to not finish a feeding or not feed as frequently because you’re just trying to function! This in turn can cause a decrease in breast milk supply.
To prevent iron-deficiency anemia when your period returns while breastfeeding, consider taking an iron supplement. Again, talk about supplements with your doctor to determine what’s right for you.
Oatmeal is a fantastic way to increase your breast milk supply. There aren’t any scientific based studies to prove this claim, BUT enough women swear by oatmeal that it’s considered a great option for milk supply.
Try eating some oatmeal – either for breakfast or in some cookies. It may help give you the boost you need if your supply drops because of your period.
Add Galactagogues to Your Diet
Galactagogues are breast milk-boosting foods and supplements. You may have heard of mother’s milk tea or fenugreek. Those are just two examples of galactagogues.
Consider adding some galactagogues into your diet during your menstruation to help your milk supply from decreasing.
Eat a Healthy Diet and Drink Enough Water
It’s extremely important to take care of yourself while you’re breastfeeding- especially during your period. Maintaining a healthy diet not only gives your body the nutrition it needs to make milk, but it gives you the energy you need to feed your baby.
And don’t forget about water! Making breast milk requires a little bit more water. A good rule of thumb is to drink to thirst – make sure you’re not ignoring your thrust queue. But there have been studies that too much water is actually harmful for your milk supply.
So don’t go crazy and guzzle gallons.
Just drink enough water so that you don’t feel thirsty and can function well throughout the day.
Breastfeed (or Pump) More
This is probably the BEST way to increase your breast milk supply during your period. Breast milk supply is dependent on demand. So the most important thing when dealing with a low milk supply is to feed your baby more often.
If you’re a pumping mama, then consider pumping for a little bit longer to get an extra let-down (when the milk starts coming out). Or you could try adding in an extra pumping session during the day.
Your baby needs to eat and your milk supply needs to get the signal to increase. So make it a priority to empty your breasts and your supply will catch up.
Try Breast Compressions
Breast compressions can be really helpful. When your period causes your breast milk supply to decrease, try doing compressions when you breastfeed your baby or pump.
When your baby takes a break from sucking (but is still attached to your breast), cup your breast and gently squeeze. This will push a little more milk into your baby’s mouth and encourage them to start suckling again.
When pumping, you can also compress your breasts. You might see that when you add a little pressure, more milk comes out or it comes out stronger.
Hand-Express After Pumping or Feeding
I’ve found that hand-expression works wonders for milk supply. After pumping, or even after a feeding, hand express any more drops of milk you can.
Babies usually eat about ⅔ of your breasts capacity. If you can squeeze out a little more milk after they’re done breastfeeding, your body will take that as a signal to produce more milk.
If pumping, hand expression is extra helpful. Pumping removes the milk, but hand expression does the extra part of stimulating your nipples. It adds pressure to your breast much like a baby’s mouth would – helping your supply increase.
Here is a fantastic article on power pumping. It can be a really good option for boosting milk supply. It takes an hour a day (or more if you decide to do it more than once).
It usually takes a few days to see the results of power pumping, so consider doing it before your cycle starts (if your cycle is predictable).
If your breast milk supply drops during your period, just add in a power pumping session during the day to help tell your body to increase it’s supply.
When power pumping, try doing it after the last feeding of the night before your baby’s longest sleep so they don’t become fussy from wanting more milk.
Find Breastfeeding Support
A huge help for a drop in milk supply is breastfeeding support. Each mom is different and having a fresh perspective can be very helpful.
Additionally, milk supply is one of the top worries of breastfeeding moms. A breastfeeding support person can help you determine if you truly have a problem or not. Sometimes your breasts feel softer than other times, which is just part of the continuous process of breastfeeding.
Breast milk supply fluctuates throughout your breastfeeding journey. When your baby has a growth spurt they will feed more and your supply will increase accordingly. Similarly, if your breast milk supply drops during your period then your baby may start to eat a lot more. That might be worrisome but it’s your baby’s way of helping get your supply back to normal.
If you want to talk to someone, I offer virtual or telephone consultations. Just click here to contact me.
When Will Your Period Return While Breastfeeding?
The return of your period could be anytime while you’re breastfeeding. Some women get their period quickly after birth while others may go years without a period while breastfeeding.
Most breastfeeding moms will have their period return between 9 and 18 months after birth. But if you don’t fall in that window – don’t worry. Periods while breastfeeding are as unique as each woman is.
Reasons for No Period While Breastfeeding
When breastfeeding, you may not have a period for an extended amount of time. The reason for this is because breastfeeding causes hormonal changes within your body.
Your period returning while breastfeeding depends on:
- How often your baby breastfeeds.
- The length of time they don’t breastfeed at night.
- Whether or not you supplement.
- If you use pacifiers.
- Starting solid foods with your baby
- Your own unique body.
Generally, consistent breastfeeding throughout the day and night will prevent your period from returning. That’s because it keeps your hormones level and prevents you from ovulating. Some women use this as a form of birth control, called “lactational amennohrea”.
But not having a period doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. Some women ovulate without having a period and find themselves surprised by a pregnancy while breastfeeding.
How Does Breastfeeding Change During/After Period?
During your period, you might notice some changes in breastfeeding. Those changes include:
- A decrease in milk supply.
- Tender nipples.
- A fussy baby.
- A change in the taste of your breast milk.
- A nursing strike.
- Your baby eating longer or more often.
These things all can happen, or you may not notice any changes at all. Since each woman is so different, it’s hard to say what you will experience when breastfeeding during your period.
If your baby recognizes the change in taste of your breast milk, they may start to act more fussy or not eat as much. They may even have a temporary nursing strike. (Nursing strikes before 12 months are NOT weaning – they are temporary).
You also could notice your baby eating a lot longer or more often to try and get more breast milk. This is actually a good thing because the extra stimulation will help if your breast milk supply drops from menstruation.
Changes in breast milk supply during your period are usually temporary and babies have dealt with this exact problem throughout time. They are generally very good about feeding as much as they need to help your body regulate to their demand.
Help with Nipple Tenderness During Your Period
If your period returning while breastfeeding causes nipple tenderness, here are some things you can do:
- Keep breastfeeding to keep your supply up as much as possible.
- If it hurts too much to breastfeed, try pumping followed by manual hand expression.
- Use a nipple cream like this one.
- Express breast milk and rub it onto your nipples after feeding.
Continuing to breastfeed is the most important thing to keep your milk supply up during your period. Breastfeeding ensure that you and your baby get back to normal as soon as possible.
Pumping is a good option if breastfeeding hurts too much. Breast pumps aren’t as efficient as babies, so hand expressing after a pumping session may help increase your breast milk supply during your period.
Nipple creams can be very soothing if your nipples start to become tender. Another good option is your own breast milk! It contains healing properties so sometimes it’s the best thing to put on after a feeding. Just express a few drops and rub it into your nipples.
Bleeding After Childbirth: Lochia vs. Period
One final thing I want to mention is bleeding after childbirth. After having a baby, it’s normal to bleed for 4-6 weeks after. Bleeding after childbirth is not a period, it’s called lochia.
It’s part of your body’s natural healing process to recover from labor and delivery. Some women might have some bleeding around 4 weeks after their lochia has stopped but then not have any regular periods until much later in their breastfeeding journey.
Summary: Breast Milk Supply During Your Period
In summary, some women experience a drop in their breast milk supply during their period while others might not notice a change at all.
The most important thing to do if your breast milk supply drops while menstruating is continue to breastfeed like normal – or more if your baby wants to eat more! Frequent feedings will help your supply increase after your period and keep your baby fed.
If you liked this article, check out these others:
What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag if you Plan to Breastfeed: The Ultimate List
Kealy Hawk, BSN, RN, CLC
Kealy is a Registered Nurse, Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own baby feeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their feeding journey. She specializes in breastfeeding support and evidence-based formula recommendations. To talk with Kealy or take one of her breastfeeding or formula classes, visit https://littlebearcare.com.