Ask the Expert - Breastfeeding and Periods
Our guest blog has been written by Petrina O'Halloran, founder of Mama's Boobie Box.
I became curious about breastfeeding and how periods can impact your supply when I read about Molly Mae Hague, and how her supply suddenly dropped. I never see the point in judging someone else’s breastfeeding journey and when and why they stop. But I did think she raised an interesting point and one I had never heard before about how when your period does come back it can raise difficulties with breastfeeding.
So, with that in mind I ran an Instagram poll on my Instagram page to see what was normal in terms of period’s returning post baby when breastfeeding, exclusively or otherwise. I got so much feedback in terms of length of time, it put me at ease somewhat, as I was about 12 months postpartum and still saw no return of my period. It can be really confusing for mums in terms of what is normal.
Unfortunately, there is not that much research out there about this topic, believe me I have looked, and GP’s or other health care providers, do not have the knowledge or training in this either. Again, through my own personal experience of worrying about when my period would return, I decided to chat to my GP about what was normal, could there be any issues, and would it affect my fertility if I wanted another child.
I was advised that the best course of action was to run some blood tests, to see if anything showed up, but that was all they could do. I was secretly hoping for post-baby straight into early menopause, and avoid periods completely, but that did not happen!
In the end my periods returned, roughly 18 months postpartum. From the poll I had run, there was no figure that came back that would suggest what was normal. Everyone was different, the responses ranged from anything from 6 weeks up to 2 plus years!
What I did notice was that once my period had returned, there was a definite temporary dip in my breast milk supply, during my period. As my baby was older now, she was able to tell me what was going on when feeding. One night she told me 'no milky mama' in a sad voice, although she continued to try and feed. I thought that is it, my journey’s over, not realising the impact of my period. I cannot begin to explain the level of emotion that came with this, as it was so unexpected, and I was not ready to end my breastfeeding journey.
So I got in touch with my local public breastfeeding lactation consultant, and told her I thought my milk was drying up as a result of my period. She was so supportive and explained while there may be a drop in supply, and my daughter noticed this, that all was not lost, and I could recover this and continue to breastfeed if I wanted to.
The lactation consultant gave me some real sage advice in terms of, just going back to the things that worked in the very beginning to get supply up.
1) Plenty of skin to skin
2) Spend extra time cuddling and playing together
3) Loads of hugs and kisses
4) Stay well hydrated, eat healthy and try to get some good rest (difficult when I still had a child who woke up 3-4 times a night!)
It was at this stage I also reviewed my diet more, and became more focused on what I was eating and how that might contribute to my supply. I started drinking Milk’s Up breastfeeding tea as I knew from experience the natural herbs within the tea would also help with supply alongside everything else I was doing. Sure, enough within a few days, I was able to assess if my girl was getting any milk. I made her giggle a little whilst she was feeding, and as she opened her mouth I could see it was full of milk. Job done, period recovered from, and we were back on track with our feeding journey!
As my periods have become more regular now, I know what to do before each one to manage supply and alongside the advice the lactation consultant gave. I incorporate drinking Milk's Up tea a couple of days in advance to help with any potential dips in supply.
Petrina was inspired to set up Mama's Boobie Box as a result of her difficult start to breastfeeding.
Her main aim is to support breastfeeding mothers by supplying all of the practical essentials required for breastfeeding in one place, beautifully packaged in a gift box.
The idea has grown from one gift box to many gift boxes, gift sets, and breastfeeding products, carefully selected based on feedback from breastfeeding mothers.
Petrina is a mum of two, Isobel who is 4 years old, and Aisling who is 1.5 years old. She documents her milestones regularly through anecdotes, stories, and practical information on her blog page.