Spotting While Breastfeeding

Article updated: 17 April 2019

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period while breastfeeding, spotting while breastfeeding


Is Spotting While Breastfeeding Normal?

Yes. It is very normal to have bright red spotting during breastfeeding or even (light) brown spotting while breastfeeding. We can safely say that there is no “normal" when it comes to menstruation while breastfeeding. 

There are certain things that can cause spotting, namely:

Lochia Discharge & Hormones

Spotting and discharge are quite common concerns when the initial postpartum bleeding starts to subside; this discharge is called lochia and will typically continue for four to six weeks after childbirth. This discharge contains blood, mucus, and uterine tissue.

During the first couple of weeks spotting and nausea are frequently complained about, this is oftentimes due to the hormone Oxytocin which is responsible for the flow of milk "let down." When this hormone is released into your system, it can cause headaches, thirst, nausea and uterine cramping. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract, helping it to return to its original size; this contraction, in turn, could also cause spotting during the first few weeks after childbirth. 

Your Period

Spotting and having irregular periods are pretty normal while breastfeeding. Although, most mothers will be free from menstruation for the first six months to a year after giving birth. When your baby breastfeeds on demand, the release of hormones will inhibit the return of fertility. Therefore, you will have no period; this phenomenon is called lactational amenorrhea. BUT, not all women have the same hormone levels. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for the production of milk and is also the hormone that delays fertility. 

Periods while breastfeeding could be longer or shorter than you are accustomed to. Also, skipping a few periods in between is a common occurrence. During those skipped months you may still experience irritability and nipple tenderness. 


When Should My Period Return While Breastfeeding?

It varies from person to person, depending on your breastfeeding frequency and your personal hormone levels. 

Just over 40 percent of exclusively breastfeeding mothers have their periods return within one year, of that 40 percent, about 10 percent get their periods within six months after childbirth. 

Those mothers who decide to formula feed will have their periods returning as soon as two months postpartum. 

Menstruation Is More Likely to Occur When:

  • Your baby sleeps through the night, without having a feed.
  • Your baby starts eating solid foods.
  • Your baby is given other liquids or supplements.
  • You start to replace breastfeeding with pumping. 
  • You put your baby on a feeding schedule, instead of breastfeeding on demand. 
  • Your baby is allowed to suck on a pacifier, instead of comfort feed from you. 
  • You start medication, the combination or mini-pill. 
breastfed baby


Common Menstruation Concerns

Is Irregular Bleeding While Breastfeeding Normal?

Yes. A mother's period can be irregular with some spotting while nursing as a result of a change in breastfeeding frequency and therefore hormone fluctuations.

Sometimes a decrease in nursing frequency occurs when the baby is ill, teething, has a growth spurt or if the baby is separated from the mother for a few hours. 

Can a Period Disappear and Then Return?

Yes, a mother may get her period a few months after delivery and then have it stop again when she starts to breastfeed more often. 

Is Heavy Bleeding While Breastfeeding Normal?

A heavy period might just be due to hormonal fluctuations and your body's way of getting things back to normal again, BUT, if you have any concerns, please don't hesitate to talk to your doctor or OB-GYN about it. 

What If You Are Having Frequent Periods While Breastfeeding?

Is it normal to have 2 periods in a month after pregnancy?

There is usually a considerable period of time between postpartum bleeding and a woman's first period. Postpartum bleeding is normal and can last for a few weeks after giving birth. 

An irregular cycle is to be expected with your period coming sooner or later or not coming at all, BUT, if you are having random spotting of more than one period per cycle or constant spotting while breastfeeding, you need to see your doctor about it. 

Is Cramping During a Period Worse When Breastfeeding?

Some mothers complain about the extra tenderness of the breasts and nipples during a period while breastfeeding, especially while the baby is feeding. 

As mentioned above, during the first couple of weeks spotting and nausea are frequently complained about, this is oftentimes due to the hormone Oxytocin which is responsible for the flow of milk "let down." When this hormone is released into your system, it can cause headaches, thirst, nausea and uterine cramping. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract, helping it to return to its original size; this contraction, in turn, could also cause spotting during the first few weeks after childbirth. 

These symptoms will usually subside once your period has normalized. 

Will Menstruation Decrease My Milk Supply?

Breastfeeding doesn't have to end when your period returns. You may notice that your baby is fussier during "that time of the month." Your milk has not turned "sour" or lost any of its valuable properties. Your baby's fussiness is probably due to the fact that milk production may drop a little due to hormone fluctuations, this also causes the sodium levels in your milk to rise, making the milk taste saltier than usual (some babies don't like the taste of the saltier milk).

As soon as your hormone levels return to what they were before your period, your supply will increase again. Some babies drink more during a menstrual period to make up for the drop in milk production, then again, others will drink more after a period to make up for any calorie deficit. 

If you feel that your milk supply is lower than before, you can:

Can You Fall Pregnant While Breastfeeding? 

With an irregular period, how does a mother ever know if she is fertile or not?

If your periods are irregular, it would be wise to take extra preventative precautions, because yes, you can fall pregnant while breastfeeding. (1)

Breastfeeding mothers often complain about menstrual cramping (PMS symptoms) without the actual periods for months before their menses return. These symptoms are the first signs that your body is getting ready for your periods to return.

Learn more about pregnancy symptoms while breastfeeding.


Natural Family Planning & Other Birth Control Methods

During the first few weeks, postpartum spotting is even more common if you go back on birth control pills or get the Depovera shot.

Breastfeeding can be used as a method of birth control only when the following criteria are met (2):

  • Your baby is younger than 6 months. 
  • Your period has not yet returned. 
  • Your baby is breastfeeding exclusively. 
  • You are not using any pacifiers or supplements of any kind. 
  • You are breastfeeding on demand. 
  • You breastfeed during the night hours too. 

As soon as your period returns, you should consider yourself fertile.

If you are doing all these things, then you only have a 2% chance of falling pregnant while breastfeeding. This method is as effective as using a diaphragm or condom.

As soon as your period starts you need to consider the use of other forms of birth control that are safe while breastfeeding. That's of course if you don't want to fall pregnant right away again. 

Nonhormonal barrier methods are the best options when you would like to continue to breastfeed. These methods include diaphragms, condoms, and spermicides. An IUD device is also deemed safe while breastfeeding.

If you would like to use hormonal birth control, you should avoid Progestin-only options, as these may reduce your milk supply. 

Natural family planning is an option for those who don't mind keeping a track on their cervical mucus, body temperature, and other factors. 

Learn more about safe birth control while breastfeeding

Conclusion

There is a broad range of "normal" when it comes to your periods while breastfeeding. Every woman is different. 

Don't be too quick to assume the worst if you experience spotting or irregular bleeding during breastfeeding. If you are concerned, see your OB-GYN. 

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