Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your baby and provide them with essential nutrients. As beautiful of an experience as it is, it can also bring with it a slew of questions such as what to do when breastfeeding while on your period. Many breastfeeding moms wonder what they should do when their period returns as it can affect milk production and the quality of breast milk. In this article, we’ll explore how moms can maintain or increase their milk supply during their period.
Does your period affect breastfeeding?
When a breastfeeding mother gets her period, it can cause changes in the quantity and quality of breast milk. This is because the hormonal changes that occur during menstruation can affect milk production and composition. Some mothers may experience a decrease in milk supply during her period, while others may notice a change in the taste of their breast milk. The amount of milk supply that decreases during her period will vary from mother to mother.
Additionally, some babies may become fussier or refuse to nurse during a mother’s period due to changes in the taste or consistency of the breast milk. This is rare, but can happen due to hormonal changes during menstruation. These hormonal changes can alter the balance of electrolytes and other nutrients in breast milk, making it taste saltier than usual or slightly sour.
Related article: Breast Milk Lipase: Why Your Breast Milk Tastes Metallic
What should breastfeeding moms do while on their period?
1. Stay Hydrated
It’s essential for breastfeeding moms to stay hydrated, especially during their period. Drinking plenty of water can help maintain milk supply and ensure that breast milk remains rich in nutrients. Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day, and consider drinking electrolyte-rich drinks, such as coconut water or sports drinks, to help replenish lost fluids. There are even products on the market geared especially toward breastfeeding moms such as the Greater Than Vegan Breastfeeding Support & Breast Milk Supply Aid.
Related article: How to Increase Breast Milk Supply (Fast!)
2. Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is crucial for maintaining milk production and quality. While on their period, women lose iron through blood loss. Iron is a crucial nutrient for milk production, so it’s important for moms breastfeeding on their period to make sure they’re getting enough iron in their diet. Iron-rich foods include red meat, poultry, fish, lentils, and spinach. This can help replace any iron that may have been lost during menstruation.
Related article: Lactation Fudge–The Perfect Lactation Snack Recipe
3. Pump or Nurse Frequently
To maintain milk supply during your period, it’s important to pump or nurse frequently. This can help stimulate milk production and prevent a decrease in milk supply. If your baby is refusing to nurse due to changes in the taste or consistency of your breast milk, try pumping instead. You can also try power pumping for the first few days of breastfeeding while on your period in order to increase your milk supply:
Some herbs, such as fenugreek, blessed thistle, and fennel, have been traditionally used as galactagogues (a substance that may increase breast milk supply) to increase milk production. Some breastfeeding moms find great success in increasing their milk supply on their periods by taking a galactagogue in pill, powder, or tea form. The most common galatagogues in supplement form are:
- Fenugreek – Far and away the most common lactation supplement. This herb has been used for centuries by lactating mothers. You need to take at least 3500mg per day, or 2 tablets 3 times a day, to see an increase in breast milk supply.
- Blessed Thistle – This herb was originally used to treat the bubonic plague. If you decide to try out this lactation supplement, you will also be protecting yourself from the plague. Win/win. In all seriousness, the recommended dosage for blessed thistle is 3500mg per day, or 3 tablets 3 times a day.
- Fenugreek + Blessed Thistle – Many moms find that taking fenugreek and blessed thistle together enables them to see an increase in breast milk supply vs. taking each herb separately. If you would prefer a capsule that combines the two, take 2 of these tablets 3 times a day. It reportedly works within 12-24 hours.
- Goat’s Rue – Another herb that has been used as a lactation supplement for centuries, goat’s rue was originally used to boost milk supply in cows and goats. Seems legit. Dairy cows are our spirit animals, right? You will need 1400mg, or 1 capsule 4 times a day.
- Alfalfa – Alfalfa contains phytoestrogens, or plant estrogen, which can potentially increase breast milk supply. The best way to absorb the nutrients found in alfalfa is by consuming it as food. You can find alfalfa sprouts in the refrigerated produce section of your grocery store. If consuming sprouts is not your thing, you can take them in tablet form. The recommended dosage for alfalfa as a lactation supplement is 3 tablets 3 times a day.
- Motherlove More Milk Plus blend – If taking several different herbs seems daunting, many moms find success with this herbal blend supplement. It includes fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle, and fennel. Remember that not all herbs work for everyone, so your mileage may vary.
- Brewer’s Yeast – You are likely familiar with lactation cookie recipes. Most of these cookie recipes call for including Brewer’s Yeast. Brewer’s Yeast is a fungus that is used in brewing beer. Appetizing, no? Despite–or in spite of–that it’s a nutritional powerhouse with over 52% of its nutrient profile being protein. It’s also an excellent source of B-complex vitamins. It has a distinct bitter taste to it (as you would imagine being a fungus and all) that can be masked when added to foods. Try adding a tablespoon to your morning oatmeal or adding some to your favorite cookie recipe.
- Mother’s Milk tea – We would be remiss not to mention the OG of modern day galactagogues. The jury is split on whether mom’s like the taste of this tea and whether or not it actually increases breast milk supply. However, some moms swear by it.
Keep in mind that it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before taking any herbal supplements, as they may have side effects and/or interact with medications.
Related article: 4 Staple Lactation Oatmeal Recipes You Should Know How to Make
Anecdotal research suggests that a magnesium supplement can help with a decrease in milk during your period. Ovulation can cause blood calcium levels to dip in some women. This dip in calcium translates into a drop in milk supply. Calcium levels tend to return to normal levels around the second or third day of a woman’s menstrual cycle. In order to prevent a sudden drop in milk supply while breastfeeding on your period, you can take a calcium/magnesium supplement about a week before you expect to start your period and stop on the second or third day after Aunt Flow returns.
It’s worth noting that calcium on its own cannot be absorbed by the body. This is why you need the calcium/magnesium combo. The recommended dosage for breastfeeding moms is between 500mg calcium/250mg magnesium (1 tablet) and 1500mg calcium/750mg magnesium (3 tablets). Where you fall in that range depends on your diet. If your diet is high in calcium rich foods, you can start with the lower dosage. If you don’t eat lots of dairy, beans, or green leafy vegetables, try the higher dosage. The higher dosage will likely yield quicker results.
And again, check with your healthcare provider before adding any kind of supplement to ensure it’s safe for you and your baby.
Related article: Breastfeeding While Sick – Everything You Need to Know
6. Reduce Stress
Getting enough rest and reducing stress can also help maintain milk supply and quality. We know how difficult this is for moms, but try to get as much sleep as possible. Stress can wreak havoc on your mind and your breast milk supply. Breastfeeding while on your period can cause even more stress and anxiety. Try to reduce the load on your shoulders by asking for help, taking a walk, or putting the baby to bed early if you can.
Related article: Do I Need to Pump at Night When Baby Sleeps Through the Night?
7. Talk to Your Medical Provider
If you’re experiencing a significant decrease in milk supply or other breastfeeding-related issues during your period, talk to your medical provider or IBCLC. They may be able to recommend additional steps you can take to maintain milk supply and quality. There are prescription medications available in certain circumstances. Additionally, if you are experiencing breastfeeding pain that isn’t related to your period, check out our article on the 10 Most Common Reasons & Remedies for Breastfeeding Pain.
Breastfeeding while on your period can be a challenging time for many mothers. However, with a few simple steps, you can maintain and even increase your milk supply during your period while also continuing to provide your baby with the essential nutrients they need.
Related article: The 5 Best Formulas For Supplementing While Breastfeeding
Stay hydrated, eat a balanced diet, pump or nurse frequently, supplement if necessary, take care of yourself, and talk to your doctor if needed. Remember, with a little patience and self-care, you can successfully navigate breastfeeding while on your period. We’ve done it and know you can, too!
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