Monday June 2 2014

Does early menstruation while breastfeeding affect the baby?

By Vincent Karuhanga

Dear Doctor: I am breastfeeding a three-month old baby, but unlike in the past when my periods returned after a year, this time round I got them early. Is my period likely to affect the baby so that I should not breastfeed? Anita

Dear Anita: A mother’s first period after the birth of the baby could start as early as six weeks after delivery, if one is not breastfeeding. However, every mother is different, so the time of getting a period may vary. Even while breastfeeding, periods may resume, although generally, breastfeeding is mostly known to delay periods, especially if the mother is doing it exclusively.

Pumping or expressing breast milk by hand is now common in working mothers (so that the breast milk is given by bottle or spoon). However, this is different from breastfeeding and thus a mother who uses this method is likely to have her periods return earlier.

That said, breastfeeding while a mother is in her periods is not harmful to the baby at all and therefore, it is not necessary to wean the baby because of this. However, hormonal changes that happen around the time of the period can cause the milk supply to dwindle and even affect the taste of milk, making the baby fussy or refuse to feed, but fortunately this usually lasts a few days.

Many women may experience sore nipples and painful breasts just before their periods, making breastfeeding uncomfortable. Since this also lasts a few days, one should continue breastfeeding so that the milk supply is maintained. Stopping breastfeeding may lead to breast milk engorgement which puts a mother at risk of breast abscesses (boils) which are even more painful.