What to Expect from Your First Period After Giving Birth

period after pregnancy

First Period After Pregnancy

Moms who breastfeed might not see their first period for some time after giving birth. (Mine returned when my son was about 15 months old). However, I started seeing signs that I might be getting my period soon when he was only 12 months.

The symptoms that I might start menstruating again were very similar to signs of pregnancy. I didn’t think I could be pregnant but I took a pregnancy test to check anyway!

period after giving birth

Signs Your Period is Returning After Giving Birth

  1. Acne – I am not prone to a lot of acne, but I do tend to break out before my period. That means I was acne-free all the way up until I started returning to a monthly cycle. I got my first pimple in over a year about two months before I actually got my period. I also dealt with acne on and off for those two months.getting period after pregnancy
  2. Cramping – This is a pretty typical event when you have your period, but in the past I never experienced cramping beforehand. Post partum, I now have cramps on and off for a couple of weeks before my period.
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  3. Bloating – I was unpleasantly bloated for almost two months before my period actually arrived. Pre-pregnancy, bloating was something that lasted a couple of days before my period. Postpartum it goes on much longer!return of period after pregnancy
  4. Tender nipples – This was the thing that most made me think I might be pregnant before my period returned. Breastfeeding suddenly became incredibly painful, as I’ve heard it can be for pregnant women. I blamed my son at first but he was latching on wonderfully. My nipples were just incredibly sensitive. Once my period came and went, the nipple sensitivity went away.
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  5. Dip in milk supply – I wasn’t sure I would notice this since I was not pumping at the time that my period finally returned. However, a couple of weeks before my period finally arrived I noticed that my breasts didn’t feel as full and my son nursed more often and for longer than usual. I have noticed this again in subsequent months and I seem to have a supply dip when I’m ovulating. My supply bounces back before my period (and then dips again – see below).

period after giving birth

What to Expect from Your Period After Giving Birth

  1. Heavy flow – Ok, this is not the most pleasant thing to write about but I’m going to be honest here. My periods postpartum have been much heavier than they ever were before I had my son.  In the past, super tampons were accidentally acquired in multipacks and they sat in my medicine cabinet unused. Now I have to actively buy and use the super tampons...

    first period after pregnancy

  2. Cramping – I mentioned this above – not only do I get cramps well before my period now, but cramping during my period is worse than it was before I gave birth. I was always lucky to have very light cramps. Now at least one day per cycle is spent in a lot of pain!
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  3. Lower back pain – This is closely related to cramping, but it was something I never experienced before giving birth. Now, my period brings be bad cramps and lower back pain. Having my period just makes me want to curl up around a hot water bottle for days on end.

    first period after pregnancy

  4. Tender nipples – This was a sign my period might be returning – I later realized my nipples are very sensitive around the time I am ovulating. Unfortunately, the pain returns again when my period arrives. This means I spend about two weeks of every month with a lot of discomfort when I breastfeed my son.
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  5. Dip in milk supply – I wasn’t sure I would notice this since I was not pumping at the time that my period finally returned. However, during my period I notice that my breasts don’t feel as full and my son nurses more often and for longer than usual. Once my period ends my supply seems to bounce back – my son nurses less frequently and my breasts feel fuller at the start of each feed.

I have only had my period a few times now since giving birth – I am curious to see if some of these symptoms dissipate as my body readjusts. For example, I could really do without the nipple pain! I will be sure to update this post in the future once I have more experience.

How did your body react to its first period after pregnancy? Did your period take ages to return or was it back after only a couple of months?

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5 Tips to Breastfeed Your Child Beyond their First Birthday

extended breastfeeding

extended breastfeedingBreastfeeding Wasn’t Easy at First

If you’ve visited Fresh Milk Mama before, you already know that breastfeeding was a struggle for me. Those challenges are what inspired me to start this site with the hope of helping other moms breastfeed successfully. If this is your first time here, you can read a bit about the breastfeeding challenges I faced.

I wanted to quit breastfeeding many times, and I’m still surprised sometimes that I managed to make it well beyond 12 months breastfeeding my son. Very early on, it was often my stubborn personality that kept me going another day when I wanted to quit. As my son and I developed a better breastfeeding relationship we still had our challenges, but a few key things beyond being stubborn really helped me keep going. Read on for my suggestions if you are struggling but want to continue breastfeeding.  

 

5 Things that Helped me Breastfeed my Son into Toddlerhood

1) Learning to Breastfeed Lying Down

After the first few weeks of night feedings I was very eager to figure out how to breastfeed lying down so I could get more rest. While it works very early on for some mamas, it wasn’t until my son was about 3 months old that I mastered this skill.

Once I could breastfeed lying down, it changed everything! Night wakings were much easier to handle because I didn’t wake up as much from being in a sitting position, so I got more sleep in total. We could also have restful breastfeeding sessions during the day. And, this alleviated the arm and shoulder cramps I would get from breastfeeding sitting up.

Ultimately, my doula had to show me in person how to breastfeed lying down. The best tip she gave me was to position my son so he was eye-level with my nipple. I had been positioning him much too high so he couldn’t latch. The other tip was that I could breastfeed him from both breasts without flipping over to my other side! She recommend feeding first from the breast that was on the bottom. Then lean forward slightly to offer the second breast! This was much easier than turning over and re-positioning my son.

If you are struggling to breastfeeding your child while laying down, see this page from the Australian Breastfeeding Association for guidance.

2) Learning to breastfeed in a carrier

This was another thing I was desperate to learn. I like to go for walks with my son for exercise, and I also mostly carry him when we go out since we don’t have a car. Again, some mamas master this somewhat early, but we couldn’t manage it until my son was over 6 months old. Once we could do it, though, it was another game changer. I was free to breastfeed on the go!

I think this was difficult for us for so long because my son had trouble latching and also I couldn’t seem to manage putting on a nipple shield and then getting him latched in the carrier. I have had the most success now feeding him in my ergo – I just loosen the straps a bit so his head is level with my breasts and he helps himself. When he was younger I would hold my breast in place for him to latch and support the side of his head while he was feeding.

how to breastfeed in ergo carrier
Breastfeeding in the Ergo Carrier

There are a lot of great tutorials out there about feeding in a carrier. Here is one that I like. Also, I generally feed my son in the ergo, but this works with a lot of carriers/ woven wraps/ ring slings, etc.

3) Joining Breastfeeding Support Groups (Online and In Person)

Outside of La Leche League, I had no idea breastfeeding groups existed. However, I found several really supportive group on Facebook as well as a local group of breastfeeding moms with a chat group. These were amazing resources – anytime I had a question I could be guaranteed an answer within minutes thanks to facebook and the chat group. Plus, monthly La Leche League meetings let me connect with other moms and realize I wasn’t the only one faced with breastfeeding challenges. It was hugely motivating to know other women struggled like I did and also to have access to so much helpful advice whenever I needed it.

If you are looking for a breastfeeding support group, you can search for your local La Leche League chapter as a start. Also check with your hospital as they may be associated with a support group. Facebook is another place to search for online support. You can also see my article about breastfeeding support resources.

breastfeeding support group

4) My own sense of stubbornness (didn’t want to ‘quit’) + cheapness (didn’t want to pay for formula)

Early on, I cried daily over the pain and unexpected difficulty of breastfeeding. My family was supportive but reminded breastfeeding was not something I had to do. To this day I’m not sure exactly what drove me so hard to stick with it. I am stubborn by nature but I clung to the idea that I could successfully breastfeed very fiercely.

A secondary thing was the cost of formula and bottles. While this was only a small piece of my decision making, I did keep wondering why I would pay for formula if I had perfectly good breastmilk available. I don’t have anything against formula and I did buy a canister when I thought I would supplement a bit to give my aching nipples a rest. I never did use the formula because I opted to express some milk and cup feed instead when I needed a break from direct feeding. That allowed my nipples to heal and helped my vasospasm pain reduce a bit.  

breastfeeding beyond one year
My Back-up Formula Canister

5) A supportive employer so I could pump at work

I returned to work full time when my son was three months old. He was exclusively breastfed so I had to pump enough milk each day for the feeds we missed while I was working. My employer was very supportive and I was able to spend as much time as I needed to pump each day.

Without their support I’m not sure if I would have had the will to fight to pump because I was exhausted between motherhood and working. I eventually developed a good routine and came to look forward to pumping each day. See my tips for pumping at work here. You can read about the best breast pumps for working moms here

If you are living in the USA, your employer must provide you with the time and a place to pump. I was living abroad but working for a company headquartered in the USA, so I was able to take advantage and pump in a private room. What worked for me was to bring my laptop with me so I could do work while pumping. This wasn’t necessary but it kept me from getting bored and also helped me leave work punctually each day. I also had a tendency to eat lunch while I pumped. This was a little lonely but it helped me make sure I finished my work each day because my priority was leaving work on time.

I’m grateful to be breastfeeding in toddlerhood

I’m so glad now that I’ve continued breastfeeding my son. For example, it has been an excellent comfort for him while he’s sick. And it’s reassuring to me to know he’s getting good nutrients from breastmilk when he won’t eat his meals. Plus, we travel a lot, and breastfeeding him on the plane is a great way to either keep him quiet or help him fall asleep.

extended breastfeeding
Breastfeeding my 17 month old on the train

I do still get frustrated some days and feel like it’s time to think about weaning, but my goal is to breastfeed him to natural term when he weans on his own.

How long have you been breastfeeding? Do you plan to go longer than a year or until natural term? Share your experiences in the comments below.

See my other tips on breastfeeding older babies:

toddler breastfeeding tips    breastfeeding and teething tips to prevent biting

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Breastfeeding and Teething: 5 Tips to Prevent Biting

Breastfeeding and teething

breastfeeding and teething tips to prevent bitingWhat’s it like to breastfeed a baby with teeth?

A baby with teeth can put off a lot of breastfeeding moms. Before my son was born I would often say that I would breastfeed until his teeth came in. Once his teeth did come in and I continued breastfeeding, more than a few people looked at me with a mix of wonder and disgust when they realized I was breastfeeding a baby with teeth.

When a baby/child is actively nursing, they can’t actually bite you because of the position of their tongue. Once I realized this I felt a lot better about breastfeeding! A baby may bite during a breastfeeding session, but they physically cannot bite you while they are actively drinking milk. 

Biting can be quite painful!

Aside from the occasional (extremely painful) bite, breastfeeding my son after he started teething was no different than breastfeeding him before. My son also teethed relatively early, with his first two teeth coming in just as he reached 5 months. By then our breastfeeding relationship was pretty well established and I also wanted to exclusively breastfeed him until he started solids, so we chugged away with nursing as he teethed.

Having your nipple bitten while breastfeeding is incredibly painful. Much like I wasn’t prepared for the initial pain of breastfeeding, I was also not prepared for the pain of a bite! There are a few tactics to teach your child biting is not okay and to prevent future bites.

How can you prevent biting while breastfeeding? 5 Tips:

1. Unlatch him or her. If your nursling bites you, unlatch and gently but firmly say something like ‘Biting is not okay. Biting hurts mommy.’ If they don’t understand your language, they will understand that biting means no milk and they will generally learn quite quickly.

2. Pay close attention. If you think your child is about to bite, slip your finger into his or her mouth so your finger gets bitten instead. Since a baby can’t bite while actively nursing, pay close attention so you can be prepared if they try to bite.

3. Avoid yelling or other dramatic reactions. This will be hard when you’re in pain, but dramatic reactions can actually encourage your child to repeat the biting behaviour to see the same big reaction again.

4. Remember, while actively feeding, it is impossible for your child to bite.  This is because of the position of their tongue. If you have been experiencing biting, pay attention as they finish a feed and unlatch them before they can bite.

5. Check the cause of biting. Your son or daughter may bite if the milk flow is too fast – if you have an overactive or fast let down, you can unlatch your nursling as your milk starts to flow and then allow them to latch back on once the flow is a bit slower.

When I look back now, I laugh at how I was intimidated about breastfeeding my son after his teeth came in. Teething did add a bit of a challenge, but it has been very manageable and I would encourage anyone who is hesitating to continue breastfeeding after teething to try it!

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5 Tips for Breastfeeding an Active Toddler

Breastfeeding a Toddler

Breastfeeding a Toddler

Breastfeeding Can Be a Challenge…

My tiny newborn has become a rambunctious toddler in what seems like the blink of an eye. Our breastfeeding relationship is still going strong, but it has certainly changed. I’ve compiled my top tips for breastfeeding a toddler based on our recent experience. 

Breastfeeding my son as a newborn went something like this:

Cry. Breastfeed. Sleep. Poop. Cry. Breastfeed. Sleep. Poop. Cry. Breastfeed. Sleep. Poop. (To be clear, he was the one crying… most of the time)

Once we’d introduced solids and actually had him eating 2-3 times a day, we breastfed like this:

Breastfeed several times at night. Wake and breastfeed. Breakfast – solids. Play. Breastfeed. Nap. Wake and breastfeed. Play. Breastfeed. Play. Breastfeed. Play. Dinner – solids. Breastfeed and sleep.

And now that we are at the toddler stage, it is mostly the same as the above, just picture it with a child that Never. Stops. Moving.

Now that I’m trying to feed a child who mostly resembles a hyperactive chimpanzee, these are tips I’ll share with anyone trying to do the same.

toddler breastfeeding tips

5 Tips for Breastfeeding an Active Toddler

1) Be prepared for rejection

For the first 9 or so months, if I offered to nurse, my son accepted. Without even realizing it, I became accustomed to the gratification of always being wanted when I offered to nurse. As my son gained a bit of independence and ate more solid foods, he didn’t always want the breast. It is still hard for me to accept that even when i know he’s hungry and thirsty, he chooses playing the dirty tissue he found under the couch over my milk.

2) Be prepared for distractions

I heard that it could be challenging to nurse a distractible toddler but didn’t understand how hard it would be. Even when my son wants to nurse, he is so easily distracted. Anything distracts him. The sound of the washing machine entering the spin cycle. The feather poking out of the sofa pillow. The clasp on my nursing bra, which he has literally seen 8-20 times a day since he was born. Something different will work for everyone, but the best way for me to keep my distractible toddler focused while nursing is to sing to him. This way he can’t hear random ambient noise and he tends to maintain eye contact with me. This only works at home, though. If we’re out and about, I nurse him in the carrier.

3) Remember it is more than physical nutrition – nursing has emotional benefits for your toddler

Of course, by breastfeeding your toddler you are providing an excellent nutritional benefit, but your toddler won’t always nurse purely out of hunger. I’ve been grateful that I breastfeed as my son has started to throw small tantrums or stumbles and hurts himself. Nursing is like a magical reset button – it soothes him quickly and lets me get in a cuddle since otherwise he’s always on the move.

4) Don’t worry about shorter feeding times

As my son grew his marathon nursing sessions became shorter and shorter. For us, a full feed became 7 minutes per breast. However, the more active he became, the shorter his nursing sessions. 2-3 minute breastfeeding sessions throughout the day have become the norm for us, with slightly more time spent during his night feeds or if he nurses to sleep.

5) Mind your latch

After months of blissful pain-free breastfeeding, my son’s latch became shallower and suddenly I was running for my lanolin and silverettes. I am not sure what changed his latch – it could have been his molars, confusion with his sippy cup and straw bottle, or even a bit of laziness. I have often had to relatch him several times in one feeding to make it more comfortable.

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