Even before you’ve actually given birth to your baby, you’ll need to make the decision about whether or not you’ll breastfeed. If you make the choice to do so, you’ll need to start almost right away when your baby gets hungry for the first time outside the womb. Before you make your decision, you should examine it from all angles. Learn about the health benefits and the risks, and understand how the decision will impact your own life for the next few months or even years. You should have a conversation with your doctor about the decision and determine which choice you feel most comfortable with. Though it shouldn’t be a driving force behind your decision, there is one fact about breastfeeding that most women don’t know until they’re directly impacted; women who breastfeed will have a delayed menstruation after giving birth.

If you’re not breastfeeding, your menstrual period will come back in full force a few weeks after delivery. On the other hand, if you’re breastfeeding, you can expect a longer delay between the time of delivery and the time of menstruation. When it comes to menstruation during breastfeeding, there really is no “normal.” Your body’s response will depend on your individual reaction to the hormones caused by the production of breast milk. You might notice a period soon after your lochia and then stop bleeding for months. On the other hand, you might not bleed at all until you’ve finally weaned your baby to formula a year after you’ve given birth. Each woman’s body is different. However, one thing is guaranteed – your menstruation will be quite a bit different than it was before you became pregnant. Most women who are breastfeeding report lighter and more irregular periods.

As for fertility, the general rule is that women who are breastfeeding and have not menstruated consistently are not fertile. However, there is a small chance you might be ovulating regardless, so don’t trust this fully if you’re not interested in having another baby. Talk to your doctor about contraception, and don’t have unprotected sex if you’re not trying to give your little one a sibling any time soon.

For many women, menstruation actually improves after pregnancy. Cramps are less intense and each period is often lighter and more predictable. If you’re breastfeeding, you can expect an even longer vacation from menstruation and a much lighter period when it finally makes its re-appearance someday.

Source: Suparmi Suparmi et al: Exclusive breastfeeding but not selected contraceptives use delayed resumption of menstruation. Health Science Journal of Indonesia Volume 1 Issue 1 2010