Take my Survey: Breastfeeding vs. Return of Menstrual Cycle
As a mom who delays solids, nurses for an extended period of time and offers nighttime nursing for most of the first year, my cycle takes its sweet time returning.
However, I know that this isn’t the case for every mom. I hear anecdotally from a lot of moms that even frequent nursing or nighttime nursing does not prevent their cycle from coming back, and plenty of moms conceive again when their baby is under a year old (and sometimes even less than 6 months old).
This often surprises me, because what I have read about the nursing hormone prolactin is that it should suppress the other hormones required for a woman’s menstrual cycle to return. In theory, this means that during the early months and even the first year when nursing is baby’s primary form of nourishment, she shouldn’t be able to conceive again. Theoretically speaking.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to explore the actual statistics of regular moms, to find out at what point and under what circumstances their own cycle returned? Inquiring minds want to know. Or at least, mine does.
So, I decided to conduct my own very formal and official survey. 🙂
It would be too complex to add too many more fields to the survey. I kept the survey relatively simplistic, which means that I won’t be able to accurately take into account special circumstances, like a mom or baby being sick, going on vacation without baby for a period of time, a season of high stress in the mom’s life, etc.
Would you fill out my survey and help to satisfy this curious little brain of mine?
I promise, I will share the results of the survey with you all!
I’d love to take the survey, but can’t seem to figure out how to get to it! I can’t find the other comments either…what am I missing?
Oh. Apparently I couldn’t find the other comments because I’m the first to comment. Heehee! So, I think it’s safe to say that there perhaps is something missing here. 😛
The survey isn’t coming up for me when I click on your link. Just a blank page. I’d love to take this survey! I allow my babies to breastfeed as much as they want and have had all different results: cycle had not returned yet conceived again when baby #1 was 6 months old, with baby #2 my cycle did not return for 18 months and did not conceive again until she was 24 months old, cycle returned after 9 months, but did not conceive again until he was 3 years old. I think God just arranges it beautifully according to His perfect will!
I’m just having my own little comment party here. Ha! I realized I didn’t add my thoughts. My guess (just a guess) is that when a mom offers the breast often, sleeps with her baby, doesn’t offer supplements or pacifiers or bottles, comforts her baby by nursing…that she will naturally have a longer period of infertility. I think that a lot of moms think they are exclusively BFing, but their baby uses a paci, or they don’t sleep with their infant, etc. Not that any of those things are wrong! I just think they that definitely impact your period of natural infertility. I think it also matters how long you’re away from your child–even a church nursery can impact how often you nurse your baby.
My first son was nursed exclusively till he was six months old when we tried some rice cereal. He didn’t care for it–I’ve tried the stuff and I don’t blame him! 🙂 My cycles came back at nine months after he started eating more solid food.
My second son didn’t want to have anything to do with solids and he spent a lot more time in my bed sleeping–and nursing. My cycles didn’t come back till the 17 month mark.
My third son is now nearly 11 months old (eek! how did that happen?) and there’s no sign of my cycles returning. He has slept with me since day 1 and doesn’t eat a whole lot of solid food.
My two cents. 🙂
Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing (Sheila Kipley) has many statistics on the subject. She surveyed 1000+ women (it may have been quite a bit more. . . it’s a while since I read the book), and for those that followed her tenants of “ecological breastfeeding”, the average first post-partum cycle was 14 months. My cycles came back at 15 1/2 months, following her tenants. The tenants are:
exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months
night feeding and napping/resting with your baby
nursing on cue
maybe one more tenant?
.-= Susan´s last blog .. =-.
@Susan, There was one more – avoid anything that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby. Also, no bottles was listed along with no pacifiers.
She said that frequency of suckling is the key factor in breastfeeding’s spacing of babies.
@Susan, I just have to point out that this is NOT effective for all women. With my second baby, I was nursing around the clock every 2.5 hours (maybe a 4-hour stretch at night) and only offering a tiny bit of cereal at night to help him sleep. My cycle never started, but I found out (surprise!) that I was pregnant when he was 7 months old. My babies are all 15.5 months apart because apparently I am SUPER fertile, regardless of how much I breastfeed. Exhausting, to say the least, but I know God knows best!
.-= Emily Kay´s last blog ..Counting down the days! =-.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. That’s why I said the *average* return of menstruation was 14 months. For some women it’s much longer, for other much shorter. The point is that statistically, 14 months is the average :-). And this was a very large study, not just a handful of women.
.-= Susan´s last blog .. =-.
I agree with you Emily Kay. I also did the 2-3 hours b’feeding and didn’t even do the cereal and had 2 pregnancies in a row at the 4-5 month mark. I don’t put my kids in the nursery at church and they room in with us (probably too long). My children were also not sleeping through the night either….trying to continue breastfeeding and being pregnant and getting up in the middle of the night made me quit around the 6-7 month spot!
I did the survey too, but thought I’d just post how my body just throws a wrench into that… lol.
With my first I was taking classes at our Community college. So my sis was with her 2 days a week for a few hours. She did take a bottle usually just one while I was gone, but sometimes 2. She had a pasi , too. We did co-sleep, she would go down first, then when she woke up to eat she’d stay in our bed. She ate on demand, started cereal at 6 months. (Though that didn’t have an effect of my period) I started 10 weeks after having her, yes 10 WEEKS.
Second child, I wasn’t working or in school, she nursed on demand and was only away from me in church and they would call me out to nurse her if she needed it. But usually I nursed her before dropping her off so she didn’t need it. She had a paci… I started at 11 weeks.
With my last on I did everything the same except no paci. He was ALWAYS on me. He would nurse at least every 2 hours except when sleeping. I tried the no paci because I want to NOT have my period. I started 5 DAYS after I stopped bleeding. This was about 7 weeks after he was born. (I’m counting when I was still just lightly spotting in the 6 weeks of bleeding… and 6 weeks has been my average.)
I have to say him not have a paci made it a lot harder for me. I’m expecting this time too and I’m giving this baby one, my body just wants me to have lots I guess… lol!
I can’t take your survey because I’m still nursing my first, but I think I’m an unusual case. My little boy is 8 months old today. He’s been on solids since 4 months (wouldn’t stop grabbing the food off of my plate), has never been a very good nurser and refuses to nurse frequently or for very long, takes bottles 2 days a week while I’m at work (I pump), and loooooves his pacifier. Even with all of that, my cycle still isn’t back. And no, I’m not pregnant! I’ve checked! 🙂 I’m certainly not complaining. That time of the month can stay away as long as it likes! But I do seem to be the exception to the rule.
I usually keep my baby in bed with me so I can nurse and fall asleep. My cycle starts anywhere from 11th-13th month postpartum. I do not understand why some women began their cycle so early even when they are nursing exclusively either.
This is an interesting subject to me too! I got my cycle back with my first when she was only 3 months old, but I also went on the progesterone only pill at 6 weeks postpartum. I nursed on demand, brought her to bed with me, and night nursed til she was about 9 months old. I conceived our second when she was 11 months old, and still nursing. Now, my second is 11 months old and I still don’t have my cycle back. I waited to go on the progesterone only pill until he was about 3 months, and I don’t know if that made a difference. We are not ready to have another (yet) so I’m happy that my cycle hasn’t returned.
I’m curious, I’m not thrilled about being on the pill, but we also are not in a position to have another baby right now. I have heard a lot about Natural Family Planning, but not sure how it works after having a baby and when you don’t have a cycle. I am just afraid that I might get my fertility back and become pregnant without really realizing it. How do you handle NFP after having a baby, when nursing, when you don’t have a cycle, and when you’re not ready to add another baby to your family yet?
@Emily @ Live Renewed, we used NFP successfully for the first 6 months of our marriage, until we kind of threw the “guidelines” out the window. 🙂 I had the same question after our son was born, and we ended up just using a barrier method during that “in-between” time. It worked well for us!
@Emily @ Live Renewed, The Couple to Couple League book, The Art of Natural Family Planning, has a chapter on the return of fertility while breastfeeding. It is very helpful.
@Emily @ Live Renewed,
The pill can cause abortions so I would try to use another form of birth control that is a bit more natural.
I follow ecological breastfeeding and have consistently had my periods return at about 24-26 months postpartum.
I co-sleep and practice attachment parenting. My children do not receive bottles and nurse at the breast. I wear my babies and do not leave them in their first year. They nurse on request and usually begin eating table foods around their 10th month.
.-= Kari´s last blog ..Provident Living Skills display for ward Preparedness Fair =-.
@Kari, just wondering. How do you children handle the solid foods at 10 months old. I was willing to start my first two children on solid food at a later date. I started them at 5 and 6 months, because the pediatrician told me that starting them later would make them less agreeable or something. But my second child really wasn’t that interested in solids but I started her on them anyway at 6 months because I thought I was suppose to. I’m preg now and thinking I want to nurse a little longer (without solids). Both of my two kids now nursed for 12 to 18 months, and of course most of my friends and family thought I was crazy. I literally had to “sneak” and nurse my daughter once she passed 12 mo.
So, did your kids handle solids well at 10 mos, and were they even interested in table food before then?
My daughter didn’t start solids until 12 months and my son is almost 9 months with no solids yet. I had many people tell me horror stories of how my daughter would be delayed in her development by waiting on solids, that she would be a picky eater, that she would have major nutrient deficiencies, etc. None of these things are true. At 3 years, she is the most adventurous child eater that I know and she is extremely heathy. Both kids went through a short time when they seemed interested in foods (around 7 months), but it wasn’t a big deal and once we got past that time, they were/are both content to just breastfeed. Hope that’s helpful!
I have nursed 3children without suplementing, one was and still is a thumb sucker and the other 2 did occasionally use a pacifier. I also used the progesterone only bc pills after all 3 children. My cycle did not return until after they had each been completely weaned between 13 and 15mo.
They each co-slept to varing degrees and started solid foods btwn 8-10 mo. Another thing to mention is I am a working mother, so they took bottles from 3mo on. I kept a pumping routine at work that mimicked their normal nursing schedule as much as possible given the circumstances.
One thing I would like to add for fellow working mother’s is… it is often easy to become envious of those who are able to stay home, and to feel as if we cannot care for or provide or nurse or whatever your personal area of quilt may be as well as those who stay home full time. My 2 cents is, God will not give you more than you can handle and sometimes you just have to think outside the box and be a little creative with your planning, preparation and time managment while at home.
Theoretically speaking…. love that. I have had six children. A bottle never touched their lips. I nursed everyone around the clock, no schedules. Some even slept with us. They nursed from 14 to 19 months. And I was never on the pill.
And my period came back WAY before they were done nursing…. the earliest was 6 weeks…. several at 3 months, 1 at 6 months, and my last was the longest (because I am OLD), I think she was 10 months….
I’m interested to see your survey results.
@Jessica @ LifeasMOM,
I’m not alone! With all 3 of mine I started within 10 weeks, the last one in 7 weeks.
Very interested to see how this is going to turn out!
.-= Kait Palmer´s last blog ..A Haircut, a Wedding, and a lot of Photoshop =-.
i’m still nursing my son. he’s 16 months now. i’m not sure when i’ll stop. my period returned the day before his first birthday, but he was eating a lot of solid foods by then. i also work so he did have a bottle when i wasn’t there, but it was milk that i pumped (with a very rare supplement).
I have been thinking about this lately. I just had my first child in October and have been breastfeeding him.
Carter is about 7 months old and I still haven’t gotten my period [so nice and a good reason to breastfeed] and I haven’t had another kid yet [not on birthcontrol].
Hope that helps a little. Excited to read a follow up post on your findings.
I find this subject very intersting. I think every woman is diffrent although in theory, this should work. My exeperiences were to get my cycle back in less than 6 mths but I also use a pacifier. My cousin however, coslept with her first daughter and didn’t use a paci but also got her cycle back at about 6 mths. So, I am curious as to what variables need to be in place to keep your cycle from returning. I had always thought that breastfeeding was enough (including night feedings) but I guess not?
I think Kari’s description fits us pretty well, too. My AF returned at 21, 20, & 17 mo. Yay for extended amenorrehea!!
If you’re overweight you are more likely to begin menstruating while breastfeeding because of the hormones in your fat supply. (I know because I’m 30 pounds overweight and I started menstruating 6 weeks after giving birth even though I was breastfeeding exclusively and did so for six months before introducing solids).
Would you like me to fill out a survey for each time I nursed…b/c they were all a little different. And yes you can get pregnant if you are exclusively breastfeeding:)
I got my cycles right away. Every woman is different, so i say theory-shemeory! 🙂
I did take the survey, but I just had to comment. Our bodies are complex creations and not every body follows the same path. I’ve noticed that my body seems to ALWAYS go against the norm. 🙂 esp. when it comes to child birthing!
.-= Lindsey@ Mama Sews´s last blog ..32 Things update =-.
We have used Natural Family Planning (NFP) with much success in our marriage. One thing I remember that was said in the class was “as soon as ANYTHING is introduced to the baby that is NOT the Mother’s breast for food or comfort or whatever, you must consider yourself fertile.” This includes pacifiers, bottles, wet rags, dummies, sometimes even thumbs and fingers (of the baby or another person). Of course everyone is different and what you eat plays a part as well.
A Mother at a La Leche League meeting had a preemie who was about three months old and discovered she was pregnant again. She mentioned something about being vegetarian and eating a lot of soy products. With my research (especially Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions and it’s companion book, Honoring Our Cycles), I found that soy has phyto-estrogen in it and eaten in large quantities and unfermented or ‘processed’ improperly, it really messes with your biology, which may explain why she conceived so early (she was breastfeeding exclusively, but unknown if the baby was getting anything else in NICU or at home…).
I would suggest reading Honoring Our Cycles by Katie Singer. So much in there that could be an easier fix for ‘woman problems’ than drugs! Not a big book, kind of like a workbook with charts and things.
I breastfed exclusively with my older son and coslept part time, and got my cycle back shortly before he turned one, even though he still nursed at night. I was charting for NFP and know that the first one was “empty” (no ovulation) and I’d be curious to know how many women had a return to menstruating that was not really fertile. I got pregnant with my second a few months later. But he was in the NICU for a week and a half and even though I pumped I don’t know yet if it affected my fertility.
My daughter is 7 months old and she is still breastfed on demand (which she usually still demands about every two hours and once at night), she does take a paci, we cosleep, and she is just now starting to occasionally eat (I might give her something she is reaching for on my plate and let her taste it but we’re not really making it a point to feed her and she never really eats a lot) So far my cycle has not returned.
This post gave me a big smile as it brought to mind the number of babies born in my old church because the pastor’s wife always successfully used breastfeeding to space her babies a bit and told others they could do the same. Oopsy, it doesn’t work for everyone! 🙂
I am currently nursing my first baby, and my cycle started up again when he was only 10 weeks! What a shock! I always thought you were safe from it all while nursing. I must say, I was kind of bummed! 🙂
After my first two I was convinced that I wouldn’t resume menustration or get pregnant while breastfeeding. It took three months post-weaning for my cycle to return, I was 20 months post-partum. However, with my third I got my cycle back when he was 12 months old and I was pregnant when he was 15 months and still bf what felt like “all” the time. So I don’t know? I believe fertility is extremely variable from woman to woman.
I’ll take the survery! First I’ll comment.
I think that breastfeeding and cycles returning can also have a lot to do with a few extras other than just breastfeeding. I think it can have to do with the child’s personality (need to nurse and how long) and the mother’s use of or no use of pacifiers or scheduling of any kind, or how long (or at all) they allow comfort nursing, or if they ever use bottles (even occasionally, even with breastmilk pumped, since pumping does not from my understanding have the same effect on hormones). Anyways…I learnt all this from a fascinating book called “breastfeeding and natural child spacing” by Shiela Kippley. She has 7 standards of what she calls ecological breastfeeding, that she claims will help delay cylces. It makes total sense to me. I follow most of what she says but do not experience as long as she says without a period due to not following one of the standards (we don’t usually nap nurse during the day). I don’t see it as rules to follow or a good mom/bad mom type of thing or anything…I just found it very eye opening and facinating to read.
Another fact to note is that sometimes cycles can return and not be fertile. As in you can be having anovulatory cycles for a bit. This happened to me. I know from charting. Although you totally CAN get pregnant before having a first postpartum period and ovulate before your period.
Anyways…I find this very interesting and will take the survey now!
@Nola, So true about having both infertile cycles (I had this for 4 months when my cycle returned after my first) and also getting pregnant before a first postpartum period (this happened with my youngest).
I’ve heard of that book before and I’m definitely curious to read it!
This is an intriguing subject to me as well. I have read the Sheila Kipley book and read her stats, and yet I feel like I personally know a lot of people who don’t make it to that “average” 9 month mark. I wonder about genetics, diet, chemicals in our surroundings (both growing up and at present) and more. I’m looking forward to reading about your findings.
I have met very few women who actually follow all of Kipley’s tenants, and I think that is what skews her statistics so much. I know plenty of women who breastfeed on demand and delay solids and think they are following all the tenants of ecological breastfeeding, but when inquiring more, I hear “oh yeah, the baby does get the occasional pacifier” or more likely than that (because a lot of people to know the pacifier connection), the mom is not getting regular rest, and that can have a huge effect on fertility return.
I took Kipley’s tenants as factors to delay fertility, not factors that a mother must do to be a good mother, so my point is not that most women I talk to have “failed”, just that when we talk further, I find they really aren’t following “the rules” precisely, so maybe that’s why so many of them are not getting delayed cycle returns.
.-= Susan´s last blog .. =-.
Agreed. Rest is a huge factor that our culture doesn’t promote except through extremely early night weaning. I do use pacifiers and sleep with the baby in my room, but not in my bed, so when I talk to friends who nurse more often and sleep with their babies and don’t use paci’s, I’m astounded to hear about their cycles returning a year earlier than has been my experience!
Thanks for mentioning that it’s not about “failing” or “succeeding.” Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating topic, isn’t it?
.-= Carole´s last blog ..currently reading: =-.
What I find very interesting is that although the average return of fertility among American women using Kippley’s standards is 14 months, the average return of fertility for the hunter-gatherer !Kung tribe of Africa is 35 months (also from Kippley’s book). It would seem that lifestyle must also play a significant part in the length of breastfeeding amenorrhea.
I answered as best as I could with our youngest, who I’m currently nursing.
I nursed our oldest for a week, then pumped for 3wks before my supply dried up. She never really latched on properly and I had NO support or help. My postpartum bleeding lasted 5 1/2wks and THREE DAYS later, I had my first period. No joke.
With our youngest … she’s 20 months old and I’m still nursing her. Two times a day usually. Sometimes a little more. I nursed on demand with her … even at night … and still do. Exclusively breastfed until she was 7 months old. My cycle didn’t return until she was 10 months old … even though she was still nursing 3,4,5, or even 6 times a night some nights.
.-= Brandy´s last blog ..Selfless Love and Concern =-.
Loving the conversation! So interesting and I’m thrilled to see that everyone is begin so gracious about the topic. You ladies all rock. Excited to see and share the results! 🙂
Yes, it’s very interesting the variation between women. With my first my cycles got back when she was 8 months. I nursed on demand, she slept with us and I breastfed for 22 months. I got pregnant when she was still nursing and after 10 weeks I had a misscarriage, I dont know if the nursing was related to it. But now with number two, he just turned one and no cycles yet. The nursing is more on a schedule and he sleeps most of his nights in his crib. Funny isn’t?? Oh, my daughter started solids around 7-8 months but this little one started at six! he loves solids and isn’t as attached at my breast as his big sister.
Thank you for posting this! I’ve always been curious about when other breastfeeding moms get their cycle back. I don’t know a lot of other moms who exclusively breastfeed, so just reading the comments has been wonderful!
I have a 2 1/2 yr old who I nursed for about 16-17 months. My period returned when she was 13 months and I’m pretty sure I only had one -maybe two before I became pregnant with baby #2 who is now 8 months old. With #2, I had what seemed like a very light period on and off (very strange) a week or so after my post natal bleeding had stopped. I thought I was getting my period back when my baby was only 8 wks old! I don’t know what was going on with that, but it stopped after a couple of weeks and I haven’t had any signs of a period since (i’m not pregnant now). I nurse my 8 mo old 6-8 times a day (including some night feedings) and started her on some solids at about 7 mo. I am curious to see when my fertility returns this time around (since I’m doing things a little bit differently).
Anyways, thank you Stephanie for your blog. I have been following it since my first baby came along and have loved learning from you! Your articles, wisdom and research have really blessed me in many different ways. =)
I’d definitely be interested to see your results! I couldn’t take your survey, since I’m still breastfeeding. (Although he seems to be gradually decreasing in wanting to nurse; I’ve noticed a decrease in milk supply lately due to that.) But for now, at 9 months, my cycle hasn’t returned yet.
I remember reading in one of Dr. Sear’s books, that if you exclusively breastfeed (including no pacifiers) for the first 6 months- especially making sure to breastfeed between 2-6 am- then fertility/cycles usually don’t return until around 14 months. I have been curious to see if that holds true for us. 🙂
.-= Michele @ Frugal Granola´s last blog ..Journey of Blessing: Discontent =-.
@Michele @ Frugal Granola, Interesting what Dr. Sears said. I definately followed that- delayed solids (due to baby’s readiness) and never even once a bottle or pacifier, no schedule, etc…and anyways baby #1 returned at 11 months, baby #2 9 months. However baby #2 is much less needy in terms of how often she nurses, only once at night. I also wonder if it has to do with how LONG the baby nurses when they are nursing. I was shocked to learn that both my babies nurse very fast. 10 minutes is long around here even for a newborn. I have tons of milk. Anyways all this to say that I basically did do what Dr. Sears said and it didn’t “work” for us. But I do know that I am not fertile for a few cylces with both kids. My actual fertility (had period but it was anovulatory) did not return for a few more months.
uhm…your survey automatically fills in a spot for any quesstion you skip 🙁
also, SIL just had her 6th baby, and got preg this time about 3 mo pp, nursing around the clock. All the rest are spaced and planned out to a T (their personality 😉 ). Never expected a return of fertility anywhere NEAR this time. this while nursing the child who persisted in night-nursing the longest. (all the same method of birth control).
When my daughter mostly night-weaned (feeding once per night and not every night) around 4 months and started solids around the same age, I became fertile again by 5 months and easily conceived at 9 months PP.
My son, almost 11 months, co-sleeps and nurses frequently at night, and didn’t start solids until 8 months. I am also tandem nursing him with my almost 2.5 year old DD. She nurses a lot in the morning/early afternoon and then he picks up later in the day and through the night. Between the two I’m still nursing quite frequently. I’ve just recently gotten my period back but haven’t had an actually fertile cycle yet. Hoping that this current one will be because we’re ready for #3!
.-= Kate´s last blog ..Fried Potatoes with Broccoli and Cheese =-.
I had heard that very same thing. So imagine my surprise when I started my cycle when my baby girl was 4 months old??! So disappointing. But my mom said the same thing happened to her. I was nursing on demand and through the night. There was nothing I could have done differently. Baby girl #2 came and my cycle returned at 3 months. I will say that she was more of a sleeper, but STILL! Baby boy was next. 3 months. No cycle. 4 months, no cycle. And on and on!!!! I finally started when he was 13 months old!!! I couldn’t figure it out but was thankful to have a break. Baby #4. A girl. Cycle at 4 months. I don’t know? You tell me. Different hormones? Do boys typically suck harder? I did the same thing with all of them. But truth be told….my little boy has been the biggest nurser so far.
I can’t take the survey since I’m still nursing my first (and my cycle hasn’t returned yet) but I’m interested to see the results.
My baby is almost 15 months old, and he nurses on demand. He has been on solids since 6 months, and has been supplemented with formula when I’m at work since I didn’t have success storing pumped milk (it went bad very very quickly!) He doesn’t drink a lot of formula though, and prefers mama’s milk. He sleeps in the bed with us. I also take the mini-pill. And with all that, I haven’t gotten my period back yet! (Not that I’m complaining.)
As an aside, any thoughts or resources on weaning? I don’t know how to/when to/whether to do it, so I’m trying to figure out what information is out there!
.-= Ina´s last blog ..ten on Tuesday =-.
Oh I wanted to make another comment I read in a LLL phamplet. They did some research and it seems that for some reason, some women who are nursing at all (even a toddler who might only nurse a few times a day) cannot get pregnant. Then they had another woman who actually got her period exclusively breastfeeding TWINS no pacifiers, bottles, schedules etc. I do wonder if it has also to do with rest the woman is getting, the amount of sucking the baby does (how long during the session) and also just plain old different people different bodies.
My daughter was VERY interested in solids from the very first time we offered them (4-5 months, I forget) but still nursed several times per day, only slowly tapering off as she approached 12 months.
My cycle came back when she was 10 months old. So yeah, I was still nursing, but she was getting a lot of her nutrition from solid food by then, and starting to dramatically reduce the amount she nursed.
For those interested in learning about spacing births naturally, the most current book on the subject is The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor. It’s available through lulu.com, amazon.com, etc. It’s an easy read and inexpensive. Sheila
@Sheila Kippley, Thanks for that, Sheila! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on this topic. It’s a popular one, and certainly not well-enough understood by most! 🙂
Stephanie, took the survey and I’m the one who left the really long special message. I’ve had 11 pregnancies. Four were conceived before my cycles had returned. Four were conceived after I weaned my last baby. So, SEVEN were conceived while nursing. BTW, we cosleep and nurse on demand. Some of my babies had pacis, some didn’t.
My oldest is 12, and I’ve had 2 miscarriages. The *longest* gap between my kids is 26 months, so he was 15 months old (but weaned) when his sister was conceived. My closest babies are my first two, 13 months apart.
My point being is that ecological child spacing doesn’t work for every woman, and one must be prepared to be open to life.
NFP doesn’t work for me at all because of the cosleeping – I never, ever ever sleep more than 4 hours in a row at a time and cannot get a basal, and BFing messes up the other signs for me.
.-= Milehimama´s last blog ..One! =-.
@Milehimama, Have you looked into the Marquette model? They developed a method using the ClearBlue Fertility monitor and developed a breastfeeding protocol with the struggles we bf’ing, cosleeping mamas have. Plus they have a (currently free) forum where you can ask the experts questions. Lots of bf’ing moms have found it really helpful.
I can’t take this test! 🙂 I need an option for “wild variations between for each child”. With number 1, I didn’t ovulate until 15 months postpartum. It was MUCH shorter with babies 2 and 3, which according to my midwife is pretty typical.
My first nursed much more than the next two, though, and didn’t sleep through the night until he was two. So, I’ve always attributed that as part of the reason it took so long to start ovulating again.
My next one started sleeping 4-5 hours when she was a month or two old, so I wasn’t surprised when I ovulated at 6 months or so, and similarly with baby number 3.
.-= Carrie´s last blog ..Spend $50, get $50 at Sears! =-.
I took your survey 3 times (and discussed my fourth/current baby in the specifics box, but thought I’d add:
I have a good friend from high school who was nursing TWINS, exclusively, and her cycle returned at 5 months. 3 months for the single boy that came 2 years later. I don’t know how she survives. 🙂
It’s so interesting to read the differences between women. I’m still breastfeeding my first, he’s almost 6 months. He’s had formula (for jaundice), pacifiers from the beginning (doesn’t take them anymore though), and started cereal at 3 1/2 months (I gave into pressure from my husband, pediatrician, and mother! Still feeling very guilty about it!) and my cycle hasn’t returned. He nurses very frequently during the day, about every hour and a half to 2 hours, and usually wakes up once at night though sometimes not at all. He also sleeps in his crib in his room. I do pump quite frequently to store in the freezer.
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My periods returned at 15 1/2, 17, 18 months, and still waiting at 22 months. With babies #2, #3, and #4, I was tandem nursing when my period returned. Babies and toddler co-sleep, no paci or bottles, babywear, solids at 10 months.
I’m interested to see the results of your survey.
Thanks for doing that survey! I can’t wait to see the results.
We are very intentional about following “the rules” of ecological breastfeeding for natural child spacing. All of our children are around 2 years apart in age. 🙂
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With my first, I got my period the week before her first birthday. I had been struggling with slowly diminishing supply since she was about 9mo, which took a nosedive when I got the stomach flu about 6 weeks before her birthday. When my period returned, I was nursing her twice a day (with a couple daily bottle supplements), and she had been on solids since around 5 months. We never co-slept, she loved her paci, no attachment parenting, and I didn’t really nurse on demand. She slept through the night at about 7 weeks, and I only night-nursed on the occasion that she woke up in the night and wouldn’t go back to sleep.
My second was a different story. She was born with tongue-tie (it runs in my husband’s family) that went undiagnosed and really caused nursing problems for her beginning around four months. I finally proceeded with surgery to correct it when she was 8 months and was looking forward to how much better nursing would be. The morning after her surgery, we had the best time of nursing ever, and I was delighted. A few hours later when she was hungry again, she wanted nothing to do with my breast and rejected it from there on out! So devastating. So that was then end of nursing her, and thus, my periods began shortly after that. Prior to her surgery, I was nursing about 6-7 times a day and one time at night. Because of her tongue-tie, she was not interested in solids or a paci all that much.
This is a topic that really interests me too. I ask (almost) everyone I know. I believe I got pregnant 2 days after my son went from 2 feedings to 1. I’m curious to see if this trend continues (and from reading from the comments and advice in real life… it won’t because nothing seems to happen the same way twice!) Maybe it was the # of feedings or the hours between (12 hours). He started sleeping through the night at 3 1/2 months and nursed every 2 hours until 7 months or so. We started solids at almost 5 months. With my second, almost 10 months who is still nursing, he just started sleeping through the night 2 months ago but has not been totally consistent (… like up the past two weeks!). He started solids at almost 5 1/2 months (maybe it’s just them but maybe my milk isn’t super fatty because my boys have LOVED food- they can’t get enough of it!) Anyways, we’re using NFP/FAM so I’m anxiously awaiting/dreading the return of my cycle.
I breastfed my second, co-slept and we do not do pacifiers at all and my cycle came back regularly at 4 months PP, she was EBF until 6 months.
I am now nursing my second daughter and I am expecting the same thing. I didn’t nurse my son (my first born) and my cycle returned at 4 weeks PP, 2 weeks after my PP bleeding had stopped and while I was in hospital recovering from bacterial septicaemia caused by mastitis gone bad.
I breastfed all of my four boys, the first two are five years apart, and the last three all breastfed for about a little over a year. I got pregnant with all of them while I was breastfeeding and my menstrual returned all with the first couple of months. Not much of a conception for me, I have 3 year old, an two year old, and and about to be five year old.
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As far as the breastfeeding fertility relationship, I learned about a study in Brazil from a missionary where a Brazilian doctor looked at the indigenous population who relied exclusively on breastfeeding to nourish their infants & toddlers. He noticed that their babies were usually spaced 2-3 years apart, so he began to look at their habits and found one common denominator—the amount of time between feedings. He noticed that once the moms went more than 6 hours in between feedings, for example, at night, they seemed to be highly, highly fertile—more so than under normal circumstances.
We experienced this when my daughter, who was 8 weeks premature, finally started sleeping through the night at 6-7 months old. The very next month I found out I was pregnant with our son. :O)
I nursed my daughter for 14 months and my cycle didn’t return until the week after she turned a year old. I have had issues with my cycles in the past (or lack there of) but am interested to see when things return with this little one due in December! Nursing also helped me lose all of my baby weight. I lost all 40 lbs I gained with my daughter + 15 lbs on top of that by the time she was 6 months old. It makes the baby weight not seem as bad lol.
3 boys. 13 months between oldest 2, 16 months between youngest 2. Thought it was breakthrough PP bleeding with first. exclusivly BF but couldnt make it to a year with either of the oldest because my body couldnt keep up. hopefully can make it with the NB.
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I think this stuff is fascinating! Can’t wait to hear the results of the survey. I’ll go ahead and add my experience in with every one else’s. 🙂 I demand fed both children. I didn’t co-sleep, but if they woke up at all at night, I would feed them. No solids until 6 months and no bottles. My daughter did suck her thumb, but my son didn’t (and we didn’t use a pacifier). My fertility came back after 4 months with my daughter and 3 1/2 months with my son. I personally think one of the keys (that other people have already mentioned here) is consolidated night time sleep. My daughter was sleeping 6 hour stretches at night from her second week and my son started consolidating his sleep around 6 weeks old. (Imagine my surprise that not all babies sleep as well as my daughter did!) I never wake a sleeping baby, so I am guessing that once they started going longer at night–even though we were still nursing a lot during the day–that my body decided it was time to be fertile again.
I breastfed my son for 12 months (to the day) but stopped regular night feedings when he was 6 months. He also began eating some solids just after 4 months, and was down to 1 to 3 feedings a day by the time he was 10 months. My cycle is just returning 12 months and 1 week after my son was born so I guess I’m an exception to the rule.
I loved nursing my first one! She went for a year and a half until I weaned her as I was pregnant with her sister. She was on demand for the first year and, as long as it was practical for me, basically the same through 18 months. Then we switched to night time, nap time, wake-up, and through the night. She didn’t sleep longer then two and a half stretches until I night weaned her at 28 months, but as we co-slept it was no real bother. Her sister, on the other hand, has slept for a five hour chunk since birth so I am quite interested to see how long my fertility will be suppressed this time! She’s currently seven months and sop far, so good!
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After my first baby, I never got my period-I got pregnant when she was 9 months old.
After my second baby, I got my period back a few days before he was 6 weeks old!
I must say that their births were extremely different. My first was full term. She was born all natural with a midwife. I breastfed exclusively. Started solids after 7 months. My second (surprise!) came 2 months early via c-section and was in the nicu for 5 weeks. He received only breastmilk, but I was only pumping during that time. He still is exclusively breastfeeding at 11 months old.
I wonder if the c-section had anything to do with it or if the pumping was what affected my hormones. I don’t know, but 6 weeks is rather early don’t you think?! I’ve heard some say that if you’re fertile, your body must be ready for another pregnancy. Um, sorry, but I was not ready for another less than 2 months after my preemie was born via c-section! (I know plenty of people stay unfertile for much longer.) At any rate, I personally won’t be relying on nursing for birth control if I have another child! You just never know!
I like the idea of sharing ideas on fertility, Would you like to correspond on each others blog?
I have two boys (ages 5 & 3) and a girl (1 year). I nursed my oldest until 15 months when my dr urged me to stop nursing because I was pregnant. I nursed my middle child until 21 months and he stopped on his own. I am still nursing my little girl who is 19 months. I started solids with my oldest at 4 months, my middle about 6 months and my youngest closer to 8 months. With ALL three, my cycle returned at 4-5 months and I conceived my two youngest while nursing. So much for statistics huh…lol.
I was intent on breastfeeding my son for a year or longer. Several factours interfered with my plan, unfortunately.
Firstly, I was forced to go back to work 6 weeks postpartum because my husband lost his job. Therefore, I was pumping and my husband would feed our son with a bottle while I was gone. Though often my son would refuse the bottle and my husband would have to end up driving up to my place of work (night shift) so that I could feed him.
Secondly, my son weaned himself without any suggestion or help from us at around 8 months. He just decided he didn’t want to breastfeed as much as he wanted to try our food. My milk supply was fine and I’d be producing like crazy, but he wasn’t having it. He’d nurse for a bit and then cry hysterically until we’d let him have a taste of whatever we were eating. I continued to nurse (and still do on occasion, when he wants the comfort), but he just wasn’t interested. This was exceedingly disappointing for me and now, pregnant (and almost due!) with our second child, I am determined to ONLY breastfeed for at least a year. Crying and fussing for other foods be darned!
Thirdly, we did offer a dummy, but he didn’t want it most of the time and he’s spit it out, so I’m not sure that is so much of a contributing factour. Also, we bed-shared, and I would feed on demand during the night (when I was home) and during the day.
That said, my cycle returned when I was about 6 months postpartum and my husband and I conceived (joyfully) at 7 months.
I have extremely regular and predictable cycles normally. We have planned all of our pregnancies and have conceived within one or two months of trying each time. I have 4 kids, ages 6.5, 4.5, 2.5, and 7 months. All have been exclusively breastfed, with the use of pacifiers, and all co-slept at least some, with nursing through the night at a minimum of every 3-4 hours until they were 7-8 months old (when I stopped nursing at night). With my first and third, my period returned when they were 4 months old, with my second, when she was 2.5 months old, and now with my fourth, it hasn’t returned yet. I’m quite surprised, as I haven’t done anything different with her than the others. I wonder if it’s just because I’m in my 30’s now and maybe my fertility is decreasing a bit. I have no idea.
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My son turned 3 in April, and I believe the last time he nursed was about 3 weeks ago. Granted, I’m not producing milk anymore, but he nurses for comfort. He has always been a light sleeper (aka did not sleep through the night until Christmas Eve, 2009 and JUST started sleeping through the night about 3 months ago.) Everytime he woke up, I’d nurse him back to sleep. Easy, because we cosleep. My period returned a month or so after he turned 1. My cycles have never been “regular” and we used fertility drugs to conceive. We’re now trying to conceive baby #2, and are looking for holistic ways to conceive. My cycles are now normal (every 31 days..) but just no ovulating.
Nursing my son was one of the greatest joys of my life, and I look forward to nursing our second child, too. 🙂
My cycle returned about 2 months after birth (at this time I was also at my pre pregnancy weight). PP birth lead right into the period. I nursed my son on demand and co sleep or he will sleep in his crib in the same room. He nursed about every 2 or 3 hours day and night for the first year and then night feedings were less but he still nursed 2 or 3 times between 8 pm and 6 am till I had to wean him at 20 months because I had to take a med for a complicated migraine I got. I stated supplementing with formula at 4 months because I could not keep up. He would only get 6 oz at night before bed with his nursing at 8 pm. I had very little milk production. I started solids at 6 months so that I could get him off the formula and onto real food. I did not like to do formula but even with my little boy eating every 2 hours I did not have enough milk to satisfy him. He would want to nurse again and I would still be dry. I thought the formula and solids would help to hold him through the night but didn´t. I have not yet gotten pregnant but am trying now.
@Rachel, Even though he just turned 2 he still only sleeps though the night only about half the time. He wakes up asking for water. We have really stuggled with sleep so I do not think that your baby sleeping through the night and nursing less is why my cycle returned though for some this may be.
I love what you guys tend to be up too. Such clever work and exposure! Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve you guys to my own blogroll.
My six children are all an average of 24 months apart. The largest space being 27 months and shortest 21. First was demand fed. Others somewhat scheduled. Most of my babies slept through the night within the first month, usually 8-10 hour stretches. Only one used a pacifier and he had the sister that followed 21 months later. That’s interesting.
I am still breastfeeding my 9 month old and no sign of my period yet. Feeding is usually fairly scheduled during the day and a feed about 10pm at night, but I will feed her if she wakes at night. Though normally she does at least 8 or 9 hours at night without a feed and has done since she was about 2 months old
AF returned at 22 months with one child, 21 months with the next. Very little pacifier use, no early solids, and feeding on cue even at night. Neither child slept thru the night til at least two years old, they were nursed back to sleep at night wakings.
With my first two babies, my cycle returned at 3 months. With the next 5, it returned at 5 months (babies 6 & 7 were twins and it still returned at 5 months). With my last one, I was nursing every 2-3 hours (every 4-5 during the night) and it came back at 3 months. With all of them I was exclusively breastfeeding when my cycle came back, but every 4-5 hours all day long except for this last one.
Thank you this will help me to finally sleep at night now that I kinda understand what I need to do for my baby. Thank you for this information and god bless:)
There are SO many unique factors. While you can make generalizations I really think it depends on the Mamas body. My first didnt’ sleep longer than 45m-2 hours straight (co-slept) until she was 12 mos old. We didn’t really do solids untill 8 mos (and even then it wasn’t a big deal) My cycles returned at 7mos pp. My littles are 19mos apart.
My second daughter never slept longer than a few hours (also co-slept nursed at will): she gained 12lbs in her first 6mos…And we delayed solids until 9mos and she went right to table foods. My cycles returned at 5mos pp.
Neither took pacifiers, dd2 has never even had a bottle.
I did every thing “right” but cycles return early. however furtility so far hasn’t returned with dd2: my luteal phases are only 4-8 days long.
Nursed my first on demand until 13 months. Started solids at 6 months and she took to them so quickly and with such delight (she still loves food and has an incredibly open palate!) that she dropped to three feeds daily almost immediately. When she was 8 months, my period came back. She dropped her last feed at 13 months, I think because I became pregnant and the milk tasted different.
My second is now almost 9 months and feeding 3 times daily (5:30am, 3pm, 7pm). No night feeds. Similar story with the foods, though she started a month earlier because I was having milk supply issues. She is less of an adventurous eater. No period yet, so it’s later than with my first, which is surprising given that I needed to start her on solids earlier.
It seems that there are a few basic norms and connections within lactation/menstrual patterns, but a huge variation upon that theme.
My experience has been similar to yours. I have practiced responsive, extended bfing with all of my babies (stopped at 17mos, 15mos, 35mos, 30mos, and still nursing at 6mo). My period has always taken a long time to return. I have only had about 6 cycles in over 7 1/2 years and I’ve been pregnant and/or nursing during that time. Too bad this is my last baby because I’ll have to go back to dealing with regular periods when he is weaned or close to it.
I am currently breastfeeding my 14 month old daughter still about 10-12 times a day. We co-slept exclusively the first 5 months and then she would come to bed with us when she got up for her first nursing. She slept 7 hours straight ONCE in the first 3 months and my cycle returned at 3 months. My cycle has been 100% regular since then. She didn’t start sleeping through the night until about 10 1/2 months. Currently trying to get pregnant while still breastfeeding. We’ll see how that goes. I’m interested to see the results of this survey!
My daughter is 11months and yet no period and I want a baby now I only feed at night
With my first i got my period back at 5 months. She was feeding on demand which for her was about 2-3 hours during the day. She started sleeping through the night at 4 months (7.30 pm – 7.30 am). No solids until 6 months. My second daughter i got my period back at 5 months & 1 week 🙁 not happy! Im currently also feeding her on demand which for her is about every 2 – 2 1/2 hrs during the day. She is still waking at night between 2 to 4 times a night. No solids yet. I don’t know why mine have come back so early.
My son is 22 months and still no cycle for me! We cosleep and he nurses as he wishes, even about 3x at night. We were hoping to start trying for another baby when he was 10 months old – my body/my son had other plans! 🙂 I imagine my kids might be spaced 4 years apart if natural weaning takes place.
My OB/GYN did a blood test on me to feed our curiosity to see if I was headed towards early premenopause (I was 31 at the time) or to see if their might be a thyroid issue/you-name-it issue. Results showed my Estrogen was below 15 and you need about a 40 for a regular cycle or a sustained pregnancy. Doc said she didnt know why, but a simple Google search pointed to my body’s response to nursing, with a combination of my kid’s frequent nursing.
He’s not a great eater, refuses milk, save for three sips… so I’m happy to provide what little nutrition he will take!