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Breast Feeding

Bleeding & Breastfeeding

06/06/2000

Question:

I am 11 weeks post partum and have been experiencing light spotting to short gushes only after or very shortly after I breast fed. This frightened me away from nursing. After a few days, I got over it and tried to nurse again only to bleed right away. The baby did get an occasional bottle before I shyed away from nursing. Does this sound normal?

Answer:

The hormone oxytocin that triggers the milk-ejection reflex (let-down) also causes the uterus to contract. In the days immediately after giving birth, the oxytocin released when breastfeeding helped control postpartum bleeding. Breastfeeding and any contractions related to oxytocin release don`t cause bleeding, but the contractions caused by the brief release of oxytocin during breastfeeding might help the uterus expel any blood that has accumulated in it.

There is no reason to be frightened or to shy away from breastfeeding because of this effect. If bleeding with/after breastfeeding occurs during a menstrual period, which is possible at 11 weeks--especially when a baby has been receiving bottles too, then the uterine contractions caused by oxytocin (during breastfeeding) may be "pushing" out some of the menstrual blood.

If the bleeding is unrelated to your menstrual cycle, breastfeeding (with oxytocin release) still is not the cause. More likely, the breastfeeding is doing you a favor by expelling any blood and bringing your attention to a possible health issue. Bleeding after the birth of your baby should have ended weeks ago, but there are many factors that may contribute to uterine bleeding that is not associated with the menstrual cycle. Your gynecolgic health care provider is the one to help you figure out what actually is causing this.

For more information:

Go to the Breast Feeding health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Karen Kerkhoff Gromada, MSN, RN, IBCLC
Adjunct Clinical Instructor
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati