One of the most unexpected things about the postpartum period is the painful cramps you may experience during breastfeeding, sometimes almost as bad as labour pains. Learn why you are experiencing these cramps and how to cope with cramps during breastfeeding.
The following is meant to be for general informational purposes and is not to be taken as medical advice. If you have medical concerns please consult your doctor or care provider.
Why Do Women Have Cramps While Breastfeeding But No Period?
Most women experience postpartum cramping in the weeks after giving birth. You may notice that these cramps are particularly intense during and shortly after nursing. They often feel like menstrual cramps.
Many new moms worry that their periods are returning. This is not the case, though the pain feels similar (and in some cases much worse) than period cramps.
The reason why you’re feeling cramps and pains is because your uterus is shrinking back to its normal size, after having expanded considerably during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding moms notice that their cramping is most noticeable during and directly after nursing. That is because breastfeeding releases the hormone needed for your uterus to shrink (Mother Nature knows what she’s doing).
Unfortunately, it takes a while for the uterus to return to its normal size after birth. That’s also why you still look about six moths pregnant when you come home from the hospital.
Although it feels awful, cramping is a good thing, because it means things are working as they should and your uterus is doing its final job after a long pregnancy. It’s hard to be happy about something that feels so painful, but you can rest easy, knowing that everything is progressing as it should.
Postnatal Cramps in Subsequent Pregnancies
Unfortunately for second (or third, fourth, etc) time moms, cramping is a lot worse in subsequent pregnancies compared to the first. A first time mom may not notice much cramping at all.
Personally, I don’t have many memories of experiencing cramps after my first birth. After my second, I remember them vividly and feeling desperate for things to get back to normal!
How Long Do Cramps Last While Breastfeeding?
You may be wondering how long will my uterus contract while breastfeeding? Like most parts of pregnancy and postpartum, there is not one definitive answer. Your cramps will continue until your uterus has shrunk down to its normal size. This could take anywhere from a couple weeks to over a month.
The general answer is about four weeks, with the most intense cramps coming soon after birth, and the pain lessening as time goes on. Of course, this is a generalization. Some moms may not notice much pain at all, while others may experience more severe pain for a longer period of time.
For me, the worst cramps I experienced were in the first two weeks after giving birth. These were cramps that were extremely painful, and I had to breathe through them, much like contractions.
Cramping does not last forever. After a couple of months, your cramping should subside and you can hopefully enjoy a few cramp-free months until your period returns!
Postpartum Cramping Relief
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You probably thought you were done with the breathing exercises after birth, but maybe not. The same breathing exercises you learned in prenatal classes will come in handy now. Breathe through the worst of the pain or learn to meditate.
Tuck a heating pad under your nursing pillow for some quick relief. A heating pad might also feel nice on your back. I highly recommend this microwavable heating bag, that does not have to be plugged in.
Hopefully you don’t have a summer baby in a heat wave like me, or you may want to skip this tip!
You may need an OTC painkiller to take the edge off the pain of your cramps. Consult your doctor to ensure you know which medication and dosage is right for you. Watch out for traditional period-pain medications, which can sometimes contain a large dose of caffeine (not what you need while breastfeeding a tiny baby!).
I always hate this advice for period cramps, and postpartum cramps are no different. Exercise will help relieve some of the pain of cramping and help your body produce extra endorphins. I don’t know how many new moms feel like doing cardio after sleepless nights with a new baby, but if you’re game, take a walk around the block. The fresh air will be good for you and baby.
Stare at Your Baby
If all else fails, look at that new bundle of joy during cramps and know that it’s all worth it!
Menstrual Cramps While Breastfeeding
Your period will eventually return (hopefully not too soon). Personally, I have not found that breastfeeding intensifies menstrual cramps. Fingers crossed you will have the same experience!
Remember moms, postpartum cramps while breastfeeding are completely normal. It happens for a very important purpose and it won’t last forever. You can and will get through it. Hang in there and good luck!
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