How Breastfeeding Affects Your Sex Life

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After your child is born, sex may be the last thing on their mind. Pain, exhaustion, changing hormones, and fear can all play a role in your desire to resume sexual relations. Breastfeeding can also affect your sex life. Here's what you need to know.  

Breastfeeding and Your Sex Life

It's possible that breastfeeding will not affect your sex life at all. But with the addition of a new family member to take care of, along with all of the recent changes to your body, it's more likely that you and your partner will have to make a few adjustments.

While some nursing mothers are anxious to get back to the physical relationship that they shared with their partner before their baby was born, others find that they have less sexual desire — or no interest in sex whatsoever. All of these responses are normal, so don't worry if you find that you have less of a sex drive these days. It's a temporary situation, and in time, you will find that your desire and interest will return.

Your sexual desire isn't the only thing that can get in the way: there are other things associated with breastfeeding that may affect your sex life, too. Here are some of the common concerns that breastfeeding women have about sex and breastfeeding and what you can do about them.

When You Can Start Having Sex Again After You Have a Baby

If you have a natural birth without complications, you will probably be able to resume sexual relations with your partner by four to six weeks after the birth of your baby.

You will have your postpartum check-up at that time, and your doctor will give you the OK if everything looks good. If you've had an episiotomy or a c-section, it may take longer than six weeks for you to heal and feel up to having sex again. 

Things you can do: 

  • See your doctor for your postpartum exam about four to six weeks after you deliver your child. 
  • To prevent any complications with your recovery, you should not begin having sex before you see your doctor, even if you've stopped bleeding and are no longer sore.
  • Don't have intercourse or place any object into the vagina before your body heals. It can result in an infection or other complications. 

Changes in Your Relationship With Your Partner

Your partner may be concerned about your relationship. He may not understand that you need time to physically heal and mentally prepare to have sex again. If he doesn't know what you're thinking, he may feel hurt, left out, neglected, and worried about your lack of interest. Hurt feelings can sometimes turn into resentment and anger, which can make the relationship suffer. Make sure to let him know that you love him, you're still attracted to him, and that you want things to get back to the way they were before the baby arrived. If he knows that you just need a little more time, he is more likely to be understanding and patient.

Things you can do:

  • Bring your partner with you to your doctor visits while you are pregnant to discuss sex after childbirth. The doctor can explain the reasons you need to wait a while after the birth of your baby, and the changes that you may experience.
  • Keep the lines of communication open to prevent misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Tell your partner what's on your mind, and let him share his thoughts with you.
  • While you're healing, continue to share love and affection in other ways, such as spending time together, kissing, hugging, holding hands, and talking.
  • Even after the doctor says it's OK, you may not be sure that you're ready for sex. You can try it anyway.  Share your feelings with your partner, and take it slowly. Resuming your sex life is a good way to reassure him that you still love him and want to be with him. And, who knows, maybe you just need to jump back into it to realize that you were ready after all.
  • You may need to schedule a little time to spend together. With all the new responsibilities, things may not be as spontaneous as they were before. If you don't make a plan, it may not happen at all.

Exhaustion

Being a mom takes a lot of time and energy, especially when your baby is very young. If you're not getting restful sleep because you're waking up for feedings during the night and then taking care of the baby all day, you may be so tired that sex is the last thing on your mind.

Things you can do:

  • Try to get some rest during the day. If you take a nap with the baby in the afternoon, you might not be as tired later in the evening.
  • When your friends and family members offer their help, accept it. Let them visit and spend time with the baby for an hour while you get a little rest.
  • Your partner can lend a hand with the baby, older children, or the housework. The more he does to help you out, the more time and energy you'll have for him.
  • Eat right and exercise. Fueling your body with a healthy diet, and getting some mild to moderate exercise, can help you feel energized. Just be sure to ask your doctor if it's safe to start an exercise program before you begin.
  • Ask your doctor about taking brewer's yeast, a nutritious dietary supplement that some nursing mothers take to fight fatigue. As an added benefit, it may also help you to make more breast milk.

Painful Breasts

Pain from sore nipples, breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, blebs, thrush, or mastitis can make the thought of sex very unappealing.

Things you can do:

  • Tell your partner what's going on with your body and discuss how you would like to exclude your breasts from any sexual encounters until you're feeling better.
  • Treat the cause of your breast pain or nipple soreness. Contact your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding group for assistance if you need it.
  • Wear a supportive nursing bra.
  • Use sexual positions that do not put pressure on your breasts.

Leaking Breast Milk

Sexual activity can stimulate the let-down reflex and may cause breast milk to leak or spray out of your breasts. It can be shocking or embarrassing if you and your partner are not prepared for it.

Things you can do:

  • Talk to your partner about leaking ahead of time to find out how he feels about it.
  • Place nursing pads inside of a sexy nursing bra to help keep leaks from getting in the way.
  • Pump or breastfeed your baby right before any sexual activity, so there will be less milk in your breasts to leak out.
  • If you and your partner do not mind the leaking and your breasts are not sore, then your partner does not have to avoid them. It will not harm you or your breast milk supply if your partner touches or stimulates your breasts.

Less Estrogen in Your Body

Your body's estrogen level is lower while you are breastfeeding, which can cause a decrease in your sex drive. It may take you longer to become aroused, and you may experience painful intercourse due to less vaginal lubrication.

Things you can do:

  • Don't rush. Give yourself more time to become aroused.
  • Use a personal lubricant to help with vaginal dryness.
  • Try different sexual positions to make intercourse more comfortable.
  • Ask your doctor about a prescription for estrogen cream to use on the vulva and vaginal opening if you're experiencing discomfort during sex.
  • Think twice about getting waxed: less estrogen can cause the skin around the vagina to become thin and dry. If the wax is pulled too hard during removal, it could hurt and cause cuts in the area. 

Your Body Image

You may not be feeling very attractive in your after-baby body. Weight gain, stretch marks, and large, hard, leaky breasts may have you feeling a little self-conscious. Plus, with very little time to shave your legs, get dressed up in a cute outfit, or do your hair and makeup, you probably don't feel all that put-together. When you feel like you don't look good, you are less likely to feel sexy and in the mood for romance.

Things you can do:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet, so you can get all the nutrition you need while you're breastfeeding. Making healthy choices will give you more energy and help you lose weight in a safe, gradual way.
  • If your doctor says it's OK, get some exercise. Engaging in physical activity is a good way to increase your energy level, elevate your mood, lose weight, and feel better about yourself. When you feel good about yourself and your body, you are more likely to feel in the mood for sexual activity.
  • Ask your partner to watch the baby, so you can take a shower and get dressed. You may even want to do your hair and put on a little makeup. Looking good can make you feel good, too.
  • Talk to your partner about how you feel about your body. A little reassurance from him that he still loves you and finds you attractive may be just what you need.

Those Little Interruptions 

Babies are not always predictable, so be prepared for interruptions. If your child needs you, you will have to stop what you're doing to take care of her needs before you can go back to spending time with your partner.

Things you can do:

  • Feed the baby, change her diaper, and put her down to sleep right before you plan to spend time with your partner.
  • Be flexible and be patient. Your child is only a baby for a little while. In time, as your little one grows, you and your partner will find more time to spend together.

The Fear of Another Pregnancy

You just went through a pregnancy, and now you have a beautiful baby that you have to take care of. You're very happy, and it's been an incredible experience, but you do not even want to think about doing it all over again so soon. The fear of another pregnancy can definitely make sex a scary thought. Breastfeeding can help prevent pregnancy if you are breastfeeding exclusively around the clock (at least every four hours), your baby is less than six months old, and you have not had your period yet. But if you are very certain that you do not want to become pregnant again, you should talk to your doctor at your postpartum check-up to discuss using birth control. There are safe forms of contraception that you can use when you're breastfeeding. 

Things you can do:

  • Talk to your partner about your concerns.
  • Discuss contraception with your doctor. Once you feel in control of your family planning decisions, you may feel more ready to get back to your physical relationship with your partner.

A Word From Verywell

Having a baby is a major transition, and it can affect many areas of your life including your relationship with your spouse. The decision to breastfeed can also affect your sex life. Some breastfeeding women feel sexier, with larger breasts and a heightened sensation, but others feel overwhelmed, exhausted, less attractive, and uninterested in sex. Both of these responses are normal. If you need time, that's OK. It's an adjustment. As long as you and your partner can communicate your feelings, support each other, and continue to make each feel loved, you'll get through this period of adjustment just fine. Try to remember it's only temporary, and as your baby grows, it will be easier to find the time and energy to return to a healthy sex life. 

Sources:

Johnson CE. Sexual health during pregnancy and the postpartum (CME). The journal of sexual medicine. 2011 May 1;8(5):1267-84.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Leeman LM, Rogers RG. Sex after childbirth: postpartum sexual function. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2012 Mar 1;119(3):647-55.

McBride HL, Kwee JL. Sex After Baby: Women’s Sexual Function in the Postpartum Period. Current Sexual Health Reports. 2017 Sep 1;9(3):142-9.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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