Breastfeeding and Sex: 5 Ways Your Desires May Change

Breastfeeding affects your hormones, mood, energy, and the way that you feel about intimacy. Read on to learn more about how the act can change your sexual desires.

New guidelines say doctors should support breastfeeding but not promote it to lessen pressure on new moms.
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If you are a breastfeeding parent who's noticed that your sex life is different than it once was, you're not the only one. Breastfeeding affects everything about you, from your hormonal make-up, mood, and energy levels to the way that you feel about intimacy—and, of course, your breasts.

Let's take a look at how breastfeeding can affect your sex life, why it is happening, and how to have an open and honest discussion with your significant other about how you feel and what you need in the bedroom.

Is It Normal For Your Sex Life To Change While You Are Breastfeeding?

No two parents experience the effects that breastfeeding has on their sex life exactly the same way, but almost all breast- and chestfeeding parents notice some kind of change. "Intimacy after having a baby can be tricky, but you're not alone," says Molly Peterson, IBCLC, lactation consultant at Peterson Lactation Services in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

The reasons for these changes are varied, but it mainly has to do with two things: how your life changes after having a baby and how your body and hormones change. "Parents often feel physically exhausted from taking care of the baby around the clock, but also some parents feel emotionally exhausted or 'touched out' by the end of the day," says Peterson. "Breastfeeding parents also have lots of hormones playing a role in their desire to be intimate again."

5 Ways Breastfeeding Affects Your Sex Life

How exactly does breastfeeding affect your self life and your feelings about intimacy? Let's get down to the nitty gritty of what you can expect.

You may notice a decrease in desire

One of the most common experiences that breastfeeding parents have is a decreased sex drive and/or decreased desire. According to a 2018 study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, almost half of the breastfeeding parents surveyed (46.3%) noticed a decrease in sexual interest.

Ashley Rawlins, PT, DPT, a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor and obstetric health at Origin, explains that this phenomenon is super common and normal. Part of it is that breastfeeding parents are tired and often feel sensory overload by the end of the day after holding and caring for a baby for so many hours. But you can also blame your breastfeeding hormones on this—specifically a decrease in estrogen that happens during breastfeeding. "One of the most impactful ways that breastfeeding can affect someone's sex life is that the hormone fluctuations that support lactation have a negative impact on sexual function," Dr. Rawlins explains.

Or you may want more sex than usual!

There's a flip side to all of this: some parents find that they actually want more sex than usual when they're breastfeeding. And you should have no shame if that's your experience! "Breastfeeding can absolutely boost your sex drive," says Dr. Rawlins. "In some, the increased size and sensitivity of lactating breasts may actually boost your pleasure."

Additionally, breastfeeding releases a hormone called oxytocin, known as the "feel good" hormone, which can also increase sexual feelings, as Dr. Rawlins describes. "Suckling or nipple stimulation triggers the release of oxytocin (aka 'the love hormone') from a part of your brain called the hypothalamus," she says. "This hormone is also released during touch, physical closeness and sexual activity and plays a part in orgasm."

Leaks are going to happen

If you are a breastfeeding person who has sex, you might end up leaking—or even spraying milk—during the act. It might be embarrassing at first, but it can also be an opportunity for a good laugh. The reason for this is that pesky hormone, oxytocin, which is responsible for both sexual arousal and for milk "letdown." You can minimize the spillage by refraining from having sex when you are very full or your baby hasn't fed for a while. The problem will get better the older your baby gets, and your milk supply begins to regulate, usually within the first few months of breastfeeding.

Your breasts may be off limits for awhile

While some breastfeeding parents enjoy having their breasts fondled during sex, some parents feel like that is a big nope—and that's totally okay! "This can be due to a variety of things such as increased sensitivity, tenderness, leaking, and just not feeling like their breasts are a sexual part of their body while they are also being used as a 24 hour snack bar," says Peterson.

You may be drier than usual

Besides decreasing your sex drive, hormonal changes of breastfeeding can make you less lubricated than usual, which can make you less likely to enjoy sex. "Lower estrogen levels can lead to vulvar and vaginal tissue that are thinner and more dry. Sahara Desert dry," says Dr. Rawlins. "So not only is it harder to 'get the engine going' postpartum, vaginal penetration can be painful, which can have a huge impact on your sex life."

Is It Normal To Have Sexual Feelings During Breastfeeding?

It's not something that most of us discuss, and is often considered taboo, but it's common to experience sexual feelings during the act of breastfeeding, says Peterson. The reasons for this? Oxytocin—which is released during both sex and breastfeeding—is the culprit yet again. But this is normal, and shouldn't be looked at as a problem. "It doesn't mean that those sexual feelings are directed at the nursling, but rather that our body is working exactly as it should," Peterson explains.

How To Talk To Your Partner About Your Needs

One of the most challenging aspects of sex during breastfeeding is sharing how we feel with our partner. They might not understand if (and why) we are not feeling up to sex with the frequency we did before. But educating them about what is going on with you physically and sharing how you are feeling can make all the difference.

"Keeping an open dialog with your partner is key," says Peterson. This may include sharing that you don't want to be intimate right now, but it also might mean discussing new ways to be intimate during this time. "You may not be ready to jump back into bed right away, but instead want to connect in other ways like hugging, touching, and kissing," Peterson describes. It's also vital to share how you are feeling during the intimate acts themselves, she adds.

If needing to be intimate in different ways—or taking a break from sex altogether—is your reality, that's okay, and it's 100% normal. Remember, whatever it is you are experiencing is only for now. Before you know it, you will no longer be the leaking, exhausted, hormonal postpartum parent you are right now. We promise.

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