How Breastfeeding Affects Your Sex Life

Happy young parents, mother is breastfeeding their newborn baby
Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

After your child is born, sex may be the last thing on your 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. With a newborn to take care of, along with all of the recent changes to your body, it's 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. It's a temporary situation, and in time, your desire and interest will return.

Lack of desire isn't the only thing that can get in the way. Here are some of the common concerns that couples have about sex and breastfeeding and what you can do about them.

When You Can Have Sex Again

If you have a vaginal birth without complications, you will probably be able to resume sexual relations 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 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. 

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. They may not understand that you need time to physically heal and mentally prepare to have sex again. If they don't know what you're thinking, they may feel hurt, left out, neglected, and worried about your lack of interest.

Hurt feelings can sometimes turn into resentment and anger. Let your partner know that you love them and are still attracted to them, and that you want things to get back to the way they were before the baby arrived. If they know that you just need a little more time, they are more likely to be understanding and patient. Remember that you are in this together.

  • Bring your partner with you to 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 them share their thoughts with you.
  • Share love and affection in other ways while you're healing. Spend time together, kiss, hug, hold hands, and talk
  • Take it slowly when you're ready to resume having sex. Share your feelings with your partner as you go.
  • Schedule together time. With all your 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 new parent takes a lot of time and energy, especially when your baby is very young and especially if you are breastfeeding. 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. These strategies may help:

  • 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.
  • Accept help from friends and family members. Let them spend time with the baby for an hour while you rest.
  • Your partner should contribute to caring for the baby, any older children, and your home. The more they do, the more time and energy you'll have for them.
  • Eat right and exercise. Fueling your body with a healthy diet, and getting some mild to moderate exercise, can help you feel energized. Ask your doctor if it's safe to start an exercise program before you begin.
  • Try brewer's yeast, a nutritious dietary supplement that some nursing mothers take to fight fatigue (check with your doctor on this too). Brewer's yeast 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. Contact your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a breastfeeding group for help treating these problems. Breastfeeding does not need to be painful. Wearing a supportive nursing bra is also helpful.

In the bedroom, 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. 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. Talk to your partner about leaking ahead of time.

To minimize leaks, place nursing pads inside of a sexy nursing bra. You can also express milk 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.

Lack of Estrogen

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

  • 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.

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 self-conscious. When you feel like you don't look good, you are less likely to feel sexy and in the mood for romance.

If you're trying to lose weight, 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. Engaging in physical activity (with your doctor's OK) is also a good way to increase your energy level, elevate your mood, lose weight, and feel better about yourself.

Talk to your partner about how you feel about your body. A little reassurance that they still love you and find you attractive may be just what you need.

Interruptions 

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

Feed the baby, change their diaper, and put them 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.

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, 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, 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. 

A Word From Verywell

Some breastfeeding women feel sexier, with larger breasts and 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. As long as you and your partner can communicate your feelings, support each other, and continue to make each other feel loved, you'll make this adjustment.

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