In some African countries, lactating moms and their partners fear having sex. Is it true that sex while breastfeeding destroys the milk and harms the baby? Why would that be?
Common fears relate to having sex at all while breastfeeding, having sex with more than one partner, or having unprotected sex, and that such activities could, for example, reduce milk supply or affect the baby’s health or development.
Is there any truth in all this, or is it pure myth? We sort it out here!
My question is if it is true or not that sex while breastfeeding destroys the milk. I don’t think so, but I want to know..?
In Sierra Leone, lactating mothers fear having sex. The general thought is that when one has sex during lactation, the suckling child’s health deteriorates, even to fatality. It is a common belief that sex while breastfeeding destroys the milk and causes the child to have diarrhea, which becomes fatal.
Most of the time, these things happen as it is said. As soon as the suckling mother starts having sex, the child starts having frequent stools and sometimes dies shortly after. The cause (I think) is that once these mothers have got this notion, as soon as they have sex, they stop breastfeeding the child and start giving it foods (like rice, etc.) that its system cannot tolerate.
In this direction, there is a need for wide publicity of the fact that one can have sex whilst breastfeeding without harming the child. This will go a long way in saving many children in Africa.
My question is if it is true or not that sex while breastfeeding destroys breast milk? I don’t think so, but I want to know..?
Saidu Sebbeh Bangura (Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa)
Easy Baby Life:
The Myth that Sex While Breastfeeding Destroys the Milk
How interesting to read about this widespread folk myth in Sierra Leone and also sad. I’ve heard about this myth before and the fact that many moms, therefore, believe in and follow “banfa” – the tradition to abstain from sex while breastfeeding due to the belief that lovemaking while breastfeeding will harm the child.
Not having sex while breastfeeding is a perfectly fine choice, and the libido while breastfeeding is often low for many women anyway, due to the breastfeeding hormones.
But when this fear of harming the child by having sex means that the baby is weaned early just to be able to have sex, then we have a problem! And the problem, of course, is even more severe if the child is then fed foods that are not age-appropriate. Babies need either breast milk or properly prepared formula to be their main source of nutrition during their first year.
During babies’ first six months of living, breast milk or correctly prepared formula should be their only food. Furthermore, the WHO recommends breast milk be part of a baby’s diet until they are around 2 years old. (WHO recommendation)
How Breast Milk is Affected by Sex
I have never encountered any studies showing that breast milk would deteriorate from lovemaking. My view is similar to yours – the worse diet after weaning causes the children to get sick.
Sex has no connection with breast milk more than possibly through hormones released due to orgasm. The sperms remain at the vagina and the uterus level and never come anywhere near the bloodstream or the milk.
What does happen during orgasm is that the woman’s body releases oxytocin, which is the same hormone that helps the letdown reflex while breastfeeding. So some women start leaking breast milk during their orgasm. This is perfectly normal and has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the milk.
The myth that sex while breastfeeding destroys the milk exists not only in Sierra Leone but in other countries too, such as for example Liberia, Ghana, and Tanzania, as well as in other African countries.
Conclusions on Sexual Intercourse and Breastfeeding
So, to be clear:
It is perfectly safe for your child that you have sex while breastfeeding, as long as the person you have sex with is healthy. What I mean is that sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV, can, of course, harm your child (and you!), but the sperm will not in any way destroy the breast milk or harm your child.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months for very good reasons – you can read about the benefits of breastmilk for both baby and mom here.
Thanks a lot for sharing! I hope you will be able to explain to some of your fellow moms that this myth that sex while breastfeeding destroys the milk simply isn’t true.
And I hope you can stay strong and continue to breastfeed your baby even if and when you decide to start having sex again. It is tough to go against common beliefs. Kudos to you!
- Prolonged sexual abstinence after childbirth: gendered norms and perceived family health risks
- Breaking breastfeeding myths
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing is based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians that you find here. They write or review all health-related articles.
This Post Has 17 Comments
What of some women who don’t see their menstruation during this. Of breastfeeding and maybe by instance they get pregnant wouldn’t it affect the baby
I have witnessed it with two different couple and till now, the baby is almost two years but can’t even crib. I really think it does affect the growth of a child.
Hi, becoming pregnant while breastfeeding will not hamper the child’s development. I’m sad to hear about these children’s problems, and I hope they get appropriate help, but correlation and causation are very different. Research shows no evidence that breast milk nutrients will change if the mom becomes pregnant. Also, there is no evidence of changed pregnancy outcomes for normal pregnancies if the mom been if the mom decides to continue to breastfeed during the pregnancy. If you think about it, this myth primarily exists in part of Africa. Women across the globe do become pregnant while breastfeeding – it is quite common. So, if the myth had any truth, it would have been evident. So once again, it is not dangerous to become pregnant while breastfeeding.
You can read more about this here and find links to research: https://llli.org/breastfeeding-info/breastfeeding-pregnancy-tandem-nursing/
I really appreciate you
Can you help me with some advice about having sex with My wife while breastfeeding a two month baby girl
Hi Alpha, congratulations on your baby! What are you wondering about?
Thank you am so happy for dis
Thank you very much for this information.. I come from Cameroon and here the general impression is that, if a lactating mother has sex with a man who is not the child’s father,the milk will be destroyed and the child’s health will detolerate..so nursing mothers avoid having sex with a man who is not the babies dad ..
They say this can only be allowed if the Foster father was present in the moms life from the Time of her pregnancy.. the baby starts getting use to the man right from the womb..so his sperm there after cannot affect him negatively..
It may sound funny.. but trust me..
In my tribe, it is respected strictly..
I would like to clap both my hands for this wonderful information in respect of having sex with my partner whilst she is breastfeeding. Yes, I agree that there is this wide-spread myths that if you have sex with your partner during the course of nursing her child, the child is going to be affected and die as a result of having sex with partner while a woman is breastfeeding. In South Africa, particularly in the areas of Xhosa people, there is this myth that a child is going to be sick with diarrhea and die once you have sex with woman while she is breastfeeding. Now I have received a truth from the WHO💪💪🙏🙏
This is wonderful, I believe that this will shed light and clear the curriousity of many people concerning this fact. God bless you
The problem most breastfeeding moms fear sex while breastfeeding is pregnancy. and I want to know if it is good to go into family planning during breastfeeding? And what is the best method?
Yes, if you want to avoid pregnancy while breastfeeding, it is certainly wise to use birth control of some kind. While fully breastfeeding on demand is often very good protection, it is not 100%, and it becomes less safe as your baby grows older. Depending on when you gave birth, several different methods are safe to use, including mini-pills, intrauterine devices, of course, barrier methods such as for example condoms, and implants to mention some. I’d suggest that you book a time with your doctor to discuss what would be the best option for you. One type that should be avoided is estrogen-containing methods, as they may interfere with breastfeeding.
Good luck and congrats on your baby!
Yea it’s true !!! In my country, Sierra Leone, that’s d thoughts bout breastfeeding and sex!!!! I am expecting my first baby in January and will be breastfeeding!!!
Of course my hubby and I were discussing sex and breastfeeding he was like ” I know we will not make love for like six month ” I was like why and he replied cos u’ll be breastfeeding I don’t want my baby to fall sick!!!! I was like Wow!!! Who told you that? It’s a myth !!!
So I asked him to read about it!!!! And I pray my libido will return early for me to have fun with my hubby!!!!
I’m a Sierra Leonean and i think this myth is misunderstood. Actually, to us, it’s a superstitious belief that if a nursing mother has sex with another man who is not the baby’s father, then the baby will become very sick and probably die.
I don’t believe in those superstitions and I think it’s just some forms of bad nursing associated with poor hygiene, unhealthy feeding and other causes of Sudden infant Death Syndromes(SIDS).
We need proper pre and post natal education for parents of these categories.
I wish all new mothers and expectant mothers the best.
What could actually be the problem after childbirth when a woman bleeds only 3 days and stop. Is it normal? And at the same time having sex without protection.
Hi, guys in South Africa, most black people believe in that myth. It can happen to a child if u have sex with different men. Then the child can get sick. But it amazes me that white people can have sex with any man but their babies don’t get sick. What is wrong with ours or what is the fault with our breastmilk?
Hi to you people is Sierra Leone (suckling mothers especially). I want you to know that the thinking that when you have sex whilst suckling your child will make the child sick is a myth. It is safe to have sex during the suckling period. This will cause no harm to your child.
If you believe the myth above and start giving the baby other feeds; it is this feed that makes the baby sick because its system cannot tolerate it at this time.
Feel free to have sex whilst breastfeeding your child.