Many moms find that their sex drive while nursing is really low. Learn why you have a low libido while breastfeeding and how to deal with it!
The Low Libido While Breastfeeding & What to Do About it
In this article:
- Low Libido While Breastfeeding – Is it Just Me?
- The Breastfeeding Hormones Suppress Libido
- Lack Of Sleep Can Drive Your Insane
- Being Over Touched Doesn’t Help
- Hurting Nipples And Painful Sex
- The (Not So Sexy) Post Pregnancy Body
- Does The Libido Ever Come Back?
- How to Deal with the Low Libido
- Visitors’ Love Life With A New Baby
Low Libido While Breastfeeding – Is it Just Me?
Are you shocked or worried about your very low libido while breastfeeding?
While breastfeeding, your hormones are all over the place. And you’re tired. And it hurts…
As a result, New Mom’s sex drive can be almost non-existent. This can be a great frustration for the woman and her partner.
Some moms I’ve talked to say that they almost felt ill for some time because of the low sex drive while breastfeeding.
How about you, Mom? Vote in this poll on mom’s libido when breastfeeding.
And it is just my random talking to other moms that indicate low libido among new moms. Several research studies confirm what we already know. For example, research from 2020 concluded:
“Studies have shown that 89% of women resume sexual activity within 6 months of giving birth. Sexual dysfunction prevalence rates vary from 41% to 83% at 2–3 months postpartum to 64% at 6 months postpartum, not reaching pre-pregnancy levels of 38%. Some studies indicate that at a span of >18 months after birth, women have markedly lower levels of sexual pleasure and emotional satisfaction.”
So what’s going on?
There are several reasons for the low libido that many new mothers experience. Hormones play a large role but are not the whole explanation. Lack of sleep and pain are other factors.
Leaking breasts (not so sexy), stretch marks (not so sexy either, according to Mom), and feeling uncertain about the post-pregnancy appearance also play a part. (And did I mention pain and no sleep…)
Let’s dig a bit deeper.
The Breastfeeding Hormones Suppress Libido
Two hormones that are great for breastfeeding and really bad for your sex drive are involved.
The first one is oxytocin. This hormone is responsible for the breast milk let-down reflex.
Ironically, oxytocin is also called the “love hormone” and contributes to moms’ strong wish to cuddle their babies. Oxytocin is also involved in lovemaking (thereby its nickname) and is actually released during orgasm. At least in theory, one would think that this should benefit the interest in sex while breastfeeding, but no (for most new moms).
Instead, it can make the breast milk leak during orgasm, which can be a real turn-off for some moms. (If this is your case, make love with a bra on (with nursing pads). This way, it doesn’t have to disturb you. )
Estrogen is another hormone affecting your interest in sex while breastfeeding. Estrogen levels are very low while breastfeeding. This prevents ovulation, lowers interest in sex, and may cause vaginal dryness.
One research study concluded that the combination of low estrogen progesterone and androgen levels and high levels of the hormone prolactin may indirectly affect sexual interest by decreasing vaginal lubrication, causing vaginal atrophy, increased breast sensitivity, and decreased sexual desire. So yes, the hormones while breastfeeding do NOT work to increase your libido!
Interestingly, new studies show that the new dad is also affected by changing hormone levels when a new baby arrives. The effects may not be as dramatic as those of the mom, but they are real. You can read about how a new baby makes dad’s testosterone levels fall here.
Lack Of Sleep Can Drive Your Insane
Getting no sleep sure affects your wish to have sex while breastfeeding. (And while bottle feeding too, although some bottle-fed babies are fed by dad or sleep somewhat better because formula can be a bit more filling.)
No sleep can drive you crazy. It has been used for torture. As a new mom, I’m sure you understand why. It drives you nuts! It certainly doesn’t make you feel like trading a couple of hours of sleep for some hot time in bed with your partner.
Being Over Touched Doesn’t Help
Many new moms have skin contact with another human being (the baby, for the most part) more or less all the time.
A mom I talked to told me that when she was home with her first baby, she really found it hard even to let Dad take off his shoes in the evening before giving the baby to him. She was so over-touched!
When being a new mother, it is easy to start longing to not be touched by anyone for a change. Great for the sex drive? Not.
On the other hand, if left alone for a while, it can actually be great to be touched by your partner instead of someone who keeps throwing up at you (no matter how cute)…
So, dads, be patient! And carry the baby around while mom takes a shower, reads a book, sleeps or sits on the couch. This may lead to miracles!
Hurting Nipples And Painful Sex
Giving birth is painful, breastfeeding can be really painful at least in the beginning, and lovemaking can be painful for a long time due to soreness, stitches, and dryness.
Then the back and neck start hurting from carrying the baby around, sleeping, and nursing in weird positions.
Then there’s the headache from a serious lack of sleep…
Pain, pain, pain.
Not exactly great for the interest in sex while breastfeeding.
The (Not So Sexy) Post-Pregnancy Body
Mom has a fantastic body. Period. Carrying a child for 9 months and then giving birth to it one way or the other is hard work and a miracle. However, as the body might change quite a bit from its pre-pregnancy look, many women feel self-conscious over their bodies post-pregnancy. Unfortunately, this may also have negative effects on the sex drive.
Try to give yourself a break! In two ways… First of all, you are great – no matter what you see in the mirror! You just gave birth; don’t demand from yourself to have a perfect body!
Secondly, start working on getting back in shape over time. Start exercising slowly and think a little bit about what you eat if you’re worried about baby fat.
Buy a stretch mark cream if the marks really bother you. Creams can never take the marks away completely, but some creams have well-documented positive effects. Check out:
- Body Merry Stretch Marks Cream
- StriVectin-SD Intensive Concentrate for Stretch Marks & Wrinkles
- Nature’s Design Bye Bye Stretch Marks
Do your best to fix what you have to (and can) and try to love the rest.
And dads, since feeling unsure about their body can be one of the reasons for a new mom’s low libido while breastfeeding, make a true effort to show your spouse how much you appreciate her and her body!
Does The Libido Ever Come Back?
A wise Mom said: Don’t worry, sure your sex drive will come back – otherwise the human race would be extinct!
Excellent! (And true.)
But I won’t lie to you; it can take a long time. And since it is not only the breastfeeding hormones that affect mom’s libido negatively, weaning from breastfeeding may not turn mom into a sex goddess overnight.
There is light in the tunnel, though. Recent research (from 2021, reference below) confirms that once the baby starts eating foods other than breast milk, the mom’s libido generally starts increasing. This seems reasonable since breastfeeding hormones then decrease, and it is easier for the partner to help out. Also, the babies are older, and maybe a bit more predictable, and moms and dads have become used to being parents.
Chances are that when a couple embarks into parenthood, it will take years until their sex life is completely back on track.
How to deal with low libido while breastfeeding
So what to do? Well, one important thing is actually to accept this change. The more you worry about it, the worse the situation will feel. And the more you get irritated at each other about sex, the less sex will happen for sure!
The other thing is, of course, to do the best of the situation. Be nice to each other. Have fun together. Have sex, at least now and then.
And Dad, don’t panic and don’t hunt Mom down. Doing that will certainly not help your over-touched, exhausted partner to get her sex drive back!
Mom, do have sex from time to time. Having sex is actually great for your interest in sex while breastfeeding (and for your relationship).
Here are some tips written by a dad of three on how to make sex happen again after birth. Maybe they can be of help!
By the way, not all moms have a low sex libido while breastfeeding. If your libido is just as usual (or better), be grateful and have fun!
Other Parents’ Love Life After Pregnancy
A few parents have shared their situation by commenting below. And you can comment completely anonymously.
This mom wrote a longer letter, that we published separately: Still Breastfeeding, No Libido
And here you can read about a destructive myth that worries many moms and dads in parts of Africa: Is it True that Sex While Breastfeeding Destroys the Milk?
Holanda JBL, Richter S, Campos RB, Trindade RFCD, Monteiro JCDS, Gomes-Sponholz FA. Relationship of the type of breastfeeding in the sexual function of women. Rev Lat Am Enfermagem. 2021 Jul 19;29:e3438. doi: 10.1590/1518.8345.3160.3438. PMID: 34287538; PMCID: PMC8294779.
Gutzeit O, Levy G, Lowenstein L. Postpartum Female Sexual Function: Risk Factors for Postpartum Sexual Dysfunction. Sex Med. 2020 Mar;8(1):8-13. doi: 10.1016/j.esxm.2019.10.005. Epub 2019 Dec 16. PMID: 31837965; PMCID: PMC7042171.
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing are 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 who assist in reviewing and writing articles.