It would be fair to assume you would probably experience some sort of decline in your libido as a new mother and breastfeeding woman.
Apart from the fact you’re exhausted from all the day-to-day demands of motherhood and sleep deprivation in the postpartum period, you might also be feeling all ‘touched out’ as a result of having a little bub on you all day.
The last thing you might want is your partner on you at night, too.
Perhaps you’re feeling a little insecure about your new mama figure or a little edgy about sex, especially if you had a difficult or traumatic birth.
There are also some perfectly normal, biological reasons why your libido could be heading into negative territory.
Does breastfeeding affect libido?
Before you start panicking about your feelings for your partner or lack of motivation to have sex, here’s what you need to know about your libido or sex drive while you are breastfeeding.
Low libido and breastfeeding
Let’s start with the biological and physiological facts of any mammal’s sexual life. We tend to reduce the terminology of sexual life, or sexuality, to a man-woman sexual relationship, even just to sexual intercourse.
Sexual intercourse is part of our sex life, of course; however, it’s just a small part of it.
Having sex, getting and being pregnant, giving birth and experiencing the postpartum period and breastfeeding are all part of our sexuality. They also follow a timeline that starts with having sex and ends up breastfeeding a young human being.
Do you have a decreased sex drive during your postpartum period? If so, let me tell you it’s totally normal.
Biologically, your sex drive leads you to have sex so you can produce and raise a child; that’s how the species continues once you’re gone. This is our one and only biological aim.
During the postpartum period, especially during the first year of your child’s life, your body is sexually focused on raising your child.
Let’s say that breastfeeding women are in the latest phase of their sexual zone. Everything that has sexually happened before has been successful and now breastfeeding and raising this child until she’s relatively independent is the number one purpose your mammal body aims to achieve. You don’t experience sexual desire and your sex drive is low because your body isn’t focused on achieving a new pregnancy just yet.
After your baby’s arrival, your decreased sex drive is totally normal. As a nursing mother, your estrogen levels are focused on both breastfeeding your new baby and getting your body into its maternal state.
Low libido doesn’t mean you aren’t attracted to your partner
Some new mothers feel concerned when they discover they have no sex drive. This is quite normal. Some women might even wonder whether it’s because they’re no longer attracted to their partner. Although it might feel this way at times, let me reassure you: this isn’t at all what’s happening.
There is no need to worry, as it’s usually not the case.
If the normal demands and exhaustion of early motherhood haven’t stopped you from getting in the mood, there are other factors to consider.
A big reason for low or no libido while breastfeeding is the effect of some important hormones ‘doing their dance’ in order for you to be able to breastfeed successfully.
Here are some different ways hormones can be affected.
Prolactin and libido
Mother nature is really clever. After you give birth, your body makes wonderful, nutritious breast milk, which lays the foundations for your baby’s health for the rest of his or her life.
This happens courtesy of the hormone prolactin, which is responsible for telling your sex drive and your sexual desire to take a hike.
As the name suggests, prolactin is important for lactation. Prolactin levels are at their highest in order to help your body produce milk.
When your baby feeds, you produce more milk and your body also suppresses ovulation; everything is perfectly geared towards the survival of your gorgeous little baby, including preventing pregnancy too soon.
Estrogen and libido
Just when you thought you had enough hurdles to overcome, here’s another. Although there is no ovulation going on, estrogen levels are lowered as well, which is why breastfeeding women have little or no cervical mucus. Their bodies don’t expect to be sexually aroused.
Vaginal dryness could be a problem. Even if you feel like having sex or want to connect with your partner by providing each other sexual pleasure, vaginal dryness can make sex less enjoyable.
Lubrication with water-based lubricant can be of great help. Make sure you tell your partner to go slowly and take more time getting you aroused. This is also a well-justified excuse for a nice long massage first.
Without lubrication, sexual intercourse might become uncomfortable or painful, which will probably result in even less desire to have sex again any time soon.
BellyBelly recommends Lariese Evolve Personal Organic Lubricant, which contains no nasties.
Medications and low libido and breastfeeding women
If you’re on anti-depressants, you might already know they can mess with your sex life, affecting your libido and your capacity to reach orgasm.
Some forms of contraceptives are also well known to result in low libido.
Check with your doctor if you’re taking any of these; you might like to ask for an alternative medication.
Make sure you remind your doctor that you’re a breastfeeding woman so she can prescribe a compatible medication that doesn’t get to your baby through your breast milk.
Libido enhancers are safe while breastfeeding
Breastfeeding mothers should understand that no medication should be used to increase their libido. Only natural libido enhancers should be used and, of course, those are all compatible with breastfeeding.
Natural ways to increase libido while breastfeeding
Breastfeeding and sex might not be the perfect match, especially in the early postpartum period. However, that doesn’t mean the sexual life of new parents will be non-existent.
This is a new stage in your relationship and several things can be done to help both partners lead a fulfilling sex life after having a baby.
Libido and Breastfeeding #1: Talk about your sexual needs
Talking to each other is of paramount importance in every aspect of a relationship – especially when a major change has taken place. Your sexual needs and your partner’s are very different after becoming new parents.
Talk to each other. See what the other person needs and try to act on it.
Knowing where your lover is at a certain period of your life together can only make things easier for both of you.
Libido and Breastfeeding #2: Adapt to your circumstances
Your sexual encounters are not only going to change in frequency but probably in their length and spontaneity.
What works for individual couples is okay as long as you both feel good about it. Now, however, you might share a bed with a little one. Remember, though, your little one will sleep through almost anything as long as he’s close to mama and, even if he wakes up, don’t worry. Research shows we aren’t capable of fixing any memories until we’re 2 years old, at the earliest.
Libido and Breastfeeding #3: Explore new ways of sexual intimacy
When you’ve talked about your needs, you can explore new paths in your sexual journey. Looks, talks, plans, and sexy whispers about what’s to come when the time is right.
You might be able to pleasure yourself while looking at the other person or while the other talks. You can start to get kinky in a very soft way. Establish some ground rules and explore and play around with them. You might find these activities can give both of you great pleasure.
A sexual coach might be able to help you if you think you need a bit of guidance in this new stage of your lives.
When will I notice an increase in libido or sex drive?
As time goes on, the hormones needed for your regular menstrual cycle will start to build up in your blood flow again and will overcome the cycle-suppressing hormones.
The length of time this takes is highly unique, and differs from woman to woman. It also depends on several factors, including: frequency of breastfeeding: the use of a dummy or pacifier; formula use; and the amount of solid foods consumed.
As soon as you start ovulating again, you will probably notice an increase in libido around the time of ovulation. It should fully return when your baby is weaned.
If your libido has not returned after a lengthy period, you might like to visit your doctor and have your hormone levels checked, as well as having other checks for things that affect energy – for example, iron levels and thyroid function. You could see a naturopath if you’d prefer to balance out your hormones naturally.
Some women try to wean their babies prematurely to get their cycles and libido back sooner. It’s important to remember, though, what a gift you are giving your baby by providing him with breast milk. As a bonus, breastfeeding helps you with weight loss and reduces your risk of breast cancer, amongst other things.
Should I have sex with my partner even though I have low libido/sex drive?
Low libido in any relationship can be a sensitive topic to deal with. Some new mothers might feel guilty saying no to sex with their partners, who might then feel rejected or unloved.
Some new mothers say their partners try to pressure them into sex, or they get tired of their partners asking for sex.
However, it’s important to communicate openly with your partner. It might be helpful to remind your partner (and yourself) that you’re doing a great job and giving your baby the best nutritional food available. Low libido is a small price to pay, for now.
Before you know it, breastfeeding will be nothing but a fond memory. Low libido is not worth ending your breastfeeding journey over because, just like a baby’s crying spells, your lack of libido is temporary, not permanent, and will pass.
Remind your partner that the loss of sex drive is perfectly normal for a breastfeeding mother, and is nothing to do with your feelings for him, but more to do with a ‘tap’ being turned down (or off) to make way for something else.
If you don’t want to have sex, don’t. If this is the case, though, try to make sure you find other ways to create intimacy in your relationship to keep it strong. Of course, a baby will take up a great deal of your time, so you both need to find little ways to take care of each other because, before the baby, there were just two of you and, one day, when your child leaves home, it’ll be back to just the two of you again. It’s important to keep nurturing your relationship through all the ups and downs.
Some ideas you might like to suggest:
- Give each other a candlelight massage (with permission to fall asleep)
- Go out to dinner
- Hold hands, snuggle up and watch a movie together
- Take a bubble bath, or shower together
The sky is the limit. Get creative and be patient. Your sex drive will return.
If you or your partner are struggling with a lack of sex in your relationship, please see a sex therapist or counselor. The last thing you want is for this to create resentment or other problems when you’ve just had a baby.
On the other hand, if you’re keen or open to connecting with your partner on a sexual level, even though you can’t feel that usual excitement, then it’s always worth a go. You never know, you just might end up enjoying yourself.
You might find our article Sex Too Soon | New Mothers Forced Or Pressured Into Sex After Childbirth helpful.