Many new moms experience a drop in their libido while breastfeeding. Tiredness is a major factor, and nipple pain from breastfeeding can be enough to push intimacy and sex to the sidelines.
High oxytocin levels from nursing may also cause new moms to feel over-touched, leaving them unenthusiastic about sex. In addition, prolactin and estrogen levels are lowered during breastfeeding, causing suppressed ovulation and vaginal dryness.
1. Hormonal Changes
During breastfeeding, your hormones can take a nosedive. Your prolactin levels are high (which makes your breasts leaky and halts your libido), while your estrogen and testosterone – which play a big role in sexual desire and arousal – are lower than normal. This is all a part of Mother Nature’s plan to produce healthy milk for your little one. As your baby transitions to a diet of solid foods, your hormones will gradually return to pre-pregnancy levels, allowing your libido to improve.
Ironically, breastfeeding releases oxytocin – often called the “love hormone” because of its strong association with cuddling babies. Oxytocin also causes arousal in some women and is released during orgasm. This may explain why many women experience a sexual re-awakening after they stop breastfeeding.
However, not every woman experiences this re-awakening. Some women have a great sex drive during breastfeeding, while others find it very hard to feel anything besides exhaustion. If you’re struggling with low libido, talk to your doctor and/or consider consulting a naturopath to help balance your hormones naturally. It can be frustrating for both you and your partner to deal with a lack of interest in intimate activities, but remember that it’s only temporary. After all, your priority right now is to nurture and love your baby. This will eventually pay off in your relationship too.
2. Sensory Changes
It’s pretty normal for a new mom’s libido to take a hit after having a baby. There are a lot of factors at play here, from the fatigue and sleep deprivation of new parenthood to the hormonal loopty-loops that breastfeeding causes in many women.
Breastfeeding requires a lot of attention, especially in the beginning, and that may take away from a woman’s desire to engage in sexual activity. Then there are the issues with leaking and sore breasts, as well as the fact that a woman’s body looks very different from what it did before pregnancy. This can make her feel insecure and negatively self-conscious, which doesn’t exactly scream romance.
Other issues with breastfeeding include the fact that it causes a lot of oxytocin to be released. Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone,” and it helps new moms bond with their babies. However, it also helps with sexual arousal and can even cause orgasm in some women. This might explain why some women lose their interest in sex while breastfeeding, especially if they find that their oxytocin levels are low. Then there’s the issue with vaginal dryness, which can make sex less enjoyable for both partners. Using a water-based lubricant can help with this, but it’s not a complete fix. It will take time for a woman to get herself re-used to sexual activity, and it’s important that she and her partner are patient during this period.
3. Physical Changes
For some women, breastfeeding can lead to a decrease in sexual desire because of physical changes. For example, breastfeeding hormones cause a drop in the levels of estrogen, which can cause vaginal dryness that may make intercourse uncomfortable.
In addition, breastfeeding often causes breast milk leakage during intimate moments. This is because the same hormone – oxytocin – that helps you orgasm while breastfeeding also causes your body to release breast milk during sexual activity. Luckily, most accidental breast milk leakage stops once the baby has moved on to solid foods.
Another reason for decreased libido during breastfeeding is fatigue. Taking care of a newborn can be exhausting, especially for first-time moms who are adjusting to new schedules and the demands of parenthood. Sleeping for longer stretches can help, and many babies eventually start sleeping through the night, which can give moms more energy.
For some women, the loss of libido due to breastfeeding is temporary and returns once they wean their babies. This is because breastfeeding hormones decrease once the baby begins eating solid food, and it can take a while for a woman’s body to adjust to this change. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to keep the spark alive in the bedroom and outside of it as well! Find your postpartum support team, experiment a little (inside and out of the bedroom), and remember that motherhood is a beautiful and rewarding experience.
4. Psychological Changes
Many new moms report their sex life takes a major hit while breastfeeding. That’s not just due to hormone fluctuations, although those certainly play a big part. It’s also the result of the fact that breastfeeding requires a lot of attention. For example, nursing a baby requires frequent visits to the pump and the possibility of accidental breast milk leakage during intimacy.
In fact, a breastfeeding mom’s libido often continues to take a nosedive even months after childbirth. That’s because of hormonal, sensory and psychological factors that interfere with sexual desire.
For example, the hormone prolactin that cranks up during pregnancy and breastfeeding to stimulate milk production also suppresses estrogen levels, which lowers a woman’s interest in sex. And the oxytocin that contributes to the strong milk letdown reflex is also involved in lovemaking (hence its “love hormone” nickname) and is released during orgasm.
Other factors that can impact a woman’s libido include an anxiety disorder that triggers elevated cortisol levels, a history of sexual trauma and side effects from medications. For instance, some antidepressants and blood pressure drugs can suppress testosterone, which plays a role in sex drive. And of course, smoking and excessive alcohol use can also lower a woman’s libido. But it’s important for women to remember that even when their sex drives aren’t what they were before pregnancy, intimate experiences can still be enjoyed.