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If you’re a new mom, you may be wondering what the deal is with sex and breastfeeding and that fickle beast, libido. It’s perfectly normal for your sex drive to be all over the map during pregnancy and postpartum—but you might not have heard that this can extend well into your breastfeeding journey, too. 

Yes, breastfeeding can kill your libido, and if you’re worried about it, I’m here to help. As a birth and postpartum doula and educator (and mama of 2 kiddos), I’ll break it down so that you can make an informed decision about when and how to jump back into your sex life, plus ways to rekindle intimacy and boost your libido while breastfeeding. 

Related: Is your libido lower than normal? This may be why

Breastfeeding and hormones

During pregnancy, your body increases production of estrogen and progesterone, two sex hormones which are directly linked to libido, or sex drive. Once baby is born, some birthing people feel significantly less interested in sex because of the significant drop in those very same hormones. 

While breastfeeding, your body does not produce estrogen and generates lower levels of progesterone in order to support milk production. What does that mean in relation to sex and sex drive? It essentially equates to vaginal dryness and low libido. 

What to know about breastfeeding and libido

There are other factors that come with the territory on your breastfeeding journey that may impact your sex drive—beyond just the hormonal landscape. 

Related: Why your partner asks for postpartum sex, according to a psychologist

Feeling ‘touched out’

The act of breastfeeding releases oxytocin—the love and bonding hormone, which helps promote bonding with your newborn. While breastfeeding is not sexual, it may fill your need for physical connection. Breastfeeding involves a lot of touching, holding and cuddling. Many mothers report feeling “touched out” by the end of the day. The last thing you may want is to be touched by anyone else after you have put the baby down for the night. 

Quick tip: Firmer types of touching—a strong bear hug from your partner instead of a sweet caress, for example—may register differently and be more welcome. 

Related: *Not* having postpartum sex may be a sign of a great relationship

Sleep deprivation

While hormones have a major role in impacting libido, they’re not the only factor in play. Sleep deprivation can be a contributor to low sex drive, too. After all, waking up every 2 to 3 hours for weeks on end to breastfeed a hungry baby while bleary-eyed doesn’t exactly feel conducive to a steamy sex life. 

Quick tip: Intimacy doesn’t always have to equal intercourse, especially when you’re exhausted. Kissing, massage, cuddling can all foster a strong, intimate connection with your partner when you’re just too tired to get it on. 

Sensitive breasts

You may feel uncomfortable with your breasts being touched in any sexual way when you have been using them to nurture and nourish your baby all day. Communication around these feelings is key. 

Quick tip: Make a joke about it, if that’s your style: It can sometimes feel easier to break the ice with a laugh. Or, a more serious, frank conversation about navigating your new postpartum body might feel right for you. Whatever works for you—just remember not to ignore it.

Related: When breastfeeding hurts: 7 possible causes and solutions, mama

Vaginal dryness

A lack of estrogen can mean dry vaginal tissues and lubrication issues, which can be painful during sex. 

Quick tip: Finding a good lube can make a world of difference here, and you can also check in with your OB-GYN for an estrogen-based topical cream to help. Make sure to ask your provider if there may be any adverse interactions with breastfeeding or milk supply. 

Related: Here’s why you may be having pain during sex

Leaking milk

You may feel insecure or nervous about milk leaking while you’re being intimate with your partner. And, in the spirit of honesty, leaks will most likely happen. When you’re feeling sexual, your body releases oxytocin, which can cause milk letdown, and your breast milk to flow. 

Quick tip: Start by pumping or nursing right before you’re planning to have sex. You can also wear a bra with nipple pads. Or just go with the flow (pun intended!).

Navigating jealousy

Sometimes partners feel intimidated by the physical relationship a breastfeeding mother has with her baby. Navigating the awkward jealousy a partner may feel about the closeness between child and mama can be complex and complicated. But know that this is not your fault: There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding your baby until you and your baby feel finished with this part of your journey. 

Quick tip: What helps greatly is an open and honest conversation where you and your partner can start to unpack these feelings and address them.

A note on breastfeeding and libido

Sex while breastfeeding may seem like an intimidating prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. If and when you decide to have sex postpartum, brace yourself for a little awkwardness. Jumping back into the game with a touch of humor and a dash of curiosity about your new body and preferences can go a long way. Most importantly, talk openly with your partner about how you’re feeling about sex so there’s no confusion down the line. Keep in mind that everyone’s journey is different; take things slow if necessary—your body and spirit need time after childbirth to heal.

Polomeno V. An independent study continuing education program: sex and breastfeeding: an educational perspective. Journal of Perinatal Education. 1999;8(1).doi:10.1624%2F105812499X86962

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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