Breastfeeding and your sex drive

Some connections are obvious, like the connection between your baby’s full tummy and their contented little gurgles, while others, like the connection between their wide eyes watching you and their eventual language skills, might seem a little murkier. The connection in your body between breastfeeding and your sex drive probably falls somewhere in between. Over the past several decades, there has been scattered research about how breastfeeding affects a mother’s libido, but the connection remains hard to pin down, and it varies widely from person to person.

Hormonal effects 

One of the most obvious effects breastfeeding can have on sex drive is the effect on a new mom’s hormones. After giving birth, and in preparation for breastfeeding, the body starts to produce a larger amount of the hormones oxytocin and prolactin, and a smaller amount of the hormones estrogen and progesterone than usual. This hormonal shift can have a variety of different effects that can have an impact on sexual desire, including:
  • Increased oxytocin: The increased oxytocin levels that come with breastfeeding can impact your libido in many ways. It’s a key hormone for maternal bonding, which is crucial during this time, but can cause new moms to have little time, energy, or desire left for sex, and can also lead to enough cuddles to leave mom feeling “over-touched” before Baby is even in bed for the night. The most visible effect of increased oxytocin is the milk ejection reflex, which can be triggered by orgasm, and can lead to leaking breasts during intercourse.
  • Decreased estrogen: The decreased amount of estrogen in the body during breastfeeding, and especially before the first menstrual period after birth has been linked with decreased sexual desire and increased vaginal dryness, which can make intercourse uncomfortable.

It’s true that, during breastfeeding, many women experience a decrease in or absence of sexual desire, but not all breastfeeding women experience a drop in sex drive. In fact, one 1966 study found that the 24 women observed in it experienced an increase in libido. While that’s not a typical result, and studies generally show a tendency towards a drop in sex drive with breastfeeding, it does illustrate the truth that many women don’t experience a lack of desire during breastfeeding. Like other areas of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery, each woman’s body is different, and will have unique, individual reactions to these major life changes.

Related effects

Breastfeeding definitely isn’t the only thing that might be having an impact on a new mom’s sex drive. Tiredness is a big component of reduced sex drive, and breastfeeding can add to fatigue, especially if breastfeeding means you’re the one responsible for most nighttime wakings. Experiencing baby blues or postpartum depression have both also been shown to have a significant impact on postpartum libido.

The truth is, taking care of a newborn is tiring in exciting new ways you may have never even thought of before, and there are many different ways that this change can affect your life and your moods, both inside the bedroom and out. It’s important to remember that this is only temporary, and your libido will return in full force as your life starts to settle into its new routines. Furthermore, studies show that after a drop in desire during breastfeeding, you can look forward to a statistically-likely upswing in your sex drive after weaning.

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