Loving our baby comes easy, the cute toes and irresistible baby smell win our hearts from the moment we meet. Caring for sweet our new little ones is a big job- so it’s lucky for them they are so cute. Sleepless nights, endless diaper changes, spit up covering every surface can leave you feeling like a milk soaked zombie –but a happy zombie that wouldn’t change a thing.
Sex might be the last thing you want to think about after a day of caring for your baby. The obvious reasons – exhaustion, insecurity with your body and living in sweatpants are only part of your lack of interest in being intimate with your partner.
A few common reasons for your lack of desire may be:
1. You may feel like your body isn’t yours anymore. Your baby finds comfort in your snuggles, food from your breasts and your nose detects if it’s time for a diaper change. The 24 hour a day nature of caring for our babies can leave us feeling like we sacrificed ourselves to motherhood and there is nothing left over for our partner. It feels good to tell someone “No, I don’t want to be touched.” Since you can’t say no to your baby’s hunger cues, reclaiming some control of your body may lead you to avoid physical contact with your partner.
2. Your breasts are painful. Breastfeeding means almost constant stimulation of your nipples and breast tissue. In the early days of breastfeeding, nipple pain is very common, reported by 80% of new moms. Usually the pain resolves by day 14, but your breasts may feel oversensitive for months. Some moms feel “touched out” and just want their breasts left alone when not feeding.
3. Your hormones are working against your libido. Prolactin has a positive effect on your milk supply, but the flip side is putting your sex drive in low gear. Maybe this is nature’s way of helping us space out our pregnancies, or conserving energy to care for our young. No matter what the reason, your lack of desire is normal while breastfeeding.
4. Unusual vaginal discharge. By 6 weeks post-partum, when intercourse can resume, bleeding and discharge from labor and delivery (lochia) may have tapered off or stopped – but may come back for 2 months or more. Breastfeeding also lowers your estrogen levels and can change the pH of your vagina, leading to odor.
5. Painful sex. Once you give birth, your estrogen and progesterone levels decrease dramatically. For some women this hormonal shift can cause in hormone levels can lead to atrophic vaginitis (thinning of the vagina walls) as well as soreness, itching and dryness. Along with these symptoms, you may not produce as much natural vaginal lubricant even when you get sexually excited, making sex even more uncomfortable.
6. Braless leaky breasts. You may worry about spraying your partner with your breast milk, and you might. If you reach orgasm, the same hormones are released as when your milk let-down. If you have a powerful let-down reflex when nursing or pumping, you may notice the same sensation and milk ejection during orgasm. If your partner wants to touch or suck on your breasts, he may accidentally, or intentionally, taste your breast milk.
With all the ways breastfeeding makes intimacy challenging, it can also be an exciting addition to your bedroom activities. Some partners find lactating breasts erotic. Your breasts may be larger and more sensitive; you and your partner might find new ways to enjoy your body together. Some partners are curious about the taste of breast milk and are excited by seeing milk ejection. But, you may see your breasts as purely functional, food makers for your baby and enjoying them sexually may be difficult for you.
Talk about your feelings and listen to your partner. If you are struggling to feel sexual desire, tell your partner what you need. Small gestures can make you feel cared for and reignite the attraction you felt for your partner before baby arrived. Could he take the baby for a walk while you nap? Watch the baby while you have dinner with girlfriends? The key to navigating the difficult waters of parenting is communication.
As your family grows it will only become more important to talk about tough issues like sensuality, parenting responsibilities, and time demands. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. If your breasts and nipples are tender, tell him look but don’t touch. Or you might try gentle cupping, no squeezing or sucking. If vaginal dryness is making you uncomfortable, explore some fun lubricant options. Your partner wants to be close to you and this is the perfect time to deepen your connection as you listen without judgement and expect the same in return. If you spend the day focused on your baby, your partner may need intimate time with you to feel like he matters too. Intimacy can mean different things, talk to your partner about meeting his needs for closeness and connection; don’t expect to read his mind either!
Talk to your partner about what you need, and listen when your partner talks about his expectations and insecurities. Try not to judge your partner’s feelings but listen and try to meet them as generously as possible. As your family grows, communication becomes even more important. Discussing your changing sexual preferences deepens your connection with your partner and lays a foundation for a strong family for years to come.