Breastfeeding may be natural, but it can often be one of the most difficult parts of new motherhood. Building and managing a nursing relationship that works for both mother and baby is overwhelming and can take time. In many instances, moms also have to wrangle various lifestyle changes due to breastfeeding — lactose-free diets, losing body autonomy, breast pain, and lowered libidos are all common issues that face breastfeeding mothers. That last one can be especially tough, so does your sex drive return after breastfeeding? Since no two women or bodies are the same, it can be hard to say.
"Everyone is different," notes Leigh Anne O'Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). "Some women get it back right away, while others have little to no desire until well after they wean," she tells Romper. As you start to wean, or as baby gets older and starts more solid food, your estrogen levels should start to get back to normal, and you may notice a change in your libido, as mentioned by The Cut. Of course, when dealing with hormones, different bodies take a different amount of time to get back on track. Typically, as breastfeeding diminishes, your menstrual cycle will return and along with it, your fertility and sex drive. But, the return of your libido depends on many factors, not just whether or not you're done breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding definitely plays a big role in decreased sexual interest post-baby, noted Parents. When you're nursing, your estrogen levels decrease. This is important because estrogen affects your vaginal tissues, and so decreased amounts can lead to dryness and even a tingling sensation or slight pain during intercourse. Obviously, this doesn't help put you in the mood.
In addition, while breastfeeding, your prolactin and oxytocin levels are high, according to a study in the Journal of Perinatal Education. Prolactin induces the "motherly" feeling of always wanting to see and be near your baby (which obviously puts a damper on your sex life). Oxytocin, on the other hand, gives you a sense of well-being and comfort — this is normal, but can result in you not having to look to your partner for comfort and affection.
Even more so, the postpartum period in general can leave your body, your mind, and thus your sex drive, all out of whack. After having been through pregnancy, labor and delivery, and breastfeeding, while transitioning to parenthood and surviving on little sleep and subpar self-care, it's completely normal to not feel in the mood very much. In fact, it takes many women longer periods of time to feel like themselves again.
But luckily, there are things you can do to help regulate your body, its hormones, and re-gain some mental clarity and confidence. A healthy diet is a huge factor in balancing your hormones, according to Women's Health. A lot of the carbs and sugars we crave or resort to while in the thick of parenting little ones only serve to keep our hormone levels low and imbalanced. Eating nutritious and whole foods, like lean proteins, beans, nuts, and healthy fats, not only balance our hormones but also make us feel lighter, brighter, and more energetic.
Regular exercise is also vital, noted Women's Health. It improves your mood, focus, stamina, and body confidence, and can even get you in the mood for intercourse thanks to a boost of testosterone.
In any regard, there's no set amount of time that you'll get your drive back within. Different women have different experiences, and there's really no way to tell how it'll go with you. Allow yourself time and space to get back in touch with yourself, and maintain a healthy diet and exercise routines as best as you can with a small child. If you have any specific concerns, be sure to talk to your doctor. Remember, as most things related to parenthood, this is just a phase and things will fall back into place.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.