We all know breastfeeding is good for baby – and good for you, too. But can it have an impact on your sex life?
The problem with having a newborn is that there are lots of reasons you might not feel like sex – some could be tied up with the way you're feeding, and many of them will affect you as a new mum regardless of how you are feed your baby.
As Dr Petra Boynton, sex and relationship expert and Telegraph advice columnist, explains, "It's normal not to want sex much when you're breastfeeding, but the issues you might be having aren't always related to breastfeeding alone. Many of these problems can happen regardless of how you feed.
"These can be problems like recovering physically after birth, particularly if it was traumatic or you had any after birth complications. You could feel tired, stressed or have a demanding baby – sleep deprivation is a real passion killer and should not be underestimated. And you might be worried about getting pregnant again.
Or conversely, you might feel a drop in libido if you are finding breastfeeding painful or difficult, or having confidence worries about your post-baby body.
Any of these issues sound familiar? "Just get through the first six months", advises Lisa Pearson, author and blogger at The Mummy Whisperer. "Your libido will work best when you're getting enough sleep – and breastfeeding, particularly 'demand feeding' a newborn, can mean your body is focusing on other areas for the time being. Keep communicating with your partner, telling them how you feel about it all will make a huge difference to how soon things get back on track."
It's important not to 'blame' too many issues on breastfeeding. Many libido issues when you have a baby can be sorted – without giving up breastfeeding if you don't want to. "But there is also pressure to de-sexualise yourself when feeding, so boobs are for baby, not for you and definitely not for your partner," says Dr Boynton.
Lisa Pearson agrees: "Some women worry about sex now they're a mum, and seeing it as wrong now they have this new role. But it's OK to have two 'yous'!"
Another sensitive topic is the pleasure that feeding can bring. Dr Boynton explains: "We're told about bonding, but less focus is given to how breastfeeding can feel pleasurable, even arousing. Because we don't really talk about this women can feel ashamed, embarrassed or freakish. Some give up feeding for this reason: they don't feel able to talk to counsellors about it, not least because much of breastfeeding literature focuses on how good feeding is but never that good.
"This only increases the taboo – and also the sense of 'good' mothers. 'Good' mothers breastfeed and they enjoy bonding but are willing to forgo sex and other intimacies to nurse their babies. 'Bad' mothers are sexually aroused by their breasts or the act of feeding. Or give up on feeding because they want to resume a sexual relationship with their partner and feel that nursing is getting in the way."
So if you feel breastfeeding is impacting on your sex life, what can you do? "You can take practical steps", suggests Dr Boynton. "For example using a lubricant, trying different feeding positions if you are concerned about pain or arousal, or getting help for those who are exhausted. Some of it is also about education around choice and challenging the 'good' and 'bad' mum stereotype."
"Leaky boobs can be an issue for some women too", Lisa Pearson explains. "Ask your other half if it bothers them – you'll probably be surprised to hear it doesn't, and if it bothers you, then invest in some nursing lingerie with space for pads. Then just get on with it!"
Here are Lisa's top five tips for sex when you're a busy, breastfeeding mum:
1. Never underestimate the power of a quickie.
2. If you've got no time for foreplay, do it by text.
3. Sex isn't just for the bedroom – when you have a baby, you need to improvise.
4. It doesn't have to be the full shebang either – just make sure you're both satisfied.
5. Be creative. If you're fitting sex around breastfeeds, that's pretty essential.
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