When I asked how breastfeeding affected nursing mothers’ sex lives, the results were quite mixed. The good news is that 34% of respondents said that breastfeeding enhanced their sex lives at some point, and an additional 18% said breastfeeding neither enhanced nor hampered their sex lives. The bad news is that 36% said that breastfeeding hampered their sex lives at some point. An additional 30% answered “What sex life?!” (I suspect that has more to do with new parenthood and sleep deprivation than breastfeeding alone.)
Here are my musings, for what they are worth (leave a comment if you agree or disagree!) New motherhood can leave any mother feeling physically worn out and tired and consequently less interested in sex. Fatherhood throws a man into a new view of his wife, their relationship, and their roles. If he’s doing it “right,” fatherhood just might leave him worn out and tired too! Arguments over the division of household labor and parenting can also strain a relationship.
Breastfeeding can help by improving maternal mood and promoting bonding as a family. It can also help a mother feel good about her body (what an amazing thing to be able to do, to nourish a life with one’s breasts!), and in some cases helping her return to her pre-pregnancy figure. If, however, breastfeeding presents a stumbling block in an intimate relationship, hopefully that can be addressed through further communication. First by identifying what the problem is exactly — a partner’s sense that breasts are purely sexual, and/or that breastfeeding takes away that part of intimacy? A reduced physical sense of enjoyment on the part of the mother, or simply feeling “touched out” by breastfeeding?
Then the second question becomes what to do to resolve the problem. It’s easy enough to say that “this too shall pass” and to recognize that babyhood and breastfeeding are just the blink of an eye in the span of a relationship. But I am hopeful that there are things that can be done to address any ways in which breastfeeding is having a negative effect. For example, having the partner learn to use a sling and “wear” the baby in the evening to give the nursing mother some more hands-free time. Exploring ways to foster intimacy and enjoyment other than through the breasts. Learning to laugh at the occasional spray of milk during lovemaking! Maybe even making breastfeeding part of the sexual relationship with an adult nursing relationship? I don’t have any particular feelings on that subject except my initial thought that if it works for a husband and wife, doesn’t interfere with the baby’s nursing relationship, and makes breastfeeding a positive thing in the family, then all the better. (And my second thought, that if mom or baby develops a yeast infection (thrush), that all the members of the family will need to be treated whether or not they are exhibiting symptoms. That’s often the case with stubborn cases of thrush!)
The results certainly made me think. Do you have any thoughts on the subject? Any tips on balancing being a mother and a wife? Here is the final survey breakdown:
Please vote in the new poll in the side bar! As you can see I always appreciate reader input and particularly enjoy analyzing the votes that come in.