Lean in close because I have a secret to tell you … I had no libido when nursing my second child.
I thought parenting two kids around the clock had me exhausted. Or that I was “touched out” by the end of the day. (I mean, some days I didn’t even want the cat sitting in my lap). However, I secretly felt guilty that I didn’t feeling a spark for my husband. But, one day I realized it wasn’t just my husband. Robert Downey Jr and Zachary Quinto weren’t looking very special either. That gave me pause.
What no one ever told me: Breastfeeding can dramatically affect your sexual desire.
Had I come out of my mothering fog for a minute, I could have put it together. I knew breastfeeding on demand can work as natural family planning. Your body knows you are caring for a child, so it prevents you from having another baby right away. It makes sense that decrease in sexual appetites is part of the equation.
To get technical about it, prolactin, the hormone released to stimulate milk production, also lessens your sex drive. Ovulation is suppressed by prolactin, hence the natural defense against a pregnancy too soon. Lowered ovulation also comes with lowered estrogen, which can make sex less enjoyable if you are in the mood and also contribute to a “dampening in desire,” as Babycenter puts it. Furthermore, Susan Kellogg of HealthyWomen.org also points out that nursing women have lower testosterone, which also contributes to less sexual desire.
Lowered libido doesn’t happen to all women. Some notice no change in their sex drive, while others find nursing sensual and it translate to their partners. Furthermore, Elizabeth Jay explains on TruthAboutBreastfeeding.com that while research shows that these changes in hormone levels are inconclusive, breastfeeding mothers who report a decreased sexual desire indicate that within twelve months their sex lives are back to normal.
For me, it took a little longer. My experience fit the description of returning sex drive described on BellyBelly. Overtime, hormones regulating your menstrual cycle build up again and restart ovulation. At ovulation, women see an increase in sexual desire. After weaning, it should return completely, though the amount of time each step takes is unique for each woman. My son weaned at 20 months, and, about a month later, my libido started to come back in cycles. Approximately a year later, my libido as back to normal, though normal was hard to remember since by this point since it had been more than five years since I had not been nursing or pregnant!