Babytalk's Big Sex Survey
Quickies, low libidos and 3 a.m. rendezvous: Babytalk's largest sex survey invites you into bedrooms of parents everywhere
True or false: Sleep -- or lack thereof -- is a major obstacle to sex.
Sadly, true. A whopping 74 percent of respondents at least partially agree with the statement, "Sleep is more important than sex." When asked why they are having less post-baby sex, nearly 80 percent say, "We're too tired."
"Being a new parent is more disruptive to one's sleep than any other life adventure," says Ari Brown, M.D., a pediatrician in Austin, Texas, and co-author of Baby 411 and Toddler 411. "Romance and physical exhaustion don't mix."
Breastfeeders vs. non-breastfeeders: Who's having better sex?
Interestingly, mom's decision regarding whether to breastfeed not only affects baby's health, but mom's sexual health as well.
According to the survey, breastfeeding moms are having a tougher time with post-baby sex than non-breastfeeding moms: They're less happy with their post-baby sex lives, feel less sexy and experience more pain during intercourse. When asked, "How soon after baby did you have sex?" 9 percent of breastfeeding moms say they are still waiting, compared with 2 percent of non-breastfeeding moms. Conversely, women who aren't breastfeeding are having a much more dynamic post-baby sexual experience: They have more quickies, foreplay and sexual fantasies.
For breastfeeding moms, biology is the chief libido crusher. A breastfeeding mother produces a surplus of prolactin, a hormone made by the pituitary gland in the brain. Prolactin decreases estrogen levels, which in turn thins the vaginal walls and decreases vaginal secretions -- nature's way of preventing ovulation so mom doesn't get pregnant again right away. The result is dry, uncomfortable sex -- and who wants that?
A breastfeeding mom also gets less sleep, which inhibits libido. "A breastfeeding mom is up every two to four hours either feeding her child or pumping her milk to store," says Michele Hakakha, M.D., an ob-gyn in private practice in Beverly Hills, California, and co-author of Expecting 411. "If a new mom chooses not to breastfeed, she may be sleeping through the night as her partner or another caregiver can bottle-feed formula."
Then there's the issue of mom's breasts, which have transformed from erotic icons to infant smorgasbord. "Your breasts become less of a sexual entity and more of a nourishment outlet," Dr. Grimes explains. "When you've got a baby constantly suckling at your breast, you don't really want hubby lining up for his turn."
While breastfeeding can hamper mom's sexual connection, her emotional connection has only become stronger. Compared with non-breastfeeding moms, breastfeeding moms fight less with their partner and are less worried about their partner cheating. When asked why they're having less post-baby sex, 48 percent of breastfeeders chose "I'm preoccupied with baby," compared with 32 percent of non-breastfeeders.
Dr. Hakakha has a theory why breastfeeding moms have a stronger bond. Oxytocin, another hormone made by the pituitary gland, is released during orgasm and breastfeeding. Oxytocin stimulates the part of the brain involved in trust and reinforcement, and this leads to bonding. "Looking at it from a Darwinian standpoint," she explains, "it causes women to bond to their partners so they can have more babies and perpetuate the species, and to their children so they will feed, nurture and protect them." Non-breastfeeding moms earn their own dose of oxytocin from holding, cuddling, feeding and smelling baby.