Sex After Baby: Why Breast-Feeding Is a Plus
Do new parents' sex lives suffer if Mom breast-feeds? Hardly--in fact, parents often discover a new dimension to their love.
BY: Armin Brott
, “Moms, Don't Forget to Feed Your Marriage,” Shmuley Boteach states that “the principal form of marital breakdown in our time is the loss of erotic desire between husband and wife.” Outrageously enough, he puts the blame for this marital scourge on breast-feeding. Sure, he acknowledges the impressive health benefits that accrue to breast-fed babies. But he argues that overall, nursing “should always remain subordinate to the romantic and passionate needs of a marriage.” It’s hard to say whether Rabbi Boteach is suggesting that women not nurse at all, or that men simply shouldn’t watch. Either way, he couldn’t be more wrong (and by the way—the irony of two men debating breast-feeding hasn’t escaped me).
In choosing to become parents—which most of us do—we tacitly agree to take on certain obligations, to make sacrifices for our children, to do what we can to make their lives better than ours. Going a step further, if there’s something we can do to protect our children, to keep them from harm, we must do it.
Although I defer to the good rabbi’s knowledge of Jewish texts, I’ve studied a section of Talmud that I believe deals with this exact issue:
"One who can prevent members of his household from committing a sin and does not do so, is punishable for their sin. If one can prevent his fellow citizens from committing a sin, and does not do so, he is punishable for their sin. If one can prevent the whole world from a sin and does not, he is punishable for the sin of the entire world." (Shabbat 54b)
Okay, it’s a little extreme to say that not breast-feeding a child is a sin that threatens the world. After all, most of us who are over 30 weren’t breast-fed, and for the most part we’re fully functional, tax-paying members of society. Also, there’s a percentage of women for whom breast-feeding simply doesn’t work out—and their children turn out just fine. But the point is that as parents, when we have a chance to do something that is almost guaranteed to make our children healthier, we have to do it, even if it comes at some sacrifice.
But that raises an important question: Does supporting breast-feeding come at the expense of the couple’s romantic relationship? Hardly.
In researching my books, "The Expectant Father" and "The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year," I found the same thing as the Harvard study Rabbi Boteach cites: that new parents experience a tremendous decline in their love life in the first year after the birth of a child. But a waning sex life is less a casualty of breast-feeding and more a symptom of an overall drop in communication and intimacy-building activities.
To start with, most new mothers are instructed by their OBs to refrain from sex for at least six weeks after giving birth. But the reality is that a majority of women don’t recover their pre-pregnancy sex drive for six months or more. Given that sex is both a product of and a catalyst for intimacy, less sex means less intimacy, and vice versa.
Second, when couples become parents, they rather abruptly move from focusing on themselves and their relationship, to the 24-hour baby channel ("all baby, all the time"). Going out together—for dinner, movies, or even a walk—pretty much disappears from the scene for a while. All that adds up to less time for having fun and fewer opportunities for intimacy. Throw in a complete lack of spontaneity, a little sleep deprivation, and maybe some worries about money, and it’s no wonder that new parents’ sex lives suffer. Breast-feeding is the least of the reasons why.