Arousal while breastfeeding

Hi Alice,

Can a lady actually get in the mood when breastfeeding?

Dear Reader, 

Some people may experience feelings of closeness and tenderness with their child during breastfeeding and, yes, it can even be arousing sometimes. Since many people don’t usually report feelings of stimulation to their health care provider, it’s difficult to know exactly how common breastfeeding arousal is. However, while feeling sexually stimulated during breastfeeding may be jarring if you're not expecting it, it's actually a natural response to nipple stimulation and hormone secretion. 

After giving birth, when a nipple is sucked, the brain receives signals to release milk. This milk is stored in the alveoli (tiny sacs inside the breast) and travels through the milk ducts and out through the nipple. The alveoli, milk ducts, and nipples are all part of the mammary glands in the breast. As milk flows to the milk ducts, the movement can trigger a tingling sensation in the nipples similar to those felt during orgasm. In fact, many people need some form of nipple or breast stimulation to achieve sexual pleasure. Aside from breastfeeding, the hormones that impact sex drive fluctuate throughout the life cycle, especially so right after giving birth and may persist as someone continues to breastfeed. This is because estrogen levels decrease dramatically which may lead them to feel less arousal than usual. 

The hormones released during lactation may also explain some of the connection between breastfeeding and arousal. When a baby suckles at a breast, the nipple stimulation causes the release of prolactin and oxytocin—two hormones naturally produced by the body. Affectionately known as the "cuddle hormone," "trust hormone," or the "love hormone," oxytocin is often released in large quantities during childbirth and when milk is produced by the breasts—also known as lactation. What’s interesting to note is that varying levels of oxytocin are also released when hugging, touching, and during orgasm. It’s also been shown that levels of prolactin—often referred to as the “mothering hormone” because it signals the body to make milk—may increase when having sex or when non-breastfeeding nipple stimulation occurs. Therefore, it’s possible that the oxytocin and prolactin released during breastfeeding may cause you to feel sexually aroused. However, while these sensations may feel odd in the context of breastfeeding, it doesn’t mean that sexual desire is felt towards the child, it simply means these hormones are working properly! 

Some people may feel embarrassed or “wrong” because they experience pleasure during breastfeeding. If shame or guilt are something that you’re struggling with, meeting with a mental health professional, finding an online or in-person support group for those breastfeeding, or sharing your experience with loved ones may be some avenues you choose to explore for support. The  takeaway is that many of the same body parts and hormones involved in sexual arousal are also present in childbirth and breastfeeding, making it possible that someone may experience arousal. 

Hope this helps!   

Last updated Jun 02, 2023
Originally published Jan 03, 2014