Breastfeeding raises some emotional dilemmas too.. Some men are heavily erotically focused on the breasts and may feel as though their partner’s breasts are theirs for sex. Some women report their partners putting pressure on them to stop breastfeeding because they don’t like the competition. Another reason some men have problems with their partner breastfeeding is that it can be really messy during sex. This is because of the letdown’, which is an uncontrollable spurting of milk that happens when the breasts are stimulated either by the baby sucking or by sexual stimulation. It is very common in the first two to three months. Gary said, ‘I saw the funny side of it. The biggest change I noticed was that the wet spot in the bed was higher up.’ Other men aren’t so amused and find it a turn-off. This is an issue that needs to be handled very delicately. A couple needs to be able to talk honestly about these feelings and work out solutions together (like leaving the nursing bra on, or lying on towels).
According to Marriage Guidance Council research, the later stages of the partner’s pregnancy or immediately after birth is a peak time for many men to have an affair. Popular mythology would have us believe that this is because men have such a strong need for sex, that if it’s not available at home they’ll just look elsewhere. This would be a simplistic and cynical explanation for such a complex situation. One group of men said that they felt this was more likely to happen in families where the father wasn’t actively included in the care of the new baby, and in relationships where the couple couldn’t talk about problems with their sex life. Said Jim, ‘I don’t know how they could have the energy! I was too tired for the first three months from walking around the house at two in the morning with a screaming baby to think about sex with anyone!’ The reaction of women I spoke with on this issue was mixed. A few were horrified at the suggestion. Others said they could see why it might happen, especially in situations where the father felt excluded. Generally though, they all agreed that the best safeguard for a relationship at this crucial time was to keep talking and to maintain the intimacy that says, ‘I may not feel like intercourse right now, but I still love you and need you to be close.’