There is no doubt that our American culture sexualizes breasts. All you have to do is look around you to see this is true. Many times a day we are presented with images in media of overly seductive women with low cut or revealing clothing that highlights their breasts. While there is nothing inherently wrong with appreciating the beauty of a woman’s body, this single focus can make things confusing when a woman breastfeeds. When you have only experienced your breasts as sexual, breastfeeding can lead to some conflicting feelings.
First, keep in mind that conflicting and confusing feelings about your breasts are completely normal when you are breastfeeding. Most of us have not been surrounded by seeing women breastfeed. If we had, this would have given us an appreciation of breasts as a multi-functional part of our body, instead of only for sex and sensuality. As women, we often have many emotional issues surrounding our bodies before we become mothers that are made worse by the changes pregnancy causes. Take a moment to appreciate all that your body has given you and your baby. You have grown a whole new person! That is amazing! Now you are feeding your baby with your body - this is amazing and wonderful too! And remember that it is your body and your decision when, how, and if your breasts are involved in your sexuality. Be kind, patient, and gentle with yourself when you are negotiating the potentially tricky subject of your new relationship to your body and your breasts.
What is Normal?
There is a wide range of what is normal in terms of your sexuality after you have a baby. Some women do not feel the return of sexual desire for many months or even years after childbirth. Some women wait impatiently for their caregiver to give them the go-ahead to engage sexually again. No matter where you fall on this spectrum, sexuality will most likely become part of your life. If you and your partner have enjoyed your breasts as part of your sexual experience in the past, incorporating your lactating breasts into your sex life is a new experience that requires patience, clear communication, and a sense of humor.
Be clear with your partner about what feels good to you and what doesn’t. Lactating breasts are often very sensitive the first couple of months you are breastfeeding, and previous levels of stimulation may not feel good. This is okay. If your breasts are sensitive enough that you don’t want them involved in sex, this is okay too - be clear about this and maybe wear a shirt or sports bra during sex so that your breasts are protected.
A reality of new motherhood is that we can become “touched out”. After spending hours and hours with a new baby literally attached to our bodies every day, the last thing that sounds good is having somebody else touch you. If you are feeling this way, know that it is normal and it will pass. Taking a few moments by yourself can help. Communicate with your partner and connect in non-physical ways. Experiences can be emotionally, mentally, and even sensually fulfilling without being sexual.
Whose Body is this After All?
You may enjoy having your breasts stimulated sexually, but conflicting feelings can still come up when your breasts are primarily used for breastfeeding. Feeling like your body isn’t yours in the same way it was before pregnancy is a common feeling for new mothers. When you are lactating, feeling like your breasts belong to your baby is really common - you and your partner enjoying your breasts sexually may feel like you are somehow taking something away from your baby. It is normal to feel this way, but it can help to think about all the other parts of your body that are also multi-purpose: your hands, your mouth, your legs. And take your time. It is okay if you don’t feel the way you think that you should. Being honest about what you do feel can help you to move into a different place - the place you want to be.
Another aspect of lactating breasts and sexuality is leaking milk or having a letdown during sexual play. This is normal too. Some of the same hormones that help your body to make milk are also the same hormones that contribute to the pleasure of sexuality. Even if you don’t have an orgasm, sexual touch can be pleasurable and can lead to your breasts leaking a little or a lot. Some women have a letdown when they have an orgasm. While this can be a little messy, there is nothing wrong with this at all. Your body is simply responding to the stimulation in a completely normal way. Your partner may appreciate your beautiful and life-giving body in a new way and this may translate into enjoying your lactating breasts. Liking the taste of your breastmilk or the fullness of your breasts can be completely normal and healthy - as long as you both feel good about what is happening.
An aspect of sexuality and breastfeeding that you may not expect at all is feeling some kind of sexual desire when you are actively breastfeeding. This can be a shocking experience for some women, leading to feelings of shame and confusion. The very important distinction to remember is that your body is responding to direct stimulation of your breasts - you are absolutely not responding sexually to your child in any way. Remember that some of the same hormones that help you to breastfeed are the same hormones that are released when you are engaged sexually.
Having a baby pushes you into many new roles in your life. Integrating those new roles with your sexuality can be hard. Be gentle with yourself. Communicate what you want and need with your partner. If something seems too much, take a breath, back off, and try again another day. Remember that you cannot give of yourself to anyone when you are empty - self-care for postpartum moms is so important. Getting to a place where you can truly enjoy your sexuality may take a while, but this is okay. You deserve to feel good about yourself and your body.
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