Many lactavists (lactation-activists for those not in the know) love to declare that “breasts aren’t sexual” when defending a mother’s right to nurse in public and the accusation that doing so is somehow obscene. Breastfeeding is of course not sexual in and of itself. I along with probably most nursing mothers don’t think “oh yeah time to nurse- giggity”:/ If anything it’s like “man this kid is hungry again!?!” Maybe “oh what a cute little milk monster going to eat all the nummy yummies” depending on how sappy you’re feeling. However despite their practicality to our species as mammals (you know as in mammary glands), breasts can be quite sexual.
They are first of all, secondary sexual characteristics indicating sexual maturity. Most people, particularly in Western society and even more so in American culture, find “second base” to be an important step to “making a home run”. They are known to be particularly erotic and key to many women’s (notice I didn’t say all) arousal. Ironically the very same people who most often decry that “breasts aren’t sexual” in defensive of breastfeeding are often the same exact people who extol the ability for nipple stimulation (rather by pumping, nursing an older baby, manual manipulation, or good ole’ being felt up by one’s partner) to augment labor. (Some say it can even cause labor but many say that’s phooey since so many women have sex with plenty of breasts play throughout pregnancy and no premature labor; ditto for moms who nurse through pregnancy, or even myself who pumped ounces and ounces of colostrum day after day when my due date came and went with no luck lol!). They also love to talk about how nursing as soon as possible after birth helps the uterus contract down (known as involution) not only helping mom’s belly shrink, but also immediately postpartum can lessen bleeding, help the placenta “release” so it comes out without much drama and head off a potentially fatal postpartum hemorrhage. Additionally some women experience after pains from nursing the first few days because it makes their uterus contract so much. So obviously the natural parenting and lactivist community often are very aware of the breast- reproductive tract connection yet “breasts aren’t sexual”. (Remember orgasm is physically the involuntary contracting of the vagina and uterus- many women only, if at all, notice the vaginal contractions but the uterine ones often happen concurrently too. My first ever braxton hicks were post coital- nearly scared the sh** out of me until I started recalling these various pieces of information!)
Saying breasts aren’t sexual in my mind seems to reinforce the idea that moms particularly nursing moms aren’t sexual. Way to reinforce the Madonna/Whore complex! One of the reasons moms shy away from nursing is precisely because they don’t want to lose that aspect of themselves and their relationship! They “want their body back” or prefer to keep those “for their husband”. Hell even pro-sex and seemingly very family friendly author and orthodox Rabbi Schmuley Boteach said something to the affect of husband’s needs over baby’s needs and even if against mom’s choice:/ Just to get off track for a second and say what bull crap that is-
despite article’s stats, we personally saw very little if any decrease in sexual frequency despite exclusively breastfeeding to over 6 months and extended breastfeeding until about three, with cosleeping for over a year. We just used the fold out couch in our tiny apartment’s living room when baby was sleeping in our room and occasional fast quickies with baby in another room (either in a bouncer seat, play pen or a baby proofed area) when timing was mercilessly against us. Our average was and has been thorough out almost all phases of our relationship about every other day- much better than majority of married couples, even those without a baby. I don’t know exactly how we’ll manage with a second baby around (due in March) BUT there’s a reason I spaced my kids out over 3 years AND still insist my toddler naps daily. Our bathroom’s tub and shower seem particularly sexy in our current place, we have a walk in closet with a door that closes and even thinking about putting a mattress on the floor of the kids’ room to (safely) cosleep part time with the new baby in there (my toddler in her own bed- we night weaned her at 18 months by putting a mattress in her room and going in to comfort her as needed) while leaving our bedroom to be our love nest/den of iniquity depending on the day since the common practice of using baby’s unused nursery for adult alone time creeps me out- BTW that comedian is divorced now big surprise… Besides I’d just think about what accessories I’d want in there or what needs to be picked up and it would put me in full on mommy mode instead of sexy mode so not very down with having our room being used for a “family bed” while the second bedroom we’re paying like an extra $100/month for goes empty. However I’m proof it’s possible to remain sexually active in spite of being a nursing and cosleeping mother. It’s ironic that the Rabbi also states nursing as so tiring for mom since cosleeping is the most well known hack to get one’s rest while still nursing on demand:/ He also makes it seem as nursing’s benefits are merely a cold or two less for the child which while true, there are SO many other benefits that reach far further than just avoiding the sniffles! It’s also highly ironic that he thinks witnessing child birth can ruin a marriage when so many, especially in the natural birth and family/free/unassisted birth community feel it does anything but! Oh and it was never any trouble for me to go out to eat and nurse my baby in a sling as suggested in “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding“. It kept her content and quiet without any worry how my little baby was managing with a sitter (as well as meaning there was more money for our date which made them more frequent too). However “dates” were never a key in our relationship. In high school, we didn’t go out much unless it was a special occasion- just hanging out was fine by us! WHOA to think I liked his books, well enough to use them for writing my undergrad thesis on period sex lol and “recycling” it, ironically as suggested by my professors, for multiple classes for both my religious studies major and Jewish studies certificate (because my widely know party school had high standards BLAHAHAHAHA), but this article is pure crap. Then again when his key sex advice is to follow the laws of the Niddah and not have sex two weeks a month, that’s saying something. While MMSL whose famous for having sex with his wife pretty much every night of his decades long and counting marriage, doesn’t actively promote period sex, it’s at least not absolutely against it unless the wife isn’t interested. Frankly it’s my FAVORITE cure ever for PMS! I’m so going to hell but hey blood is built in lube with no need for birth control;) Ok yes in rare incidents, women can get pregnant from sex on their period but typically only an issue for women who have very short cycles (like 21 days) and usually it isn’t even from ovulating during a period but from residual semen surviving long enough to fertilize an egg when it drops a few days later. Even the natural family planning/fertility awareness method bible known as “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” says that for the majority of people, at least the first 5 days of a cycle (aka shark week) are safe. Anyways, let’s see if we can get back on track here…
I know we’re up against a lot trying to normalize biological infant feeding over those demonic @$$holes who run the formula companies. (NOTE my issue is with the huge amount of disinformation and blatant “profits over people” hell profits over BABIES’ LIVES, mentality that formula makers promote- not moms who for whatever reason find themselves in need of a milk substitute to feed their child). Add in the deeply ingrained bodily and sexual shame of our culture, and we’re (because I do consider myself a lactivist) fighting a battle on two fronts! However that doesn’t mean we should ignore the implications of such phrases as “breasts aren’t sexual”. How do you think it makes mothers who are dealing with the sometimes confusing sensations nursing can cause? I know I put up big thick mental walls to avoid nursing becoming even the slightest bit sensual but I still had to limit hubby’s access to second base for a long time (especially any heavy oral contact) to reconcile the opposing functions of my breasts. I also will probably limit cosleeping a lot more next time because while not the full experience that article mentions, there were some awkward moments. I’ve been to quite a few La Leche League meetings as well as many other pro-breastfeeding AP groups and it’s NEVER brought up. In fact even “nursing manners” are not mentioned as much as they should be IME- and believe me, they would have helped A LOT! In fact sometimes they were even mocked as if moms who DON’T want a baby yanking on their non-nursing breast during a feeding are too uptight or something:/ Yeah because being uncomfortable when your own kid starts pinching your nipple is somehow wrong- you’re supposed to do whatever they want- sorry “need” because twiddling as it’s called is such a true need like breathing or eating:/ Yet another point the cult of martyrdom motherhood lost me on big time.
The linked article concerning arousal and nursing is one of the few places it’s even mentioned as a concern that I’ve seen (and while I don’t know everything, I’m fairly entrenched in the AP world so if I have seen little about it, I can’t imagine what a mainstream mom with even less resources and whose few are of the extremely anti-natural “just give the kid a bottle” variety would do!). This sort of void of discussion is even more horrendous when you realize how triggering this sort of thing could be to a sexual abuse survivor. Luckily there are some good resources out there for that but even that grave of a topic is infrequently touched upon. When one claims “breasts aren’t sexual” they’re invalidating a wide range of women’s experiences, shooting themselves (and their cause) in the foot so to speak.