On breastfeeding and things we don’t talk about

Just in case there was any question, let me state emphatically that I am a breastfeeding supporter, a hard-core breastfeeding advocate, a lactivist (but not a “breastfeeding nazi“, please and thank you):

I’m down with child-led weaning. I call nursing for 2+ years “full-term”, and anything less than that “abbreviated” or “short” or “premature weaning”, and I can’t think of anything I would call “extended breastfeeding”, except maybe being latched on for 8 hours non-stop.

I think feminists must support breastfeeding, and breastfeeding in public (and pumping, and pumping at work and in public), else they fail at one of the fundamental precepts of feminism.

I believe women have the moral right and must have the legal right to expose however much of their breast they and their child deem necessary, for however long they deem necessary, incidental to the act of breastfeeding, and that a woman has the moral right and must have the legal right to breastfeed or pump anywhere she otherwise has the right to be.

I’ve nursed my kid in the dark, at the park, in a plane, on a train, in a car, and over a jar (we did EC), and yes, I pull it down and whip it out and no you don’t have a right not to see it, though you’re more than welcome to avert your gaze.

I’ve never kept track of how many times the Boychick nursed throughout the day or over the course of a night, because he nursed when he was hungry, or thirsty, or tired, or hurt, or bored, or just because, and all of those are perfectly legitimate reasons to breastfeed in my mind.

When asked when I was going to wean, I say that WHO recommends a minimum of 2 years, but I was pretty sure he’d be done before college. I trust Dettwyler’s research showing the natural age of human weaning to be between 2.5-7 years. I told my mom to be prepared for her grandson nursing well into kindergarten, if that’s what he wants, and that I would fight to keep nursing for 2 years, with a minimum goal of 2.5

Yes, I am one of those women.

I tell you this, present to you my lactivist credentials so to speak, because when I say that I hate nursing, I want you to have some idea of what it means. So that when I say I hate nursing, and my 28 month old seems to be coming to an end of breastfeeding, you’ll maybe get it when I say it makes me cry.

I never know how to describe my problematic feelings about breastfeeding. It isn’t the idea of it, obviously. It isn’t a matter of getting “touched out”: I’m a hugely touchy-feely person, and had no problems having the Boychick on or next to my person most of the day (and on his dad’s body the rest of the time). It isn’t a matter of dysphoric milk ejection reflex, it’s not a history of abuse, and it isn’t a chronically painful latch. It’s definitely not a matter of being uncomfortable in my own skin, or disliking the animal nature of it. And it’s obviously nothing so bad that I was unable to continue, or chose to stop, but it’s probably contributing to this (to us) relatively early weaning.

No, it’s that for all the lactivist protestations to the contrary, breastfeeding is sexual, at least for me. Whether through biology or socialization (and I’m inclined, as I often am, to say “both”), feeling the child suckling on my breast — and I should clarify here, it’s primarily dry nursing, or comfort nursing, or the lag between the start of nursing and milk ejection, when there’s little or no milk being transferred — often feels sexual to me. And I really don’t like it.

I usually use words like “uncomfortable” (because it is), or say it drives me crazy (because it does). I usually don’t say I dislike it because it makes my cunt swell and start to throb, because there are all kinds of social stigmas associated with that, above and beyond the usual ignorant bitching about breastfeeding in the first place. Plus, there are people who like that feeling, and not in a pervy “I’m gonna nurse my kids to get my kicks” kind of way (I have met thousands of full-term nursing women, and never, ever have I met one who thought of nursing like that), but just in a happy “hey, this makes my body feel good” kind of way. And I think that’s great, and totally normal and healthy. Actually, I’m envious as hell of those women: I’d do anything to have that kind of feeling about the feelings nursing causes.

But no, breastfeeding feels sexual, and it feels uncomfortable, and it makes me want to take a cheese grater to my nipples, or cut off my breasts, or crawl out of my skin, or get up and run away and claw my eyes out. And I have resorted to pain as a coping mechanism: biting my hand or pulling my hair or digging nails into my flesh, anything, anything to distract me long enough for him to finish, to calm down, to fall asleep, to get a letdown going, whatever he needs. But I can’t always manage it, and it’s leading to a downward spiral, where I have less milk, so I can’t nurse him as much, so I have less milk, so… And on and on, until he’s falling asleep to The Man reading to him and snuggling him in bed, and I’m out in the livingroom crying because I can’t be the woman I want to be, can’t do the thing I want to do.

I hate breastfeeding, and I hate that I hate it. I hate that, as much as I love the idea of comfort nursing, it is anything but comfortable for me. I hate that the way I want to mother, with breastfeeding a wholly holy joy and there for him whenever he needs or wants it, is not possible for me. I hate that there have been nights both he and I have cried to sleep because I just. couldn’t. do it anymore. I hate that it’s causing our nursing relationship to come to an end so soon. And I hate, I hate, that talking about it like this will make some people think “then what the hell are you still doing it for?”

I’m “still” doing it because I love it. I love snuggling him close to me while his eyes stutter close and roll back in bliss. I love playing stinky feet and having him try not to laugh so he doesn’t delatch. I love the twenty extra minutes I can buy myself in the morning for lounging under the covers and scrolling through Google Reader. I love how he asks to nurse after he gets really hurt because “it makes me better”. I love knowing he’s getting immunological and nutritional substances he wouldn’t get anywhere else. I love everything about breastfeeding — except, more and more though still not always, the actual physical act.

Our nursing relationship is going to come to an end someday, likely sooner rather than later. This is normal, and natural, and has to happen sometime. And almost everyone I know speaks about weaning with ambivalence, so my experience is hardly unique in that respect. But this — being a lactivist who often hates the experience of breastfeeding, mourning an early weaning at 28 months — isn’t something I see talked about much, if ever.

There are so many forces telling me not to publish this post: there’s the patriarchy saying that nursing a 2yo is disgusting, that having genital sensations during breastfeeding is perverted, that nursing should be perfect and lovely and angelic, not messy and complicated and human. There’s lactivism saying I’m just giving fuel to anti-breastfeeders, I shouldn’t talk about the bad times, the hard times, that I’m going to scare people off. There’s feminism saying I should make it all about the kyriarchy (when the truth is I’m too tired and too hurting to think that big right now), and that this is all so much middle class privileged white woman mommy blogging whining, and I should be using my platform to spotlight those with real problems. The lactivism and feminism sides even have good points.

But ultimately, I’m sharing this because I can’t be the only one. I’m not so special or so unique that no one else feels this way. I’m sharing this because women’s stories are important: not just our beautiful stories, not just our predictable stories, not just our uncomplicated damn-the-patriarchy moralistic stories, but all of them, messy and complicated and contradictory and nuanced and ugly and difficult and mundane and human and boring and silly. And it is through sharing our stories and connecting with others leading complicated-human-nuanced lives that we become strong.

And I need strength right now. I needed strength when the Boychick was a mewling newborn, who only knew that suckling was comfort and love and safety and peace, and didn’t know it was discomfort and ugly and painful and hard for me, and I need strength now that he is recognizing I sometimes grimace and pull away and push him away when he seeks the comfort he knows at my breast, and is preempting that pain for both of us by turning elsewhere for his needs.

We’re not meant to do this alone. I don’t regret a moment I’ve spent nursing my child, not even the moments I was crying and hurting myself to cope. But I regret doing it in isolation, with no one to tell me I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t abnormal, and I wasn’t wrong for doing it anyway.

Share your stories. Even your ugly stories, even your hard ones. Someone out there is going through it too, and they need to hear from you. I surely did.

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97 Responses to On breastfeeding and things we don’t talk about

  1. Beautiful post. In the first weeks when our little one was born, I thought I hated breastfeeding. It hurt and I was tired and sick from losing so much blood and sleep deprived and emotional and nervous. But week by week we got into a rhythm, we no longer needed 27 pillows to get into a workable position, it didn't hurt anymore when he latched, I could get his head at the right angle, and we learned together. I wouldn't have been able to do it if I hadn't known so many women who say how important it is, and read how good it is for my baby. I am so thankful for all the women who make breastfeeding good and special and are honest and open and hopeful and express struggles and joys. This life sure is complicated and I am so thankful for people to journey with along the way. Thanks for this amazing post.

  2. nak :-)

    nursed #1 'til she was 5.5 and only stopped because i didn't want to tandem nurse. we weaned together, but it was my needs in the end that took precedence.

    if i ever feel like i don't want to nurse, it'll be over. i'm a hard core supporter of child-led weaning, but subscribe even more to my mother's only bit of parenting advice above ALL else: never do anything that makes you not like your children.

    • OOOH thank you for this “never do anything that makes you not like your children” that’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard.

  3. I have many of the same feelings surrounding nursing. Although for me, the first year of nursing didn't result in any sexual feelings at all; they started when I was nursing through my second pregnancy (I have a 32 month old old and a 12 month old).

    It's hard. I don't like it. I often limit and cut our nursing sessions short (for my oldest) because of it. And I worry that maybe it would be better for him if we just weaned entirely rather than my frequently withholding and putting so many restrictions on this form of affection.

    But at the same time, I have to recognize that this is *my* hangup. I'm the adult, I feel like I need to do my best to keep my cultural baggage (and in my case I think responding so negatively to the sexual feelings associated with nursing is culturally-induced) from affecting my children.

    I want to be able to nurse him joyfully. I want to be able to have that tool (joyful or not) when he's upset or hurt. And I wish I didn't have this internalized idea that the physical responses I have are wrong/evil/bad/make me a pedophile/etc. But I refuse to make that my children's problem; I'll own it as mine and deal with.

    Right now I'm dealing with it by only nursing my oldest a few times a day, and asking him to unlatch when it gets to be too much (5 minutes would be an incredibly long session for us). And I may encourage him to wean at some point, although his younger brother nursing makes that a problematic idea. But for now, although nobody is thrilled with the situation, we're all happier than we'd be if he didn't nurse at all.

  4. My son is 22 months old, and nursing him can sometimes be arousing. Usually it ends up being his bedtime nursing, which means it is a long session.

    It's my job as a mother to protect my son, to allow him his innocence. I will not abuse my son.

    So what I do is acknowledge that the feeling is there, that he is NOT an appropriate outlet for it, and just breathe. Then when he goes to sleep, I find my husband (who IS an appropriate outlet) and get my own needs taken care of.

    I work in a field dominated by men. Most of whom are simply there, and doing their jobs, and that's fine. A few of whom strike me as handsome, or really cool. But similar to above, I refuse to harm my marriage. So I acknowledge my feelings to myself (not "him"), but redirect it towards my husband.

    • I agree! I am a lesbian mother who has nursed (and still is!) 3 children…ages 12 mos., 2.5 years and 7. We love the changes pregnancy and breast feeding brings about! This is a science thousands of years in the making. I believe it helps us relax (both breastfeeding and possible orgasm after), de-stress and unwind after being a mom all day. It may seem weird at first, but if you are able, just go with it. You are not abnormal!

      • Im sorry and did not read your next comment. I do not believe you have a “hang-up.” You cannot help the way it makes you feel. My heart goes out.

  5. Thank you for your beautiful, brave post. I'm a pre-mom (planning to be a baby-wearing, attached, lactivist mom) and just knowing that your voice and your honesty are there help immensely. Thanks.

  6. Thank you all. As I said on Twitter, this was one of the hardest posts to hit "submit" on I've ever written. Y'all make it worth it.

    For me, it's not as simple as not liking it (or it making me not like my child: although there have been moments I've resented him, they ended immediately upon delatching, and I went right back to wanting to nurse him), because I've never ONLY not liked it, it's always mixed up with loving it for how beautiful and mundane and loving it is. It's also not a feeling I could call arousing: although it is a physical sensation like sexual arousal, the feeling is so unappealing to me I'd call it repulsive instead. And for me, I'm not sure it's a "hang up" — it may be conditioning, based on my culture's belief of breasts as sexual, and a decade's worth of sexual life involving my breasts, but I'm not willing to say it's a failure in my own thinking.

    I do wonder how many people's feelings of repugnance on tandem nursing (especially nursing while pregnant — and I know not everyone has them, and many nurse through it anyway) are these sorts of unpleasantly sexual feelings. Almost no one ever describes it, though, so I don't know: the most I hear are the same kinds of catch phrases I use (it being uncomfortable, grimacing during it, making one's skin crawl), which makes me really wonder. But when I hear lactivists talk about sexual feelings while breastfeeding, what I hear are assurances are "it's perfectly normal, and it's OK to like it." Nothing about this repulsive arousal and really disliking it.

    Anyway, again, thank you.

  7. I have much that comes to mind when I read this. I am a woman who is TTCing and…I want to breastfeed with everything that is in me…yet I am on medicine that I need to continue life that is not suitable for breastfeeding. So should I get pregnant…all my dreams, thoughts, plans on being the extended breastfeeding super mom…are dashed. I mourn that. Alot.
    It's also wonderful to hear women talk about the sexual peice of breastfeeding. I've never heard it discussed before. So thank you for normalizing that for me. Thank you.

  8. Annie @ PhD in Parenting

    Agreed – beautiful and brave. I am not as brave about telling personal stories and being frank. I wish I could be. But the fact that my mother and aunt read my blog often holds me back! :)

  9. Kudos to you for writing this post. I nursed my first for 25 months, weaned because I was 5 months pregnant and didn't want to tandem. My second, now 19 months, is a voracious nurser. She shows no signs of stopping.

    But I do. I'm just about done. And I feel horrible about it, so I'll continue to nurse, even though I am not really enjoying it anymore.
    I'll give her 6 more months.

  10. Jake Aryeh Marcus

    Brava! Brave post. We need much more open discussion about maternal ambivalence – including mixed emotions about breastfeeding. My story isn't yours but there were times in my nursing history when I felt violated, dominated, or just plain icky. Nursed all my kids from 2-4 years. Loved much of it. Didn't love some of it. Hated some of it. I'd never judge a women whose discomfort is so great or unresolvable that she needs to make nursing decisions because of it.

  11. Particles of Stone

    Bless you, and bless you, and BLESS you for saying it, and saying it in so blessedly normal a voice. Yes, yes, me too! With my daughter, it was rare, but the last few months of my nursing relationship with my son were very like this–and yes, I hurt myself, too, to try to diminish the feelings of pleasure. I wish there was some clear answer for those of us who face this circumstance–as you say, you have folks saying "It's okay to enjoy it!" but everything in our minds and hearts tells us that sexuality is not meant to be shared with our children; no amount of belief in living naturally will convince me otherwise.

    I still face a similar situation even now, on a lesser scale, with an extremely lovey and touchy daughter who loves to come up and stroke me, and she's not particular about where–I'm torn between just gritting my teeth and bearing it when her "petting" includes brush-by's of my breasts (which are uber-sensitive and always have been–perhaps I should just get some mega-padded bras :-P ) and telling her that is not a place to touch. I don't want to tell her "no" because that casts the breasts in the role of "sexual objects"–which they surely are, but that isn't their sole purpose. I believe that American society is far too hung up on breasts as sexual, and I want to fight that, and yet my own breasts betray me by being my #1 erogenous zone (no exaggeration).

    If more people would brave such topics as you have, perhaps we could all find some answers that would ease our minds. But this helps, so…thank you.

  12. My son stopped nursing at 14 months and I was heartbroken. He had just gotten to the developmental phase of asking to nurse, but when I'd offer him a breast he'd refuse it. But I noticed, especially as he became older, a shift in the sensations I'd feel. For me, they were fleeting and surprising. When he was tiny I'd never felt any sexual "sensations". I don't know how things would have progressed had he kept nursing. I certainly didn't relish it, but, like some of your other commenters, I just breathed through it and trusted that I wasn't a disgusting person and, that ultimately, I wasn't in control.

    Thanks so much for writing this. Bravery is good. So very good.

  13. I've never liked nursing. I almost wish I would get some kind of sensation form it, at least that would decrease the tedium. Obviously from your post, that brings its own set of problems, though. I'm envious of women who say how special nursing is for them, what a bonding experience it is.

    I've nursed 3 children, both my older kids were mother-led weanings. My oldest at 3 years, when he was only nursing a few seconds every few days, my middle at 3 1/2 years because I couldn't stand nursing him anymore when I was pregnant & I was just *done*. My youngest is just 4 months, so I expect I'll be nursing for at least 2 more years. The thought doesn't fill me with warmth & joy. It's not dread & loathing, either, so I guess that's something.

    I nurse because I don't consider formula an option for me. I can nurse, even though I've had issues with all 3 that would have made a lot of women quit, so I will. I'm not paying for formula when I can give my kids better, for free. I just put up with the incredible tedium & try to enjoy that it makes them happy, makes parenting easier & be amazed that my baby is growing & thriving on only my milk.

  14. Wonderful post! A nursing relationship is so much more complicated than I would have ever thought before having kids. I've nursed my two girls: the first until she was 3 and the second still going at 28 months. With the first I wanted to end the nursing after three years because my whole being was just telling me, "enough." I suspect she would still be nursing to this day if she had the option. I wouldn't say I have ever actually hated breastfeeding, but it's been about 80% blissful and 10% grating-as-hell and 10% somewhere in between. The 28-month-old is down to one nursing session per day, and again, I'm leading the reduction because I want to. The times when it feels like an unpleasant chore are more frequent lately, so I tell her "nursing is closed." She seems to accept this passive-voice explanation not as a personal rejection from me, but as an unfortunate and temporary fact of life.

    The issue of nursing as a sexual experience is tough for me to unpack. Mainly I would say that I have not experienced nursing as sexual, but with both my kids almost my entire libido has shut down for the duration of nursing. Also, they are girls, and I am hetero — might this matter? The missing libido in my case seems to be a biological fact, and not particularly psychologically involved (although I essentially doubt the separation of psychology and biology; brain & body are one IMO; bigger discussion). So, yeah, no swelling nether regions or anything for me, but I can totally see how & why this might happen for lots of women, variations in the human animal being what they are, and the physical & hormonal systems for reproduction and nursing being so closely related. It DOES sound unpleasant. Is it MORE unpleasant than complete loss of libido for three years? Who knows, and it's probably not helpful to rate on any kind of scale.

    Which leads to a general observation that it can be easier to communicate the unpleasant annoyances of parenting and much, much harder to communicate the sublime joys. When I mentally weigh the sublime joys of nursing I've experienced over the past 7 years versus the various annoyances, the sublime joys WIN WIN WIN, hands down. Don't regret a moment, wouldn't change a thing. Would do it again in a heartbeat, encourage everyone else to at least give it a good hard try, grateful that I did. But can I tell you about those sublime joys? Not really, not very well. I sure wish I could.

  15. I stumbled across your blog today, and had to read this entry. It has been a while (2 years) since my daughter nursed, but your description made the feelings from the last few months of nursing her rush back. I got to where I hated nursing while I did it, but loved it when I wasn't. My skin is crawling just thinking of the way it made me feel. I had planned on child-led weaning, but stopped just shy of 3 years because it had become so unpleasant (by that point she was only nursing in the morning and at bedtime and it was a very gentle weaning.) I was so fortunate to have a circle of friends who all nursed their daughters to the same age, but only one had feelings like I did (or would admit it) So thank you for your honesty.

  16. Few of us are able to parent exactly the way we imagined we would or think we should in every aspect. There will be things that don't work out, or we can't pull off or that our kids won't cooperate with or that we just can't get comfortable with.

    Forgive yourself.

  17. TO Doula — while I appreciate the sentiment, I don't think there's actually anything I need to forgive myself for. It is normal and natural — and even if it weren't, I would still have the right — to grieve, to be angry, to be sad about the things we cannot change but wish we could. I don't beat myself up (much, anyway; there are always the crazy voice moments) for not feeling the way I'd like to about nursing: I just mourn it. And that's OK.

    Everyone sharing your stories here: thank you. You don't know how grateful I am for each of these comments. You make this possible for me.

  18. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I thought I was the only one. I shouldn't have been so foolish!

  19. Thank you for this post, and the whole subject of maternal ambivalence. I don't have the exact same experience, but your story rings true for me. I think we don't share enough about these mixed feelings we can have, and when we do, we can often be shut down. (Or that's been my experience when I've tried in real life.)

    I don't mind the sensations of breastfeeding, but I've noticed that it's made my breasts extremely sensitive to manual touch in a non-pleasant way. I used to love being touched there sexually, and now I can't stand it, which is also (I think) related to why I can't stand twiddling the non-nursing nipple. I haven't told my partner this, and I know he still thinks of my breasts as sexual, so I feel very Victorian during that phase of sex: gritting my teeth and thinking of England. Yes, I could tell him and he would stop, but I know he likes it. Not unlike how you have been continuing to breastfeed, even though you have the right to stop, because there are good things about it amid the bad things. Ambivalence.

    Anyway…thank you so much for sharing, and for being brave, and for making the rest of us braver.

  20. I vaguely remember Adventures in Tandem Nursing having a section about sexual arousal during nursing (and not liking it). As far as I know, you're not pregnant, but maybe this would be helpful?

  21. First of all, thank you for such a brave and honest post. I have had similar feelings but was reluctant (afraid? ashamed?) to talk about them.
    I nursed my boy (currently 21 months) until he was (only) one year old.
    Mostly I loved the emotional and physical intensity of it, I could sense the bonding taking place via this amazingly sensual, dare I also say sexual, sensation. But it also really confused me, I had no idea how to deal with my own sexuality anymore: I would nurse and feel aroused, or I would become aroused with my man and squirt milk.
    As the boy grew older and more playful, as breastfeeding became for him a kind of game or habit more than anything else (he took to food very naturally and we did supplement with formula for other reasons), I felt less able to tolerate the physical response and confusion it still induced in me. I was also producing less milk. I read this a sign from my body and his that we don't need it as much as we used to, that we are ready to separate our physical and emotional closeness from the act of breastfeeding.
    We weaned gradually, a feeding at a time. And it went very smoothly. And I got my sanity back, sort of ;)
    He did develop a complementary habit of sticking his hand down my (and his dad's!) shirt to play with a nipple. This was fine until, probably due to my being pregnant again (due in a couple of months), it started irritating the heck out of me. So these days I let him do it until just before I go crazy and then I gently nudge his hand out. He understands, he moves on to play with my chin or something else instead.
    What I have mainly been trying to do in all of this is consider both of us, without unnecessary guilt. I thought I would be breastfeeding way past the age of one, but that's not what turned out to be most natural for us. I never would have thought I would have another baby so soon. But that's how it turned out. And given my body's strong response, I'm glad I'm not still breastfeeding while pregnant.

  22. Thank you so much for your bravery. I felt brief moments of a sexual sensation with nursing… it bothered me a little but couldn't talk about it.

    I started to slowly wean my son once I started to feel breast pain during my pregnancy with my daughter. He got measles, mildly, then we had a trip away from home… so I stopped weaning and continued to feed on demand because we needed it:)

    A week after we got back, the pain was so intense that I felt my reflex to hit him. I woke my husband, told him, and he helped me wean my son immediately. He was 19 months, eating well and taking great comfort in his Daddy and just being held. I feel so sad that we couldn't continue. And embarrassed, everyone I've told goes silent and changes the subject.

    My boy is a very sensitive creature and I feel this didn't help him but I've learned how to help him grieve things that don't work.

    Thanks again!

  23. I never had the sexual feeling while nursing but there are times when I've gotten the willies when other women describe what their kids do. One friend said her newborn "licks and mouths" her nipple until she lets down and that makes me shudder to think about because that sounds like what a lover would do. I have a few friends that are nursing or have nursed 4 and 5 year olds and that makes me shudder too. I hate to admit it, but IMO that's too old to be nursing. I know that many disagree, but that's how I feel about it. I think 3 would be my limit. Maybe that's a societal influence, I don't know.

    It wasn't until around the kiddo's 2nd birthday that I started to dislike nursing. We had some setbacks while she was an infant that hurt my supply and it never recovered. So by the time she was 2 I knew she was getting next to nothing. That is what really bugged me about nursing. She outgrew comfort nursing long before so that fact coupled with the fact that she wasn't getting much milk made me realize it was all habit. And that really turned me off to nursing. I know it was habit because as soon as we went out of town and our routine changed, she lost all interest in nursing and she was totally weaned within a week of returning home.

    I made it to my goal of 2 years and that was enough for me.

  24. Thanks for sharing your experience, it reglects so closely what and how I feel except I'm only 4 weeks in and wanting to die.

  25. Anonymous — Take care of you. For me, nursing was absolutely worth it, and I would encourage anyone to keep at it, because so often it does get better. But, it definitely is NOT something you should just "suffer through" for the sake of your child: get support, get assistance, learn new coping or distracting skills. Take care of you, because you deserve it.

    Be safe.

  26. it is sad that breastfeeding is so taboo and threatened in our society, that something so simple as stating your true feelings could be seen as putting it in a more perilous position… i think that dealing with stuff like this in a safe/comfortable environment is one of the many sadnesses of women's isolation from each in their mothering, etc., today.

    and yes, breastfeeding is sexual. not in some sick incestual or abusive way, but in the general sense that sexuality is more than just "having sex". childbirth is sexual, breastfeeding is sexual, etc. and just like everything else sexual, everyone experiences it differently. everyone has their own story and no two are exactly alike. but that should make you feel less alone, not more. just like childbirth–knowing there is no "normal" is liberating.

  27. sufficiencyblog

    this post has been on my mind since i first saw it – thought i'd better comment before you lock comments! i sometimes feel a hormonal connection happening while i nurse my two year old – just as you can really feel your uterus contracting after orgasm when pregnant, or while nursing post-partum… those hormonal connections are just there. but i haven't consciously experienced the genital twinge or surge feeling as a sexual feeling – maybe if it lasted longer or happened more frequently during nursing it would feel like that, but it's pretty clearly connected with the let-down reflex so it feels limited in scope to me and doesn't bother me.

    but what's made me keep thinking about this is that i feel this same feeling when one of my kids is in danger – when i see one take a bad spill off a trike – i get that surge – obviously also a hormonal thing, but it's very connected to just my children – if i see other people in danger i don't feel the same, and i never had this feeling before i had kids. it's a really deep feeling of this child of my loins – that i grew inside me and birthed out to the world through me – this creation is in danger… and it's fundamentally tied to who i am reproductively, so maybe that's why i experience a surge in hormones that affect my reproductive organs…. or maybe that surge has always been there but my receptors for it are strengthened by my reproductive experience.

  28. I can’t believe I only just got around to commenting on this post.

    Very brave thing to say – not that it should have to be brave – and you’re not alone.

    I’ve felt it as a … what, sensual? experience though, as in “oh my god what a relief to get rid of all that milk!” and even that I’ve found hard to admit!

    I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never often felt aroused by breastfeeding my child.

    However, occasionally (cosleeping) I’ve woken up feeling aroused and realised eventually that my child was sleep nursing at the very tip of my nipple rather than taking a good full mouthful.

    And I’ll be brave and honest now and say that I’ve not exactly immediately gone “oh my god that’s horrific”. It’s a nice sensation. And – if we’re being honest – I can wait until my child has gone back into a deep sleep and then masturbate, thinking of something else entirely.

    To me it was a bit like, you know when you’re on the back of the bus… and it jiggles you *just so* and you start to feel a bit horny? Well, you don’t wanna fuck the bus; you might well sort yourself out when you get home but you don’t think of the bus you think of, I dunno, an alternative version of the scene where Alex Kingston as River Song cuffing David Tennant’s Doctor to the chair. Or whatever.

    But like I say, I haven’t experienced it very often. And crikey there’s enough people out there ready to call breastfeeding mothers – especially full term breastfeeding mothers – child abusers, that this kind of thing would be totally misinterpreted. Sadly.

  29. I can see why this is your most popular post! You’ve covered just about everything any bfing woman who has felt this has thought in her head but hasn’t said out loud. I have experienced much of what you wrote but have never even spoke of it to my husband. It wasn’t purposely repressed but I just knew he wouldn’t want to hear about it. Nor would I share it with most of my friends. But it also wasn’t something I was ever up tight about. Just interested enough to take note of it. Thanks for expressing this for me and so many others.

  30. One thing I hate is when you need someone to talk to about breastfeeding, to help you through something that’s hard about it so you turn to someone and the answer you get is “have you considered weaning?” Or “why don’t you just stop then?”

    What a relief it was when I was struggling with yeasty nipples and finally found someone who DIDN’T tell me to consider that option. My son was 11-months old. People say it as if you don’t know you could stop breastfeeding or as if it had never occurred to you, but they, in their wisdom, have figured it all out.

    No, giving up isn’t always the answer. Because when you give up pain, sometimes some really important pleasure goes with it.

    Anyway, wonderfully important post. I need to think about this since another baby to be breastfed is on the way!

  31. Hi Arwyn. Thank you so much for this post. I started to feel sexually aroused whilst nursing my son when I fell pregnant. He was 15 months. I force weaned him when he was 21 months, and it was horrendous, and traumatic and awful. When my daughter was born he asked to start nursing again, which I allowed but the nursing relationship was damaged somehow. I fully believe that tandem nursing helped my kids to bond, and it was very sweet to watch my son stroke his sister’s head, or them hold hands while they were nursing, but the sensation of nursing them both together is utterly abhorrent to me. It makes me want to cut my own clitoris off.

    I can’t nurse them together now, but my son still nurses at bed time and naptime, and I am hoping that he’ll wean soon. But every time he nurses I get aroused. I hate it. I hate it more than anything else. I have bruises on my upper arms where I bite or pinch myself to take my mind off my arousal. I have to limit his nursing to 10 minute sessions, which is far less than he would like. He has to watch while I nurse his baby sister with no problems whatsoever.

    To make matters worse, a couple of times when I’ve been nursing him, after he’s nursed he has started to tug at his nappy and show signs of discomfort. Assuming that he had soiled his nappy, I took it off to find he had an erection. I am now half-convinced that I am sexually abusing my son.

    I have attempted to discuss this with my husband, and all he has said is, “But you’ve always told me that breastfeeding isn’t sexual.” I can’t seem to get through to him that to me, this *isn’t* sexual, in my head, but my body is telling me that it is. It’s like I have crossed wires in my head. And maybe that’s something to do with the 2 years of sexual abuse I suffered as a child, and maybe it isn’t – but the fact is that I hate hate hate nursing my son right now, and the only reason we are still going (he’s now 32 months) is because, like you, I firmly believe in my breastmilk and what it’s doing for him. I have to believe in it, because if I stop believing in it i’m, what? Abusing my child? An abuser? I cannot allow myself to think like that so i compartmentalise it in my head.

    Thank you for your post – you’ve made me feel slightly less like a freak than usual. :-)

    • First, to address the erection issue: this is totally normal. It’s a normal, healthy, physiological reaction to parasympathetic nervous system stimulation (means he’s relaxed and happy! it’s why people experience physical arousal on a massage table, too, without ever having psychological sexual feelings), and is in no way a sign of abuse or damage or anything else.

      The Boychick likes to play with himself, too (which should go without saying! all kids do, to some extent), and I really didn’t mind it for the first year or so; now, though, I just gently remove his hands and tell him “not while we’re nursing”, simply because of the psychological discomfort for me (not because I think there’s anything wrong with it, because there isn’t).

      Similarly, we now ask him to play with his penis (he can retract his foreskin now, and finds that fascinating ;) ) on his own, not in our laps — not because it’s wrong, but simply because it’s private. It’s all a part of teaching him good boundaries around his body: it’s normal and healthy and fun to play with, and that’s great, but it also has appropriate times and places, and in his parents’ lap, nursing or not, just isn’t it.

      Secondly, you (and I) are in no way abusing our children. Neither are the women who enjoy the physical sensations nursing produces. None of us are seeking our sexual kicks from breastfeeding, and accusing especially those of us who actively dislike the sensations of “abuse” would be ridiculous: we’re not exactly having fun here! We are trying to do what’s best for our child, and that should be applauded. (Women who quit nursing because they can’t deal with the sensations are also trying to do their best, and I have no quarrel or objection to that: I’m not saying we should all stick it out no matter how much we hate it. It’s something we each have to decide for ourselves.)

      Personally, I think the reaction, for me at least, is partly innately physiological (because nursing is supposed to affect our sex organs: it’s why latching the newborn on helps stop postpartum bleeding and expel the placenta), and partly conditioning (a lifetime in a culture that says breasts are exclusively sexual, and years using them sexually). I don’t think it’s so much crossed wires as it is normal wires perverted by kyriarchy.

      I’m glad this post helped normalize things for you some. Everyone who’s commented has helped me more than y’all can know. I’m glad this thread is here for those thinking they’re alone in this, and it was well worth the difficulties and fear I had in posting it. Thank you.

  32. You can well figure out who I am by my email address or IP but I’m posting anonymously on this post because I’m not comfortable putting my name out there. Silly, isn’t it? You’re brave enough to say all of this and I can’t even make a comment agreeing with you.

    Unfortunately, there are too many people in my life rooting for my child’s nursing relationship with me to fail and I don’t want to add fuel to their fire.

    Regardless, I did want to say thank you for such a wonderful post and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it.

  33. you are not the only one, by far! what a wonderful woman you are for ‘clicking submit’! this is just a normal issue that has been sensationalized by our western culture.

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  35. I know it’s been a long time since you wrote this post, but I had to comment.

    I’ve read a LOT about breastfeeding, but never have I read anything about this. Since my daughter was just a few months old, any time she switches over to comfort nursing from actually nursing for food, I get the same aroused feelings. Luckily, she doesn’t comfort nurse all that often. I always feel guilty and disgusted with myself–I was also sexually abused as a child…and I thought I was strange and that there is something WRONG with me for feeling that way. I had NO idea that other mothers felt the same. Thank you so much for writing this all that time ago, because if I hadn’t read this I would’ve gone on feeling horrible forever.

    • I can’t remember if I mention in this post (I’m not feeling in a space where I’m up to rereading it at the moment, being very ambivalent about the Boychick’s apparent weaning), but the closest I heard was women “having sexual sensations” and being assured that the resultant “pleasure” was nothing to feel bad about (which I wholeheartedly agree with!). My problem, as it were, was always that the sensations were anything but pleasurable, and that I never heard talked about.

      I’m so glad that this piece is still able to help women feel more comfortable. I may have to revisit it when I’ve come to terms with weaning and the changing nature of this part of my body/myself.

  36. I stumbled across your posting at your old site after finding it on Google. I’m sitting here staring at my computer screen completely in tears because I so identify with it. PLEASE don’t get me wrong. I love, Love, LOVE my one month old son. I know I need to breastfeed. I know it’s the best thing for him because of the nutrition and antibiotics he will receive. I HATE the fact that it makes me feel dirty and gross. I find it interesting that the majority of the women that feel this way have boys. I wonder if that has something to do with it and if I had a girl it would be different? I have seriously considered getting professional help but I’m afraid that they’ll turn me in or something? Anyway…at the risk of rambling on, I’m grateful to know that I’m not the only one that feels this way. Thank you for being courageous enough to write this post. My LO is stirring and it’s time to feed him now. *sigh*

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  41. I’m a bit late to the party, but I had to chime in. I am also a feminist, and also a huge believer in the benefits of breastfeeding, and will support your right to breastfeed forever, if that’s what you both want.

    But I hated breastfeeding. Not because of a poor latch, or mastitis, or low milk supply, or any of the reasons you’re “allowed” to hate breastfeeding. I didn’t particularly feel like an animal, and I didn’t experience the sexual feelings you describe. According to all sources, I should have loved it, because there were no “problems”. But I didn’t.

    What it was for me, was that I felt completely disassociated from the act of breastfeeding, and from my daughter while she was doing it. I felt like my breasts were not actually a part of my body, or that they were another (adult) woman’s breasts that she was latched on to. It was the farthest possible thing from a bonding experience for me – in fact, it was almost like anti-bonding.

    I should stress (although I probably don’t have to, here!) that I love my daughter to pieces, and we have bonded in many other ways. But breastfeeding was not a pleasant experience for me, and I weaned when I went back to work at 8 months.

    I haven’t read all the comments here yet, so I don’t know if anyone else has shared my particular experience, but it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who just plain didn’t enjoy it. Thanks for the post!

  42. I was curious, when I was pregnant with my first, what nursing would be like for me, knowing that my nipple stimulation has always been a key component to my sexual arousal and climax. I was relieved to find that I was able to nurse pleasantly, and easily, but without arousal, for quite a long time. However, as my daughter got older (past 2), that changed.

    I don’t know if it was the size of her mouth, a change in her latch, or perhaps the reduction in my milk flow, but not only was I aroused, but I actually orgasmed at least two or three times. I felt uncomfortable about it, though not as if I was doing anything bad to my daughter, as I certainly didn’t seek to nurse to make this happen, or as far as I know, give any indication that this was happening while I was nursing. I just took it as perhaps a sign that our nursing relationship was coming to an end. I was also having times where I just plain hated the way nursing felt, or couldn’t stand being pawed at anymore. I was pretty confident through two years, but the last few months, ending at 30 months, shortly after I discovered I was unexpectedly pregnant, got more conflicted for me.

    I can’t say I totally believe in child-led weaning, clearly I don’t, as I dictated the final weaning. But i think I did it in a way that was respectful to BOTH of our needs, which I think is the most important element. I think it’s really just common sense, that the relationship has to be mutually agreeable, or it’s no good. I think the CLW camp can go too far, and I don’t believe it’s in the interests of the child to let them completely dictate things that affect others, particularly if they affect others negatively.

    And yes, I felt uncomfortable enough about admitting the orgasms, that I didn’t want my name on the post. Hooray societal hangups.

  43. The first 13 months nursing my daughter I never experienced anything except the joys of nourishing and comforting my daughter. And then Aunt Flo reared her ugly head. Based on the time of my cycle I’m at my skin either crawls (just before my period) or sexual feelings (At Ovulation). While it is uncomfortable to admit, I just try and look at it as my bodies natural reaction and try not to let it interfere with the other times when nursing my daughter is the most amazing thing I’ve done.

  44. As a new mama and a breastfeeding newbie I am so happy to see this kind of post. No one ever mentions that it is a complicated issue. Thankyou for mentioning it!

  45. I am pregnant with my first and am hoping against all hope that I do not have to face this issue. I understand ENTIRELY that creepy crawly sexual feeling. I get it almost any time my husband fondles my breasts. We’ve been sexually involved for almost 10 years and I have been able to tolerate his play for a couple minutes but then have to redirect his attention by changing postition where he can’t get to them. The feelings I get when he’s playing feels so b-a-d. I imagine it’s similar to what being abused feels like, which I’ve never been, I’m just assuming. It’s sexual mixed with shame and disgust – a sexual you never want to feel. I have no idea where these feelings originate.

    I am terrified that b/c I can’t tolerate my husband simply fondling my breasts I will be completely incapable of letting my child latch on for hours a day. A couple of posters mentioned above that their children will tweek one nipple while nursing at the other – just those comments made me cringe. I don’t think I’ll be able to let that happen. I know it’s innocent but I just can’t stand being touched that way. I am going to feel like a complete failure if I can’t do this for my child and myself. I haven’t discussed this fear or these horrible sensations with anyone – ever. Being able to do so here has already been extremely helpful. Let’s just hope that breastfeeding is different enough from foreplay touching that it won’t be an issue at all and that I’m worrying for absolutely no reason. Let’s hope.

    • Allison — I do think that there’s a world of difference between foreplay and nursing, even for me. Breastfeeding my baby was easiest in the early days; my milk came in, and it feels mostly like relief to have a baby start a let down and take that pressure off.

      I too cringe at the mere mention of twiddling, and I never, ever allowed it. But just because it’s natural, and lots of people don’t mind it, doesn’t mean we have to allow it, you know? We have the right to set boundaries for our own bodies.

      I also am concerned about the boundaries with your husband. Have you talked to him about it? Can he lay off, as fun as it might be for him? What happens if you try using words instead of changing position — or is that easier, because then you don’t have to try to articulate it in a way that doesn’t feel like a rejection of him?

      What helped me was to reduce/eliminate breast play during pregnancy, and read lots and lots of positive stories about breastfeeding, so that feeding my baby was just what I did, no angst or worry involved.

      You wouldn’t be a failure if you didn’t breastfeed, but I have confidence that you can, if you choose to. It’s your baby. Breastfeeding is, among other things, wonderful.

      • Just wanted to let you know that my son is now 5 1.2 months old and breastfeeding is going GREAT! My pregnancy fears never came to fruition! And, oddly, breastfeeding has enabled me to enjoy above-the-waist foreplay for the first time ever. I don’t understand this at all so I’m just gonna chalk it all up to nature. I don’t get it but it’s for a reason! I did want to say that your honesty and bravery in writing this post, then sweetly replying to my comment (though I never commented back, I just couldn’t at the time) was very encouraging. It’s these little moments of support from a variety of people that I think make all the difference in the world when it comes to breastfeeding. I just read a post on PhD in Parenting on “Mother’s shouldn’t have opinions” which is why I scooted on over here. If it weren’t for you having an opinion and sharing it with the world online I wouldn’t have felt so encouraged to start and stick with breastfeeding especially in the hard early weeks. Thanks so much for your efforts to educate and support. You’re a beautiful soul. Much love, allison.

        • Allison,

          Oh, this warmed my heart to read this morning. Thank you so much for coming back and sharing, and congratulations on the little one and on establishing breastfeeding! I’m so very happy for you. <3

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  47. Firstly, I find your story amazing and think you were very brave to post. Well done. I had 2 very different expereinces of breastfeeding, one was incredibly painful (I can recall the tears just thinking about it) but I persevered. My second experience was very straightforward. Neither was necessarily ‘wonderful’ as some assume! I didn’t get feelings like you describe, perhaps the opposite – of boredom and disattachment, but I still did it, not for me, or my own gratification… but because it was undeniably necessary for my children. I believed it was the best, I know I did the right thing. I thank you for bringing this issue to my attention. Even though breastfeeding was not enjoyable, I am now training to become a breastfeeding counsellor! I love listening to mothers stories, and find lactation so interesting and complex. I sincerely wish you all the best for the future. You have clearly inspired many mums and mums-to-be with your honesty.

  48. Thank you for this, I could have written this myself. We’re nowhere near weaning and it’s a true labour of love. I don’t really know what else to say except we’ll push through and I can only hope we make it to self weaning. The only thing getting in the way is my distress a couple of times a month, when it gets to be too much.

    Again, thank you.

  49. I don’t have time to read all the comments but I just want to say that I experience the same stuff. Not that much yet, as she is 21 months now, but it gets more frequent and especially during my period. My first weaned around 2 years because latch was really painful for me during my pregnancy at the time, and it feels like my body is on the same timetable with the second even though I’m not pregnant now.

    The “uncomfortable” feeling I think is a feeling of being coerced into something physical that you aren’t really into doing. You feel coerced by your child’s needy feelings, by your desire to fulfill the breastfeeding relationship to the fullest, by your own lactivist stance. But your body isn’t in the mood, and instead of feeling nurturing it feels violated. I’m at the stage of cutting long nursing sessions short, no longer nursing in the middle of the night,

  50. whoops, child on the keyboard…

    and frequently unlatching her when I feel uncomfortable, to kind of test out how much she really needs to nurse. Usually she’ll get annoyed with the unlatching and give up. I think ending nursing over personal boundaries is actually an important lesson to our children. It provides for them a model to set their own personal boundaries. I can’t explain all the physiological intricacies of breastfeeding… but I’ve found that when she really needs milk, there is milk (like when she is sick), and when she just wants comfort or routine, there isn’t much milk and I need to find a replacement activity.

  51. Lisa Fielding

    Not sure how I got here tonight, a series of links and trackbacks that I’d never be able to repeat, but now I’m here I couldn’t read and not comment. I couldn’t think “oh that was me too” and not say so, even though i know i’m well behind the times on this one. My initial reaction was to say “that’s me, that totally and exactly me” but of course it’s not, not exactly, because my nuanced, complicated life is not your nuanced, complicated life. Still there was a whole that resonated with my experience of nursing my two year daughter while pregnant with the second. The hating, but loving, but hating. The sexual arousal that was just awful to experience, even though I know it’s normal and I wasn’t the slighest ashamed it was just plain awful anyway. There were a couple
    of early morning, sleepy, nurses that produced an orgasm and that was actually just fine with me, but the daytime, conscious feeds were just miserable.

    I don’t have the time or the energy (after a mammoth nighttime feed of daughter #2) to think all this through as much as it deserves, but I wanted to add my voice to
    the others and just acknowledge that it happens, it happens just like you said, and also in the myraid of variations evident in the previous comments. I dont know if it’ll happen again with daughter #2, and I don’t know when, or if, my breasts will become fair game for me and husband during sex again. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it’s worth it, in fact that still implies some kind of sacrifice which breastfeeding in no way is for me. I guess my hope is that one day mothers will talk about this as something that (often) happens during weaning, but that it will be accepted as part of the process, just as the last weeks of pregnancy are uncomfortable for just about everyone (and some more than others) but that doesn’t mean we stop getting pregnant.

    Anyway thanks again for pressing that submit button, your candidness and great writing is much appreciated.

  52. thank you

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  54. I too have gotten those feelings, but I have never taked about them or heard anyone else admit to it. It’s the exact same feeling I get when doing something really tedious or frustrating (like trying over and over to thread a needle). thanks you for this.

  55. Thank you so much for your candor. I’m due in a couple weeks and am aiming for at least 2 years of breastfeeding. I really appreciate knowing what could happen and that these feelings are normal, regardless of what they may be. I’ve wondered about the relationship between breastfeeding and one’s sexuality, especially as my son gets older. It’s just really nice to know what can happen and be felt, and to not feel dirty about such feelings (especially coming from an abusive past), and that however I choose to deal with the resulting situation, it is my choice and it is okay.

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  60. Thank you for posting this. It was a comfort to me, as was reading through all the comments. I struggled with the “weird” feelings when I was breast feeding my daughter, but I thought it WASN’T normal, so in trying to get through all the self-trauma and emotional stress, I gave up breast feeding. :( I still pumped and had no problem with that, but I am so sad that we only got to have that special kind of bonding time for just the few months of feeding we did. I am hoping, especially now with some insight and inspiration from you ladies, that things will go much better next time.

  61. I hated when my 2 y-o tried to nurse again when my third was born 6 months after she’d self-weaned. I’d heard of kids unweaning and I was somewhat open to that but … she’d lost her technique and it was arousing and sloppy and tense (because she’d bitten me once and see: arousing and sloppy) and gross. I figured out to express milk into her mouth while cradling her (maybe that’s also an idea for other people who are struggling with older kids), which took care of my physical issues and satisfied her curiousity and craving for babying and cuddling. I don’t think she particularly liked the taste and the experience was so mutually unsatisfying that it was a short-lived phase.

  62. I myself haven’t experienced much in the way of sexual feelings (besides feeling my uterus tighten every once in awhile), but I have had the feeling of NOT LIKING the feeling that was produced in me by the nursing. My little one is 2.5 yo now and I’m about to wean her (at least at nighttime) due to the feelings I’m having. I dislike the sensation so much I also hurt myself to distract myself from the discomfort (pinch myself HARD).

    I figure that in general child-led weaning is best, but when my body is so dramatically telling me it’s not happy with breast-feeding that it’s a sign it needs to end (and SOON).

    Thank you for sharing your experience. The more we see how our experiences intersect and parallel, the less alone we feel, and hopefully more able to handle the hard parts.

  63. Just came across this post and wanted to thank you. I am a huge breastfeeding advocate but I don’t have children yet, and every time I read something that says breastfeeding isn’t sexual I worry that it will be, for me. Now, if that turns out to be the case, I will remember this post and know that I am still normal. Thank you!

  64. Breastfeeding involves emotional intimacy in which sexual pleasure experienced by both the mother and the baby is normal, although it is something many women don’t allow themselves to experience and something that is not commonly talked about. Therefore many thanks for this frank and informative article!

    Dr Robert Mendelsohn MD, the author of ‘How to raise a healthy child… in spite of your doctor’ and other books mentions in one of his lectures that it is healthy for breastfeeding mothers to allow themselves to enjoy the sexual feelings triggered by their baby’s sucking and fondling of the breasts.

    A friend of mine says that many women are unfortunately too inhibited to let their sexual feelings flow during breastfeeding, which deprives the baby of a source of energy frequencies it needs to thrive. According to my friend, when the baby becomes saturated with these energies which the mother allows to flow from her, it relaxes and quietly has an orgasm-like convulsion which can be noted by the irises of its eyes rolling back into its head.

    I feel that it is important the idea across that experiencing sexual feelings elicited by breastfeeding is normal and can be a conscious choice.

    Feeling disturbed about experiencing sexual feelings unfortunately had a tragic outcome for one mother who decided to call a helpline to ask whether it was normal for her to have sexual feelings during breastfeeding, because the person who took the call got in touch with child services which came and removed the baby from its mother’s care. Needless to say that this was in America.

    I therefore consider it important that this information about women feeling sexually aroused while breastfeeding is shared, in order that they may relax and enjoy, knowing that it is normal.

  65. I found your site after googling “how to stop arousal during breastfeeding”. I went through many other sites feeling great frustration every time I read that it’s perfectly normal . . . and feeling amazing anger every time a woman comments that it is relaxing and enjoyable! I have a 3yo and a 15mo who tandem nurse. When I first had my second one and I noticed that I was aroused during nursing, I would just let myself daydream about nondescript sexy men. It wasn’t an issue because I already knew from Adventures in Tandem Nursing that this could happen. Then my husband was arrested as a sex offender. That’s a long story, but let me say that I am completely damaged now. My happy nursing relationship has started to threaten my sanity. I am effectively a single mom, so I have no sexual outlet. I still tandem nurse because I believe it is still needed by both my children, especially the oldest who recently lost her daddy to the legal system (he deserved it, by the way, but she doesn’t understand that). But I completely sympathize about the cheese-grater idea. I just don’t know what to do with my brain and my hormones that are determined to work against me! I would love to talk to my therapist about this, but I am afraid that she would report me to the authorities for having sexual arousal to my children. How can I explain to anyone other than nursing moms that I am not aroused by my children? I have read the sexual evaluations of my husband, which are excessively disturbing because he is aroused by pre-pubescent children. I can’t help but wonder, if they hooked me up to those machines, would they get the same results? Would they label me as a danger to my own children and separate us forever? I keep very quiet about all of this . . . and that’s why I needed to read this blog. Thank you, thank you. I feel a little more sane. But I’m afraid I have two babies, miserable with colds, who really need to nurse with their mommy and I’m frankly terrified to go back to them. My plan tomorrow is to ask a doctor for an anti-depressant to help relieve these strong feelings of self-hatred (and maybe kill my libido, fingers-crossed) and buy some Jane Austen novels to read while nursing so I’ll have some nice clean romantic images . . . wish me luck!

  66. May I cite you:

    *I love snuggling him close to me while his eyes stutter close and roll back in bliss.
    You do not need to breastfeed to do this…
    *I love playing stinky feet and having him try not to laugh so he doesn’t delatch.
    Same again. You can do this with a bottle…
    *I love how he asks to nurse after he gets really hurt because “it makes me better”.
    A cuddle, a kiss, a smile can do this too. He does not need to have you tit in his mouth to be consolated.
    *I love knowing he’s getting immunological and nutritional substances he wouldn’t get anywhere else.
    The only REAL benefit of Bfeeding on an immunological point of view is a little protection against gastro-enteritis. And that is very much it. Bfeeding does not protect against illnesses, allergies, obesity. Lies from la Leche League, it makes me absolutely furious. Manipulation. Sorry but your milk is no magic liquid, nor a vaccine.
    * I love everything about breastfeeding — except, more and more though still not always, the actual physical act.
    So basically what you like about breastfeeding is unexistent, while its downsides are very real and impact the relationship between your baby and yourself.
    This is the result of intense LLL’s lobbying. Mothers are suffering for almost NOTHING. Their lifes are impacted for…peanuts.
    I never breastfed my child, and the first months with my baby were absolutely idyllic. Pure bliss. No tiredness, no pain, no stress. Just my son and I. We had our skin to skin moments, our cuddles, our kisses, as I was not upset, everything I did for him was done with a smile, with enthousiasm.
    Human babies are born with immunity. Of course it is immature, but as we live in safe environments, our babes grow well and reinforce their immune systems week after week. He was never particularly sick, and is now 15 years old, strong, good-looking, good skin, thin, clever, funny, very gentle. He has lots of friends…I chose not to ruin my relationship with my baby.
    I think that Bfeeding has lots of negative aspects, and only a slight benefit. Most people ignore it, because of the intense lobbying of La Leche League. Their studies are biaised. Religion is the very reason this lobby tries to put pressure on women. Thoughout history, men tried to dominate women through unwanted pregnancies and mothering. Most pro-life people are also pro-BFeeding at all costs.

  67. It’s true that most benefits of breastfeeding aren’t exclusive to breastfeeding. It’s also true that the benefits of assuring yourself you have made good choices aren’t exclusive to commenting on blogs to tell people their choices are made for the wrong reasons.

  68. Yo, people, there are NO benefits to breastfeeding. Yeah you heard me right. Not a single one. Breastfeeding is the biologically normal way to feed a human infant – in fact all mammals feed their young this way – it’s why we’re called mammals!

    We do ourselves no favours by talking about the ‘benefits’ of breastfeeding – we should instead be talking about the *risks* of formula feeding; a compromised immune system, loss of the virgin gut etc etc.

    And the first person to say ‘breast is best’ gets to drink the pint of EBM in my freezer! :-P

  69. Arwyn says: I love breastfeeding and will continue to do so because it is my choice.

    Cantor says: I didn’t. I don’t like it. My baby grew up just fine. So that means you are wrong and your entire ideology is evil.

    That just about sum it up?

    The only criticism that could be leveled at Arwyn is that feminism is about choice. And that there are no “true” feminists. In my view (and I accept that it is not really my place to push my views onto others, being a man) that every mother has the right to choose what is best for her and her baby. Whether it is “normal” breastfeeding, abbreviated, or not at all.

    Having said that, just want to echo the praise of you, Arwyn, in writing this beautiful post.

  70. Hey Cantor, I’d be interested in seeing this research that LLL conducts. Please do share! We’ll all wait here quietly while you dig it up.

    Alas, we’ll be waiting a while, since last I checked, LLL does not actually conduct any research at all. They use research to support their practices (this is what we call evidence-based), but they do not, themselves perform research. The closest they might come is in their publication, Leaven, in which research is cited and sometime summarized in articles – but this is, again, not to be confused with LLL does any of this research themselves. Is this what might have confused you?

    If you’d rather peruse something not tainted by an acronym you eschew, take a look here, then at the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. I assure you, these doctors and other medical professionals are not part of any LLL conspiracy to . . . er, carry out whatever nefarious plan you imagine LLL is concocting.

    And a big fat What She Said to Emily. Breast is the Biological Norm.

  71. Thank God somebody finally put in writing what i have been going through nursing both of my two children past the one year mark when the uncomfortableness seems to start. I can´t tell you what a relief it is to know that someone out there feels the exact same thing I do when nursing my year and half year old and her brother before. I too always wondered how it could be that no one else ever complained about the same discomfort. For years I went to League of Leche meetings in hopes that someone might mention something, or if not that someone might enlighten me if I asked and I always hit a wall with the standard responses of breastfeeding being pleasant or if not, then painful due to some physical problem such as mastitis etc. But no one griping themselves in agony of orgasmic rushes. I always thought to myself, am I just some sort of sexual freak? When I ask if other women feel anything sexual they always reply in terms of something pleasant/calming. Funny, I never thought of sexual arousal as pleasant/calming. For me it has always been rather more like uncontrollable screams and moans, leaving my fingernails inplanted in my husbands back. A total rush, seismic rush of all my innards trembling and convulsing. Obviously the same sensations produced by as you well put the (#1erogenous zone) the breasts being chomped and sucked were anything but the tranquil blissful moment of peace between mommy and baby. I too had too had to bite myself or cause pain somehow to my body to distract or cut off the rush before it got to be too much and I had to wrench my poor child from my breast in screams of stop STOP!!!!! no more please! My husband who things I´m hyper sensitive to stimulation, understands, and suggested accupuncture to divert the sensations while nursing. What remedy if any did you find? Is hormonal treatment an option? Is it even safe?

  72. I’m so glad I came across this post. I googled “hate nursing while on my period” because I figured “nursing makes me want to crawl out of my skin” wouldn’t show up many results. And I stumbled across this post.
    I think you and I have the exact same response and experience except my baby is just about to turn 1. The exact same time I got my first post partum period at 9 months I started to HATE nursing. It makes me writhe. It makes me uncomfortable. And it took me a while to realize that I was having the exact same feelings you described in your post. And I reacted the exact same way you have: biting my hand, pulling my hair, etc. I just can’t take it. And I figured I’d just wean. The problem is, she’s only 1. Of course she’s not ready to wean yet. So she’s been clingy, not sleeping well, and can’t articulate that she needs mommy. So I’ve felt incredibly guilty about weaning her.
    I’m not completely dried up yet, so I’m going to try and keep going, and possibly re up my milk supply so she doesn’t get so impatient.
    Just knowing I’m now alone helps a tremendous amount.
    Thank you.

  73. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I had to write, although, I don’t know that you’re even still reading these, because I had to thank you from the bottom of my heart! I tried to breastfeed my now 9 year old son but had no support and due to the sexual feelings that I had NO idea was normal for many women, I couldn’t do it. I felt dirty, I felt like a pedophile and I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t even share these feelings with my husband because I was afraid that he would look at me differently. I wanted to breastfeed more than anything, but once that happened, I felt bad about it and I think it made me have less milk than I should have. Maybe that’s just an excuse, maybe I had plenty of milk, but I just couldn’t nurse him with those feelings so I didn’t fight as hard as I should have to keep going. I am currently 6 months pregnant with a second son and have been extremely nervous about breastfeeding again. I definitely want to, and much longer than the few weeks that I made it with my older son, but I was afraid to have those same feelings again until I finally decided to start looking online for other women who have this same issue. My breasts have always been and continue to be my most erogenous part of my body, to the point that I have come to orgasm just from nipple stimulation. I am hoping that I can find some coping skills to make it to at least a year but I guess we’ll see what this baby has in store… Thank you again for being so bold and sharing your story. I know exactly how hard it was for you, I’ve held in these feelings/thoughts about my month of breastfeeding for 9 years due to fear of judgment so I commend you for being able to share it in such a straightforward manner so that other moms don’t have to feel alone in this.

  74. I am so, so glad I found this post! I am 14 weeks pregnant with my 3rd and breastfeeding my 28month old. Since I fell pregnant I too gave felt aroused during breastfeeding and it is killing me! I hate that it makes me fill with dread every time she calls “booby” and I hate that it makes me cut short our sessions. I often pull my breast out without breaking suction just to get rid of this horrid sensation and I don’t know how to tell anyone else without sounding pervy. Thank you. This doesn’t make it any easier to cope with but it’s great to know I’m normal and not alone.

  75. Thanks for your article, I’m also sadly very uncomfortable now breastfeeding at 15 months & it’s purely down to the physical sensation before the let down & no one else has written about it.
    I’ll also be sad to lose the ability to comfort my son do easily but hopefully more giggles & cuddles will take its place :)

  76. Thank you. Thank you for writing this. For being raw. For showing me I’m not alone. I’d been feeling similarly with my 10 mos old daughter. I was petrified that what I was feeling would require years of therapy. Having no one to talk to about this, primarily due to shame, I turned to Google and fount your post. And thank goodness I did! It’s a topic that few talk about; few even know it exists/is normal. Thank you for voicing your story. You’ve helped me and I’m no longer ashamed.

  77. Wow..this is me to the T! My daughter is 20 months right now and I only nurse her to sleep but I can only stand it for two minutes before I go nuts. It was always slightly stimulating even from the beginning…but now it is almost unbearable. The sexual sensations make me not want to nurse but so do anyway which further leads to feelings of frustration, violation, and slight resentment. I love my daughter and the bonding and, like you, am so sad I have to stop due to this! It also makes me wonder if I will be able to stand nursing second baby at all. Thank you so so so much for sharing–so hard to find anything relatable on google.

  78. I LOVE that you wrote this. I’m not a mother yet, but have worried about this same thing. Everyone told me, you’ll be fine, it’s not like when a partner touches them, etc. But my nipples being touched makes me very uncomfortable, and I don’t see that suddenly changing after birth. So I’m so glad to read this and know I’m not alone. Thank you!

  79. I experience the same thing at different times and I’m thinking it’s related to ovulation. My lo is 12.5 months.

  80. I am currently bf my third, she is 13 months old and I loathe breast feeding, i am fine untill they are about 12 months and then i have had enough. i feel like meat being chewed, if i could cut off my breasts and hand them over i would as they seriously dont feel like part of me. unfortunately all of my children have been dairy intolerant and hated bottles, this one is allergic to dairy, eggs, fish and soya, she is also ill a lot. so when she sees me all she wants to do is nurse. she has stopped biting me with her 8 teeth but still wakes up three or four times a night. i dont know how to get her off, she shows no sign of stopping and i feel like i am trapped in an abusive relationship where my own needs dont matter. it wont kill either of us but i am looking forward to the day i can put a bra that doesnt have clips on and wear clothing that isnt easy access. basically a day when i can feel like i am a person as well as a mum.

  81. Thank you so much for this post! This feeling happened to me for the first time today, every time he latched on. My son is 15 M/O and I was feeling disgusted with myself, and I am now at ease knowing this is normal, and common. Thanks so much.

  82. Thank you for sharing your experience. You are brave and a wonderful mother. I’m so sorry it was so hard for you

  83. Thank you,
    I was going insane, thinking something was wrong with me that I was somehow mentally ill and was considering options other than nursing my beautiful girl. I love nursing but HATE the feelings it sometimes produces in my body. I have been to ashamed to talk to anyone about it including my husband and have had to play off many tear stained faces as being tired. Thank you for your strength, please know you have truly saved my sanity and my nursing relationship with my sweet girl.

  84. Thank you for this post! I cried reading it because I identify with it so completely. I had those feelings from the start with my son who is now 18 months old. It was horrible for me, I cried a lot. I stopped nursing him at 7 weeks because of it and also other issues and exclusively pumped for him until he was a year old..it still makes me sad that I wasn’t able to have or feel that closeness with him for longer. I’m pregnant with my second and have been dreading that I’ll have those feelings again that like you said ‘make me want to rip my eyes out’ the cheese grater thing definitely resonated with me too. I’m really hoping I won’t have those sensations again with this next baby but if I do your post has definitely helped me feel a little more normal about it. I just wish there was something we could do to not have it be so miserable. Anyway thanks again.

  85. Ladies remember too that breastfeeding, pregnancy and our sexual system all run on hormones. Hormones control so much of these processess and contribute to all of the myriad ways in which we feel and think. All of this is normal. For some, this is nursing aversion. Nursing aversion is experienced by everyone differently. It is driven by our bodies to wean one when pregnant with another. Or to wean the older to concentrate on the younger (or weaker, if you will). Some of these feelings are tapped into by hormones that kick in. And it can get complex with all the learned behavior and societal “norms” that we subscribe to cluttering up your natural neuropathways. This is a dialogue that is long over due. This needs to be talked about and passed on in pregnancy classes, lactation consults and therapists offices. Women shouldn’t bear shame for their biology or worry they’ll lose their children because of “abuse”. Bravo for all your posts Ladies! Keep the conversation going. Remind each other that we are not alone. There is wisdom in our stories.

  86. I know you posted this like forever ago but I just wanted to thank you for bravely writing this article because I am going through this now and it’s very comforting to know I’m not the only one having these feelings

  87. Thank you.

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