Breastfeeding: Are breasts only for baby?

I'm a nursing mom with a nine-month-old daughter. Since I've been breastfeeding, I feel extremely uncomfortable with my husband including my breasts in sexual play. I'm wondering if other women have had this problem and if my feelings will change once I wean my daughter.

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Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

For the first time you are integrating motherhood with your identity as a woman. Unfortunately, our cultural programming often denies that mothers are sexual beings. No wonder it is a stretch to integrate being a new mother with the sensuality of breastfeeding and the sexuality of lovemaking. Not only are your feelings understandable, but your conflicting emotions about your relationship to your body and sexuality is common to the postpartum period, whether you breastfeed or not!

It may be useful to know that the same hormone, oxytocin, is released when you experience a "let down" reflex for breastfeeding as when you have an orgasm. It is also the same hormone released in labor to stimulate contractions of the uterus. Some women do in fact enjoy the sensuality of nursing their baby without confusing sexual signals with maternal signals. But this differentiation can understandably take some time to develop!

It is likely that you are right in believing that you will feel less conflicted about enjoying your breasts during lovemaking when you are no longer breastfeeding. It may also be possible now for you to begin to allow yourself the pleasure of the increased sensitivity that breastfeeding can provide. This can enhance your own pleasures in lovemaking, as well as your nursing experience.

They are your breasts after all. Allow yourself to visualize the possibility of enjoying your breasts sexually when making love with your husband and, quite separately, imagine the comfort and maternal pleasure you experience when feeding your daughter. These are separate, though physiologically related activities. After all, your child was conceived through the sexual act itself. Perhaps your body is designed to enjoy both!

There is a natural sensuality inherent in both breastfeeding and sex, but expressed in very different ways. You can use your tongue to talk and communicate with many people and you can use it to passionately kiss your husband. It really is up to you. Do not push yourself beyond your own limits of comfort, but gently explore the issue to see if any guilt about sex (after becoming a mother) might be keeping you from enjoying your own sexual expression as a woman.

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