Is it safe for your partner to taste your breastmilk?

My husband and I both enjoy breast play while making love, but we have abstained for the past few weeks since I've been nursing. He is very eager to taste my milk. Is this safe?

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Kathy Kuhn

Kathy Kuhn is a registered nurse who has been working with breastfeeding families since 1981. She has been an International Board Certified... Read more

Many couples enjoy the added element that lactating breasts add to sexual play and except in a few special circumstances this practice should be safe for you, your husband and your baby.

The most common special instance during which I would discourage this practice is when mother, father or baby have an active yeast infection. If anyone in the family is suffering from a yeast infection it should be treated and resolved before oral-breast contact occurs.

Yeast infections are very common and easily spread. They can cause oral thrush or severe diaper rash in the baby, breast and nipple pain and vaginal yeast infection in the mother, "jock itch" in the father and athletes feet in any family member. It can be spread by sexual contact, breastfeeding, oral contact and on your hands. (Riordan, & Auerbach, 1999) It also survives on surfaces, like the shower floor, breast pump equipment, bath towels and burp cloths. It can be very difficult to eradicate. Once the yeast infection is cleared oral-breast contact can be resumed.

Another somewhat common condition that may preclude oral-breast contact between sexual partners is an active herpes infection. Herpes simplex virus type 1 can cause what is commonly referred to as a fever blister or cold sore. Herpes simplex type II causes genital herpes, but there can be considerable overlap between these two types of herpes and they can affect the same areas of the body. Herpes can be transmitted via kissing, sexual intercourse, or any close human contact, especially contact involving mucousal surfaces (Smeltzer, S and Bare, B 1992) There have been cases reported of toddlers with active herpes lesions of the mouth spreading herpes to the mother's breast via breastfeeding. (Riordan, & Auerbach, 1999)

If the male partner has an active cold sore on the lips or in the mouth, oral-breast contact should be avoided until the lesions are completely healed. Any contact with herpes lesions should be avoided since the virus can be easily spread.

Certainly there is a potential to share disease whenever there is intimate physical touch between a couple, especially when this involves contact with bodily fluids such as semen, blood or breastmilk. Since you have already engaged in unprotected sex with your husband you both would have already been exposed to any disease passed in this way (Riordan, & Auerbach, 1999) Infection from sexually transmitted disease is much more likely during intercourse than it would be via oral-breast contact.

There should not be any greater concern about your husband tasting your breast milk than there would be about having unprotected intercourse with him. If you have any specific health concerns that may have been overlooked or something new in your health history that you think may impact the safety of this practice you should talk to your physician.

If you are also concerned about the impact on your milk supply, you needn't worry. Your body will make the amount of milk it is called on to make. If your husband takes some of the milk your body will quickly replace it, there is no danger that your baby will not receive adequate milk because of this practice.

Most experienced parents find that feeding the baby prior to initiating sex helps to ensure adequate time to enjoy each other without needing to attend to the baby.

References:

Riordan, J. and Auerbach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, Jones and Barlett, Boston, 1999. p. 223-223, 228, & 489.

Smeltzer, S and Bare, B. Brunner and Suddarth's Textbook of Medical Surgical Nursing, Lippencott, New York, 1992. p1266-

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