The truth is that our society is obsessed with s-e-x.
We’ve managed to take a lot of things that are decidedly not sexual and turn them around to make them about sex. Things like eating chocolate and cheeseburgers and drinking instant coffee.
Be that as it may, I am here to stand with actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik and declare once and for all that breastfeeding is not a sexual act. It just isn’t.
Did you ever notice that people who think breastfeeding is sexual are almost always people who have never actually breastfed? Tweet this!
I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
As someone who has breastfed a child, I’d like to expand upon exactly why breastfeeding has no correlation to the bedroom.
3 Reasons Breastfeeding Isn’t Sexual
1. It hurts. A lot.
Fifty Shades of Grey aside, I generally think sex is supposed to be pleasurable. It’s supposed to feel good.
So when my son would latch on for a meal and I would simultaneously grit my teeth to get through those initial seconds of pure pain, it pretty much felt like the total opposite of sexual.
Sure, breastfeeding stopped hurting after a few weeks, but even then it didn’t feel good.
Yes, I enjoyed it because it was a chance to snuggle with my baby. I looked forward to it as bonding time, and I appreciated what it represented—my body providing vital nourishment for my child. But the physical sensation is markedly not what I would ever call sexual.
2. Sex is equal parts physical, mental, and emotional.
At least for me, getting turned on requires all three.
If I’m not thinking about sex, or if I’m not sexually attracted to the person, then it ain’t happening, you know?
It’s the very reason a certain look from my husband can affect me in a way the exact same look from a stranger never could. Because I think about my husband in that way.
And when I breastfed my son, I was never thinking about sex. Ever. Honestly, the very notion sounds bizarre to me.
3. This is what our breasts were made for.
I was surprised that one of my first symptoms of pregnancy was sore, tender breasts. I later learned that was no accident; the moment we become pregnant our breasts begin working to prepare for feeding a baby.
Because that’s what they’re there to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that breasts can serve many other purposes, including some sexual ones. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But at the end of the day, their number one job is to provide sustenance to little ones.
For breasts, feeding is primary. Anything else—including anything sexual—is secondary.
Looking for accurate, tried-and-true advice on breastfeeding? Check out Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding, which offers factual information and helpful tricks beyond what you’ll read anywhere else.
What’s your reaction when people imply that breastfeeding is sexual in some way?
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30 responses to “Breastfeeding is NOT a Sexual Act. Here’s Why.”
This is one of the most basic human instincts – both from an offspring and parenting perspective. No different than an adult dog nursing her young. I don’t understand people who don’t understand breastfeeding. How would you like a newborn to eat? McDonald’s drive-up?
I was really lucky that my extended family was supportive of my breast feeding. I nursed openly in front of my parents and brother as well as my in-laws. Yeah, I had a cover for when I was in public, but I always hated having to wrestle my son under it.
I think the other thing I think makes breast feeding non-sexual is that it’s usually pretty discrete. Once the baby is in place, you really can’t see anything.
Good point, Chelsea!
I never felt as unsexy as I did when I was breastfeeding. The whole business is unsexy: waking up leaking, nursing bras, breast-pumps. I agree that if you think it’s a sexy act, you’ve never done it.
Yep, nearly every logistical aspect of it is decidedly unsexy!
Yes, Yes, Yes!! Even though my breastfeeding days are behind me, I am still a HUGE advocate for breastfeeding and busting all the myths around it. I did a mythbusters series on my blog, and this would make a perfect addition. All of these points are spot-on, but I absolutely love #3!
That myth busters series must have been before I became a reader, but it sounds awesome and I can’t wait to check it out!
Good points, Katie!
It’s kind of gross to think that there could be anything sexual between a mom and her infant. I mean, really? Yuck.
I do think though that moms should be free to make their own discretion. I was never one to breastfeed in public (even at family gatherings, I would tuck myself in a private bedroom). That’s just me. I felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to be out there during what for me was a private moment. Still, I don’t begrudge moms for breastfeeding when they have to.
I don’t know if this is similar or not, but it reminds me of how I would go to the gym or spa and see women perfectly comfortable getting naked in front of strangers but I couldn’t do it. I don’t blame them for getting naked and I hope they don’t blame me for not. We all just have different comfort levels.
Great topic and one I’d love to wrap my thoughts around some more.
I was like you, Nina, in that I never felt totally comfortable breastfeeding in public. Finding a private space worked better for my son and for me, but I would never tell another mom what she could or could not do in order to feed her child.
Oh Katie, I so enjoyed this post! As someone who breastfed both of my kids until they were over a year old, I can definitely relate to this topic. Nursing my kids was challenge enough without people with the flat out ridiculous notion that breastfeeding is sexual making me feel uncomfortable. I once was nursing in the car because I didn’t feel like dealing with feeding my overly curious and wiggly son inside the restaurant and a man decided to pull into a space right next to us (we were in a secluded area of the parking lot) so he could watch! True story!
You have got to be kidding!!! That’s so terrible! I’m so sorry that happened to you.
Breastfeeding feels very unsexy. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, but for me, after the initial painful part, I get so numb that my breasts are pretty sexually unresponsive altogether. But I think that even though the act of feeding a baby is not sexual, from an outside perspective, the exposure of breasts – or even the perceived exposure when really you’re being discreet – will always be seen as sexually-related as long as we live in a culture where going topless is not commonplace. Especially for men, breasts are very sexual, and I think it’s important to not dismiss that, even if we don’t feel the same.
Thanks for sharing, Jill! I definitely think that we can acknowledge the sexual role that breasts can play without sexualizing the act of breastfeeding or discriminating against nursing moms.
I am a breastfeeding failure. I admit it. I stuck it out 5 weeks with both of my children and it was a horrible, horrific, and somewhat traumatic experience that left me with scars…yes, scars. Why anyone would think that was sexual is beyond me! I will say though when I had mastitis and woke up engorged, miserable, and crying in the middle of the night my husband’s idea of offering to help was to ask if I wanted him to “rub them”.
I asked him if he wanted me to cut off his hands…
1. You are not a failure! Being traumatized for any longer than that wouldn’t have helped your kiddos. 2. HA! Your husband’s comment, and your response, highlights the misunderstanding perfectly.
Agreed. I actually feel like I use breastfeeding in public as a form of this statement. I’ve never used a cover, even in public because I’m not doing anything weird or dirty so why hide it? I feel like the more I feed Jack as a matter of fact, the less weird it will seem to people. Just feeding my kid, y’all!
AMEN!!! I struggled when Luke reached a certain age because he would pull off at every little sound, and we’d end up latching and re-latching over and over again. It was just easier for both of us in a private space. Having said that, I do think that we need to normalize breastfeeding!
You are right – anyone who thinks breastfeeding is sexual has never breastfed a child. I suppose it’s just difficult for those who haven’t been there to separate breasts as nourishment from breasts as a sexual body part.
I can’t imagine that anyone…could. It seems like you’d have some underlying issues to think that!
That said, no! It was painful but important to me. I never, ever, ever thought anything remotely sexy while nursing.
This is a very good response to the whole nonsense about breastfeeding having any sexual implications. It’s sad really, and must come out of the mind of perverts.
I love your points! Especially #3. I think people forget that there was a time when formula didn’t exist. I never had to deal with any negative comments (personally) in the 29 months I breastfed my two girls and I really wish every breastfeeding mom could say the same.
Let’s keep in mind that the perspective of breastfeeding as sexual comes from a culture that hasn’t outgrown its Puritan roots, including men’s control over women’s bodies. I breastfed my boys until they were two years old, and loved it. Was lucky enough to not struggle with the physical side at all. But this was back in the day and I got fired from a job for breastfeeding my 1.5 yr son in public. Somehow, I thought the culture would have grown up by now.
Recently, I lived for some years in Ecuador where women are expected to breastfeed, and do so with the same range of modesty displayed in the comments above, from casual to covered. I worked with mothers with HIV and to them, one of the greatest losses was not being able to breastfeed their babies (breast milk being one of the most viable means of transmission from mother to infant).
To be honest, there are certainly women for whom breastfeeding evokes an erotic response. But I imagine they are in the minority.
Another great post, Katie ~ thanks!
I was very thankful that breastfeeding was considered normal and natural to most of the people I came into contact with during that period in my life. My in-laws? Not so much, but I honestly enjoyed the excuse to leave the room!
Women ‘get it’ whether or not they’ve breastfed; men being men, they’ll always see s-e-x because it’s the way they’re wired. Mars vs. venus.
When anyone implies there’s something sexual about breastfeeding, I always assume it’s more of a reflection on their own issues than on mine (or those of other breastfeeding mommies.)
Stopping by from SITS!
I breast fed 2 of my kids and it was as much like a sexy thing as a crocodile is like an orange ie not at all! I really don’t get all the fuss people make, I never covered up especially, I was discreet but I fed mien in restaurants, cafes, friends houses, no one ever said anything to me negatively. They are all teenagers now so it was a while ago, things seem to be moving backwards on this issue, not forwards. Seriously, babies drink milk, their mums make it for them, why the drama?
Visiting from the link up! I thankfully havent had anyone say anything to me like this. More so along the lines of he is going to be a weird kid if i keep going – he’s only 15 months old for crying out loud!
To me it’s a cart/horse thing: breasts are sexy because they show a woman’s ability to nourish babies, thus be a good choice of mate for a male. My “girls” are monogamous in their purpose; my husband finds it unfair that when they’re at their lushest is when they have no interest in his wiles at all! I never used a cover nor got a comment of any kind. A blink or two, followed by a “oh. right” kind of pause before the world got on with more important things maybe. It makes me wonder: do people really say things, or do we just worry that they think them?
Thank you for sharing this perspective! I think it’s a really important one. I do think there’s some truth in the notion that we’re often more self-conscious than we need to be.