Breastfeeding and Sex

In a recent blog article, a father raised the issue of the impact of extended breastfeeding on the sexual side of a marriage. His experience is so outside the realm of my own, and that of my friends, that I won’t try to paraphrase his argument but rather let you read it yourself and in context.

Read it here.

I’ve breastfed all of my children past a year. All totaled, I nursed for 129 months which is roughly 11 years for those who don’t care to do the math. I have 4 children. Eden took up the bulk of that nursing time as she nursed much longer than her brothers.

I was nursing a toddler when I got pregnant with my second baby. And my third. And my fourth. I could make the flippant comment that obviously nursing did not negatively affect my husband’s sexual attraction to me. But the truth is that it simply didn’t factor. It isn’t a matter of him being more tolerant of my long nursing relationships with our children. It’s that he saw my breasts as a part of my body that could hold two or more functions in succession. And it could hold those multiple functions for more than a year or two. Or even three. Or four.

I asked his permission to post his thoughts and then he got a little too TMI on me so that’s all he gets to say about it.

Breasts are body parts. Period. Let’s face it, I could name almost any body part and assign it a sexual function. People out there are creative, yo. But speaking strictly of multifunctional body parts in the cleanest, family friendliest way I can… Are breasts any different than hands that can hold sleeping preschooler and then make a meal?

But you don’t want to cook and hold at the same time unless you are a trained juggler.

Or legs that can run a marathon and then hold a child on a lap?

I’d like to see someone run a marathon in a squatting lap pose. That would be awesome.

Or a mouth that can eat dinner and then ask your child about his day?

I am always the last to finish a meal because I get caught up on the chatting function.

As an aside, I wonder does giving birth vaginally make sex less palatable to some? Or the fact that a woman menstruates through that same canal? Does it lead to disconnect between the parents? I can’t help but see the parallel between the multiple functions of body parts that are (in the US) seen as primarily sexual. But the real question is: Aren’t you glad I didn’t include that in my above photographic example list?

This image has been censored.

My point and focus is that the author of the post — and any other couples out there dealing with this same issue — can change their perception of the situation. The choice doesn’t have to be to cheat. Or to give up/give in. Or to complain on a blog. The solution is to learn to view the breast as a body part that has multiple purposes and to see that it can maintain those multiple purposes beyond a child’s infancy. People all across the globe can manage to view the breast this way. It shouldn’t be impossible for a couple who are committed, loving yet unsatisfied to do the self-work to do likewise.

Thoughts? Please share your views in the comments.

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11 thoughts on “Breastfeeding and Sex

  1. I can’t believe that article! This guy clearly has deeper problems than the one he’s complaining about. Look at how many people object to breastfeeding in public because it might inadvertently “turn on” a passer-by, and yet he says watching his wife nurse makes him lose his appetite! Poor woman. He is clearly a narcissistic jerk who’s too entrenched in his own childishness to be able to see any other option but his own narrow predefinitions. He is the type who’d never be happy even if he got his way. Someone slap him, please!
    And by the way, a “problem” I often have is the stimulation while nursing makes me a bit horny… The guy should be appreciative of this! Anyone else experience this?

    • There are definitely more issues in that blog post than simply not being able to separate the functions of the breasts. I could probably write an entire series devoted to the things I disagree with in that post.

      It’s common for women to feel an increase in sexual interest while nursing. Some of the hormones released are the same. But some women go the opposite direction and the lack of ovulation prompting hormones cause their libido to go on hiatus.

  2. I think this guy is a bit like my ex husband. Apparently I was giving our newborn too much attention that I suppose was supposed to go to him (you know, with feeding and diapering and all that hugging that the little heathen expected me to do because, well, I\’m his mom) that he decided it was carte blanche to cheat.

    Luckily that was a wake up call for me to realize he was all about himself all the time, and I had been spending all my energy trying to make him happy. The \”What about MY needs?\” crap that came when our son was born just brought it all into sharp focus. Now I have a significant other who not only understands, but EXPECTS my first priority to be my child. Oddly enough, we have a pretty fulfilling relationship and no snotty 3 year old style temper tantrums about how I spend too much time fulfilling my child\’s needs.

    Yeah, I see a lot of my ex\’s attitude in this man\’s writing. It\’s a shame that a woman just can\’t win. It\’s hard enough to adjust to being a mother without having one\’s \”partner\” freak out on them too.

    C

  3. I like it. That post on NYT was disheartening. I hope it doesn’t cause conflict between he & his wife… or between his wife and her commitment to her kids.

    • From what I have read elsewhere (which could be absolute crap or be true) people are saying he is divorced and the breastfeeding he is talking about happened about 20 years ago.

      I sounds to me like he is trying to shift the blame of him cheating onto her. No idea if he did or not but it just screams guilt and ‘you made me like this’ to me.

      I am even more thankful for my husband than ever. He views my breasts as being multi-functioning and doesn’t have any issue with them being both sexual and nourishing.

  4. Nice response! And wow, what a self-centered article from Mr Rudey Prude. I don’t get the whole conflict between breasts being seen as ‘fun-bags’ vs ‘feed-bags’ – if we did that to male genitalia nothing would EVER happen 😀 I do think, on the whole, those types of people need to just grow up a little, and accept that the body is a multi-functional, beautiful instrument. Love your blog! 😀

  5. Anything that makes a woman (and her partner) view her body differently has the potential to have an impact on their sex life. That’s not rocket science. Her partner has to adapt to whatever that change is and it may be difficult. To acknowledge that is not in any way anti-breastfeeding. I breastfed my son but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t view my body differently as a result. This idea that nourishing your child in the best way possible may not negatively impact any other area of your life is ridiculous and setting women up for failure. I’d much rather see candid conversations than those that simply pedestalize breastfeeding to the point that women and their partners must pretend to enjoy every single thing that goes along with it.

  6. Lara and I were talking today and she said she wonders if the piece isn’t satire of those who hold similar views. Thoughts?

  7. This man was brave enough to say how HE felt. FEELINGS are always valid – it’s actions we are accountable for. We should allow him his own feelings and not jump on him. We are all learning as we go through life.

    Now don’t jump all over me – I am just thinking out loud…

    I wonder… at what point does the male -(dad) begin to see the son (age 5) no longer as an infant but as a possible competition for his mate..(I’m talking in a very id like oedipal way…NOT literally) . I think there is some point when suckling changes from nurturing to sexual – but what is that point? And does it have to be the same for everyone? Age 2? Age 5? Age 16? Certainly at SOME point we would all be uncomfortable with extended nursing…. That is how this dad seems to feel in his GUT – that it is not nurturing any longer, – but sexual.

    Obviously he (dad) reached that point. I think in any relationship there are multiple factors that must be balanced. This couple needs to balance the son and the dad’s needs. If they can talk about it openly and honestly they should be able to figure it out without our advice. I hope they do and that this man’s courage to share how he felt will give other men the courage to have these conversations with their wives – no matter how they feel. Communication is the key. The cheating comes when the couple does not share their feelings – whatever they are.

  8. While I feel as though a man has every right to express his feelings, especially on a subject like breastfeeding, his feelings/opinion can still be wrong. Like saying, “I feel I am entitled to my wife’s breasts and I own them as much as she does.” That may be his feeling but he is wrong. I laugh at the idea that breastfeeding can solely be responsible for a lack of intimacy. Or even possible to be the reason a man cheats! Give me a break!

    http://taurusmom18.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/sick-of-breastfeeding/

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