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I feel pleasurable sensations when I breastfeed, and it’s messing with my head. I can’t reconcile having what I can only describe as a sexual feeling while doing something that’s far from sexual. It’s making me resist breastfeeding. What should I do?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

One of the causes of those pleasurable sensations is oxytocin. Your body pumps it out when breastfeeding to encourage you to keep doing it and bond with baby. It’s the most natural thing in the world. And the reason it’s messing with your head is likely that our culture oversexualizes breasts. You’ve probably been programmed your entire life to associate breasts with sex. Because of this, breastfeeding can turn you on and even cause sexual fantasies. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You’re not fantasizing about your baby, you’re fantasizing about a tryst with your partner, or Thor, or whomever. And more women than you realize experience this; you just don’t hear about it because society has made the topic super taboo.

Speaking of taboo, some women even report orgasming while breastfeeding. In most of these cases, the woman has her legs crossed, which causes clitoral stimulation. That stimulation, coupled with uterine contractions from the oxytocin and nipple stimulation from the breastfeeding, pushes them over the edge. While many of these women say they’re horrified by this reaction, they don’t need to be. They suddenly had a baby sucking on a part of their body that’s always been an erogenous zone, while other parts of their body that play a part in arousal (the clitoris and uterus) were also being stimulated. They weren’t making a conscious choice to be aroused — biology was doing it for them. It’s understandable to feel resistance to this type of situation, but know that the emotional discomfort will pass. Here’s how it happens . . .

As you continue breastfeeding, your perspective on your breasts will shift from “sexy time trigger” to “feeder of child.” In addition, the prolactin your body is pumping out to produce milk will induce maternal behavior, like a desire to cuddle your baby, fostering the shift in your

relationship with your breasts. While you wait for this change, keep reminding yourself that you’re not a pervert for enjoying the sensations of breastfeeding — that’s just biology rewarding you for giving your baby the gift of mega-nutrients.

In addition to feeling pleasure when breastfeeding, it’s common for your nipples to get hard. This is another phenomenon we usually associate with being turned on (or being cold), and it makes some women uncomfortable. But the nipples are hardening just to meet breastfeeding’s anatomical requirements, as your nipples have to be somewhat erect for baby to latch on. It’s normal for your nipples to harden when stimulated, whether that stimulation is your baby’s mouth, your shirt rubbing against them, or a fondle from your partner. The hardening is sexual only when you give it that label.

It’s also helpful (and maybe a little frustrating) to know that lactating will shift your sexual encounters in a few ways. According to an article published in the Journal of Perinatal Education, during lactation you experience little to no vaginal lubrication when you’re turned on (Oh hi there, lube!), and milk can potentially eject from the breasts during orgasm. In addition, the longer you breastfeed, the more your perspective on your breasts gets embedded in “mom zone,” to the point where you may have little sexual response when they’re touched sexually. The researchers go on to explain that the mix of prolactin and oxytocin that’s released during breastfeeding can also satisfy your need for connection and affection in such a complete way that you don’t seek it as much from your partner. Being aware of all this can help ensure you don’t unintentionally neglect your bond with your honey.

What to do

Here are a few ways to avoid shaming yourself for feeling pleasure when breastfeeding and to maintain a connection with your partner.

Shift your perception of physical pleasure. Many of us associate pleasure in the more sensual areas of our body (e.g., breasts and vagina), and definitely orgasm, with sexual encounters. This is understandable, as sexual encounters (with yourself or someone else) are the primary reason you experience these sensations…until you have a baby. But the “sexual” label we put on these sensations is all in our head. Our body doesn’t care why it’s feeling good, it just likes to feel good. The mind is what gets in the way when we have those warm, tingly feelings while breastfeeding. So give yourself permission to take sexual meaning away from those sensations — at least when breastfeeding. You can start thinking of them as a lovely byproduct of feeding your baby — a present for all the hard work you’re putting in. And just like that, you can wipe away shame and guilt.

Find ways to stay connected to your partner. Because breastfeeding can satisfy your need for physical connection, you might find your desire to be affectionate with your partner is weakening. While there’s nothing wrong with this in the short term, it could negatively impact your relationship if it goes on for too long. To fortify that connection, find ways to be intimate with your partner without sacrificing your needs. For example, if you can’t stand being touched after a marathon round of breastfeeding, ask your partner to keep their hands off for at least an hour. When you feel your resistance to touch wearing off, ask them if they want to cuddle while you both play with the baby or watch a movie.

This might feel contrived in the beginning, but the more you commit to reestablishing that physical bond, the more you’ll enjoy it. The key is that the connection be on your terms as you find your way back to intimacy. Feeling forced to be intimate could make you resent your partner, which isn’t good for anyone. Take it slow and steady, and eventually you’ll relish a long hug, or a roll in the sheets.

Create new rules for breast fondling. Once I started breastfeeding, nothing turned me off more than having my boobs touched by my husband. I never told him how I was feeling, and understandably, he took it personally when I swatted him away. Be wiser than me, and talk to your special person if you notice yourself cringing when they go for your milk jugs. Explain that it has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with your new relationship with your breasts. You can also reassure them that when baby eventually weans, you’ll probably become more comfortable with boob play.

With that said, you might be cool with certain types of breast touch, but not all. For example, I have a friend who enjoyed her husband gently cupping her breasts, but couldn’t stand him touching her nipples with his hands or mouth. She let him know how she felt, and he honored her guidelines. If you’re not quite sure what you are and aren’t comfortable with, have your partner test out various types of fondling and let them know what feels good.

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