You don't have to feel ashamed -- it's perfectly natural. An expert tells us why.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: When I was pregnant with my first child, I was hosting a show for TLC called "How'd They Do That?" And every day, my mind was asking the same question about pregnancy and breastfeeding. All my female coworkers became a petri dish for me as I probed their minds for information about what the heck was going on with my body.
I was the most nervous about successfully breastfeeding. Frankly, I had no idea how the two orbs with nerve endings directly connected to some pleasurable southern region could be converted into a cafeteria. One morning, as I sat in the makeup chair with my middle bursting with new life, I posed a seemingly crazy question: Could a woman have an orgasm while breastfeeding?
There was a pause. There was a sly smile from the makeup artist. The hairdresser hooted and hollered. Others just laughed their asses off. But I didn't take my eyes off the makeup artist.
Later, when we were alone, I asked her again. She smiled again. "It's more of a sensuous experience," she said, "not a sexual one. It feels warm and cuddly and pleasurable, but it's different from sex. If you had an orgasm, it wouldn't be on purpose."
Years later, I thought of this conversation. I was in one of my human sexuality classes in my psychology Ph.D. program, and we were learning that the nerve endings in our body can respond to physical stimulation even if our brain is not on board. In this case, we were talking about rape, and the confusing feelings that can happen to victims of rape when during this horrific crime they sometimes experience a spontaneous orgasm. What an awful thought.
When my first daughter was finally born (pried out after 42 weeks in the oven), breastfeeding was anything but pleasurable. I like to call the newborn phase of breastfeeding "the vampire weeks," as that tiny, violent, sucking machine increases milk supply. But after a few months, I realized my makeup artist was right. Totally pleasurable. But a far cry from sexual arousal.
As I continued to nurse, I read far and deep into the benefits of breastfeeding for mother and child. One thing I learned is that prolonged breastfeeding can help reduce your chances of getting breast cancer because it stops your periods and the monthly assault of estrogen on your breasts. That was enough for me, since my mother died of breast cancer. I continued on. I also learned that often babies suckle for comfort rather than from hunger, and that there are psychological benefits to this suckling. That sounded good too.
You saw the title of this article, so you know where I'm going here. I never, ever, mentally connected a breastfeeding experience with a sexual experience. The mental boundary was so great that I was convinced it was impossible. Then one night while I was sleeping, I had one of those fabulous dreams that, if a guy had had it, would have involved moisture. You've heard about them. I woke up from the dream to find that my tiny vampire had been doing some nocturnal suckling while I slept. Let me tell you, the experience totally freaked me out. And that was it. I had a co-sleeping bed beside me after that. I needed that bundle an arm's length away.
Later, in another human sexuality class, I asked my professor about this experience. She confirmed that it is possible and probably quite common, although people have feelings of shame about it. Pleasurable breastfeeding was probably one of nature's ways to make a survival behavior attractive. She also told me that many women quit breastfeeding for this reason. For some women, the feelings of an infant suckling can be so pleasurable that they feel it is somehow wrong. That made me feel sad too. Breastfeeding is not pedophilia. Nature brought mommies and babies together for one of the most physically pleasurable relationships on earth. Let them suckle -- and do enjoy it, ladies. It is such a short period in both of your lives. And if your body responds without your consent, relax. Just buy a co-sleeper bed.
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and her area of interest is Attachment Theory, a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the California Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental health concerns including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders, and depression.|