Breastfeeding and Sex

Nursing Emotions

Beyond the physical discomforts, many couples must struggle even harder to overcome the emotional hurdles brought on by nursing.

"I had always thought of my breasts as an aesthetically pleasing part of my body," admits Angelica Farnham of Brooklyn, New York, whose daughter is now 6 months old. "But when I started nursing, I found myself manipulating them so much they seemed less like a source of pleasure than a huge pair of faucets that needed constant maintenance. My husband wanted to touch my breasts but I didn't want him to. I thought they were horrifying."

At the other end of the emotional spectrum, you may love your new breasts and the sensuality of nursing, but worry that your feelings are inappropriate. Relax. "It's absolutely normal. After all, this is an erogenous part of your body," notes Semans.

Then there are women who get upset if their husbands want to suck on their nipples. Some are afraid of transmitting husband-to-baby germs; others have trouble reconciling that their breasts are both erotic and functional. "I thought all of the changes in my wife's body during nursing were really cool," says Duke Evans of Washington, D.C., "and I really loved watching her breastfeed. I even wanted to taste my wife's breast milk, but she wouldn't let me."

If your partner takes delight -- erotic or otherwise -- in watching you breastfeed, try accepting his joy, or even reveling in it if you can. "If there aren't these little changes in the sex act, making love loses some of the interesting differences that nature provides," says Carol Huotari, manager of the Center for Breastfeeding Information at La Leche League.

That's a positive way of looking at things, but it's easier said than done. With so much of your attention and energy -- to mention milk -- flowing toward this new tiny person in your life, you may begin to feel resentful; if nourishing the baby is exclusively your job, how can you meet all of your husband's needs and still feel even vaguely human yourself? These feelings can lead to a sexual standoff that may seem insurmountable. "All I wanted was five minutes where someone didn't need something from me," says Mulroney, who nursed her son, now 2 years old, for 9 months.

Not to mention the fact that you might simply be tired of being touched. "You may feel like your body doesn't belong to you at all," explains Margaret Howard, PhD, director of the Postpartum Disorders Day Hospital at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. "You've completely given up your body for your baby and don't want to do it again for your husband."

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