Sexual Feelings When Breastfeeding

Oh, it feels like such a taboo subject, I’m almost scared to write about it. Actually, I’m really scared because the thought of an angry mob coming after me accusing me of child abuse — you know, because I’m an extended breastfeeder — is rather off putting.

I remember as a first time mom with a baby a few months old sitting in a circle with a group of mothers when one confessed that she sometimes feels sexual arousal from breastfeeding. And I remember thinking there was something a little weird about that. I didn’t have problems breastfeeding, but I certainly didn’t find it orgasmic!

In almost three years of breastfeeding, working with breastfeeding women, and becoming something of a lactivist, I never heard of this phenomenon again.

Then my second child was born and with her came toe-curling, breath-catching, painful thrush — and a sickeningly sexually stimulating feeling when my toddler breastfed. I felt so horrible about it, like there was something wrong with me, and I couldn’t understand what was going on. I certainly couldn’t talk to anyone about it!

Fortunately, Google is relatively anonymous and when I started researching it, I found that it is a fairly common thing, but there has been only one study I could find, and there’s very little formal information on it.

However, if you consider how breastmilk is made, and you realise that oxytocin is a hormone that stimulates ejection of milk, that release is triggered by breast stimulation, and that oxytocin does other things in the body too — like contractions of the uterus during childbirth and during orgasm — it actually makes a lot of sense.

“In a 2000 study of breastfeeding women, 40.5% of the participants reported feeling sexually aroused at some point during infant suckling. 16.7% reported being aroused frequently during breastfeeding. In a more recent paper that reviewed several studies between 33-50% of women described breastfeeding as erotic (and 25% of those women said they felt guilty about it).”1

Now, you might think this plays into the argument of people who say that mothers breastfeed toddlers for their own gratification, but the problem is that while it may be a sexual feeling, it is not a pleasant one. Not by a long shot. (It may be for some, but for many it is extremely uncomfortable!)

I found it heartbreaking, to see how my relationship with my older child was changing because I so dreaded nursing her, and while we were nursing sometimes, I’d have to physically yank my breast away from her because I couldn’t handle the sensation. I hated nursing her and hated that the change happened overnight.

Incidentally, nursing my baby wasn’t a problem at all — it was just the toddler!

If you’ve experienced or are experiencing this sexual stimulation during nursing, and you’re finding it hard or uncomfortable, and can’t or don’t want to force wean your older child, I have good news for you: It ends. I don’t know when or how it did, but a few days ago I was nursing when I realised I wasn’t entirely grossed out by it. I was so incredibly relieved!

Also, you’re not alone. You’re not unusual, you’re not a freak, and you’re not at risk of abusing your child.

It’s been five long months, and I actually look forward to restoring some of the joy to our nursing relationship now, and again intend to continue breastfeeding as long as my beautiful daughter wishes to do so.

I do think it’s worth talking about though, because as a “common” phenomenon, it’s very underrepresented in conversations and education about breastfeeding, and I think being prepared for the possibility, the first months of tandem breastfeeding would have been a lot less conflicting and I could have settled into it much more easily.

Have you experienced feelings of arousal or distress during breastfeeding? How have you coped?

  1. “Arousal, Orgasm and Breastfeeding,” Cory Silverberg at About.com.

About The Author: Luschka

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Luschka is a mother to two little girls. She is passionate about the principles of Attachment Parenting, and although she admits to learning as she goes, she likes to share what she's learnt with others - possibly because of her experiences in adult education. AP challenges a lot of Luschka's own background, which she loves as it makes her research and study everything. She writes at Diary of a First Child , documenting the journey for those parents who don't live in idyllic isolation, but still want to follow this path with their families.

16 Responses to Sexual Feelings When Breastfeeding

  1. Momma Jorje  

    I absolutely battled the sexual arousal feelings when I nursed my toddler through pregnancy (and after my son was born). When it first started it as so incredibly creepy! Then I tried to focus on what I might do with that energy once she was nursed to sleep. But literally once she stopped nursing, the arousal stopped. It is definitely a physical stimulation thing. And it is so important to know how very normal it is!

    • Luschka  

      Thank you Momma Jorje for your comment. You’re so right. Realising that a) it’s normal and b) it’s biology is incredibly important. It’s not like you need more stress at that stage of your life!!

  2. Rebekah C  

    I didn’t personally deal with this but I know several women who did and I appreciate you talking about it. Honestly, I wish people could just get over the whole breastfeeding vs sexuality thing. We have bodies and they respond to stimulus. It’s not the same as being mentally engaged in sexual fantasy, kwim?

    • Luschka  

      Absolutely! And when you KNOW that you’re not cognitively ‘getting off’ on your kids, but your body is still trying to respond to the stimulus, it can be incredibly confusing. I regularly now think of that first time mum in our baby group and don’t think it’s any surprise that she stopped breastfeeding soon after. It is such a horrible feeling.

  3. Mama D

    OMG- thankyou! I have had this problem since I started tandem nursing and I couldn’t figure it out. It’s toe curling and makes me feel sick to my stomach until I have to rip her off (JUST THE TODDLER). I assumed it was because she always had a terrible latch due to tongue/lip tie issues and I got pregnant when she was 10 months and getting her teeth. I was barely able to nurse during pregnancy cuz it hurt so bad; so when I started tandem nursing I was shocked. I thought maybe it was all the new teeth and that her suckle was more like an adults now and my body was just trained to react that way, after all my husband was a boob guy. Many days I find myself wishing my breasts had never and will never again be sexual objects. It has even effected my relationship with my husband because I dont want him to touch them, let alone licking or sucking them and like I said he is a boob man. I tried to explain to him what was going on and he thought it was really weird but is trying to be supportive.

    • Luschka  

      I’m so glad to hear your husband is being supportive. It’s really tough, but it’s for a time and a season. It will all change again :) I’m so glad the post helped you. I was really shocked by the experience and was so glad to find I wasn’t the only one! Just so you know, and to reiterate what I said, it does go away… when probably differs from person to person, but it does go away. Hang in there!

  4. Helen

    Ohhhh this is actually very enlightening. I was aware that many moms find tandem nursing ‘icky’ and that it’s all related to the toddler. I then experienced this myself and hated nursing my toddler so much after the birth of her brother that I had to stop because it was straining my relationship with her terribly. I knew all of these things but I didn’t relate it to a sexual issue until reading your post and now it makes a lot of sense! I just couldn’t put a finger on what that awful sensation was. It’s been a year since I stopped nursing her but even now whenever she nuzzles her head near my breasts (when hugging) I have a similar icky sensation and want to push her away. It’s very sad that it’s still a problem. It has never happened with her brother but, of course, I have never tandem nursed with him as a toddler. He actually self-weaned at 14 months (to my dismay – so young!) two months before the birth of his younger brother.

  5. Jessica  

    I am not a mother yet, but this is something that I have heard of in the past (briefly). You’re right, it is a taboo subject and it’s embarrassing for women to admit. I know that if/when I am a mother and if I experience this, I can imagine my first reaction would be one of horror and embarrassment! I appreciate that you have tackled this subject. I’m going to pass this along to a friend. Thanks! :)

  6. Symone  

    Thanks for the article. I had a feeling that this may be an issue when I first started breast feeding. The breasts are purposely stimulated during sex because it feels good for most so I was a little nervous about whether this would happen while breastfeeding. I found it best to meditate whenever this happened. This would calm down the stimulations as well as any tensions that were building up from being uncomfortable. All the good and bad hormones that are released in your body get passed to the baby so I think its best to think happy comfortable thoughts while nursing.

  7. hyacinthia

    I’m giving birth anytime…..thank you this article and the responses are very interesting…..I am also worrid about feeling this sensation when I’m already nursing my baby girl….I have borderline personality and might suffer from depression after my delivery……and I know if I’ll have the guilty feelings while nursing my baby it will increase my depression…thanks for educating me about this…more power!,

    • Luschka  

      Hello Hyacinthia. Congratulations on your soon to be baby. I hope it all goes well for you. I think the first thing to remember is that knowledge is power. If I knew I was likely to have post natal depression – which I was worried about for a variety of reasons, after my second was born – I would definitely keep the placenta for encapsulation. Placenta ‘tablets’ are said to help with post natal depression, so it’s worth considering!

      As for the guilty feelings and coping with the sensations themselves, don’t worry about it. Worry just makes everything harder, and you’re going to find so many things to feel guilty about, you don’t need to add this to your list. Some women NEVER experience it. You may not. Best of luck to you, and if you have any questions, do join us on the facebook page for help and advice!

  8. Robyn

    Throughout nursing my daughter for 2.5 years, this was something that happened to me quite often, and from the beginning. I always got and overall body buzz of good feeling and, yes, sometimes some sexual arousal. I never let myself be shamed by it. Of course nursing should be pleasant, nature needs us to want to do it. Sometimes we accredit sensual feelings to something naughty when they just aren’t. I never thought of my child in a sexual way, it was just a physical sensation.

  9. Jessica

    I, too, have had these issues with my toddler after her sister was born. I wonder, for me, if I have extra oxytocin given that I am tandem nursing? I try limiting her handling of my other breast and that seems to help. I realize that it doesn’t mean that I’m an awful person. (Even women that are raped may be aroused and orgasm but that doesn’t mean the enjoy being raped). Thanks for writing about this.

  10. Bex

    Maybe the reason you couldnt find anything about this was because it sounds very much like nursing aversion, when i had my 2nd child apart from one time i had nursing aversion when my toddler attempted to reuptake nursing (she half self weaned when i conceived) hope that helps you find more information on it :)

  11. Kara  

    Oh my goodness!!!! I cannot believe what I am reading and how utterly thankful I am to be reading it!! I literally just made a youtube video about my 10 month breast feeding aversion I have had with my toddler and have been in tears about it nightly. Feelings of rage and disappointment and regret and just so much tension surrounding my breast feeding relationship with my daughter. I now tandem breast feed and just like others have mentioned it is problematic primarily with my older one. For a few weeks I have been tuning into my body and trying to figure out why bd where the tension is residing. I notice it makes my uterus tight and strong tension in my vagina. Not pleasurable at all more stressful. As this tightening happens so does my aversion increase! I started to wonder if orgasm would help lessen my aversion. After I got pregnant with my second my sexual activity slowed to almost nothing. Hense I had no orgasm and can honestly say I havent had one for 10 months. When I was still very sexually active and releasing sexual tension through orgasm with my partner my breast feeding experience felt very natural and comforting, peaceful and loving. Not sexual at att. Just how it should feel between mother and child. Now a days my sexual tension is high and thus my tolerence to nursing is low. I’m having a huge brain storm and huge apiphanies right now finding your link here and connecting the dots of my symptoms. And maybe realeasing sexual tension on my own or with a partner may actually repair, heal and make plesant my breast feeding relation ship with my children, primarily the older one!!!

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