My life is all about breasts, it seems. I am an IBCLC, and I spend at least 32 hours a week providing breastfeeding services to moms. I am also a nursing mother – my nursling and I are going on 18 months right now. And then there’s the flip side of my breasts. My second job, you see, is modeling for a boudoir and fashion photo company, Red Petti. This means that I regularly spend a few hours a month getting dolled up and photographed in lingerie for campaigns. My breasts are very functional and very attractive all in one.
The dual nature of the human breast is one that we have a really, really hard time with in most Westernized countries. Breastfeeding moms are asked to cover up or kicked out of various places, yet we use bikini clad models to sell any number of things. With the vastly sexualized nature of the breast, is it any wonder that I have client after client who is concerned that nursing will feel sexual to her, or that she won’t be able to still be attractive if she’s nursing?
Sometimes I hear the advice of “Just retire the sexy for a little while, because you only nurse a short time in the grand scheme of things.” And this is true. You do only nurse for a little while. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use your breasts for sexiness and functional purposes. After all, let’s face it – your sexuality is why you have a baby, in most cases. Babies don’t end that, or no one would have more than one.
So understand that breastfeeding is not sexual, although it can be very sensual (and by sensual I mean that it engages your senses, and the flood of hormones can make you feel very relaxed and happy.) The contact with the breast in breastfeeding is very different than sexual contact, so it is not an arousing experience for most women. There is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about in using your breasts in feeding your child – it is their primary biological function. And if that biological function doesn’t come easily, don’t feel like a failure – see a trained lactation professional to help you learn. Most trained lactation professionals can give you some advice or referrals if you’re having a difficult time with sexual behavior while nursing, as well.
On the flip side, just because you have become a mom doesn’t mean that you are no longer fabulous or sexy or desirable. That doesn’t end the second you have the baby, although it’s easy to forget that. It may take you awhile to lose the pregnancy weight (although breastfeeding may help!) and you may have a few stretch marks or some loose skin, but so what? You are magnificent and gorgeous. And while you’re nursing, you may even have a fuller, more voluptuous chest. Enjoy it while it’s around.
Audre Lorde once said, “I can’t really define it in sexual terms alone although our sexuality is so energizing why not enjoy it too?” She wasn’t talking about the breast, but it works for that, too. Sexuality doesn’t define our breasts – if anything, the nurturing act of breastfeeding inherently does. But it’s ok for your breasts to have dual roles, and you can and should enjoy them both.