Home About Dr Gayle Counseling Services Speaking Services Online Seminars Articles Press Room Books Contact

Ask Dr. Gayle

Are Breasts Only for Baby?

QUESTION: I'm a nursing mom with a nine-month-old daughter. Since I've been breastfeeding, I feel extremely uncomfortable with my husband including my breasts in sexual play. I'm wondering if other women have had this problem and if my feelings will change once I wean my daughter.

ANSWER: For the first time you are integrating motherhood with your identity as a woman. Unfortunately, our cultural programming often denies that mothers are sexual beings. No wonder it is a stretch to integrate being a new mother with the sensuality of breastfeeding and the sexuality of lovemaking. Not only are your feelings understandable, but your conflicting emotions about your relationship to your body and sexuality is common to the postpartum period, whether you breastfeed or not!

It may be useful to know that the same hormone, oxytocin, is released when you experience a "let down" reflex for breastfeeding as when you have an orgasm. It is also the same hormone released in labor to stimulate contractions of the uterus. Some women do in fact enjoy the sensuality of nursing their baby without confusing sexual signals with maternal signals. But this differentiation can understandably take some time to develop!

It is likely that you are right in believing that you will feel less conflicted about enjoying your breasts during lovemaking when you are no longer breastfeeding. It may also be possible now for you to begin to allow yourself the pleasure of the increased sensitivity that breastfeeding can provide. This can enhance your own pleasures in lovemaking, as well as your nursing experience.

They are your breasts after all. Allow yourself to visualize the possibility of enjoying your breasts sexually when making love with your husband and, quite separately, imagine the comfort and maternal pleasure you experience when feeding your daughter. These are separate, though physiologically related activities. After all, your child was conceived through the sexual act itself. Perhaps your body is designed to enjoy both!

There is a natural sensuality inherent in both breastfeeding and sex, but expressed in very different ways. You can use your tongue to talk and communicate with many people and you can use it to passionately kiss your husband. It really is up to you. Do not push yourself beyond your own limits of comfort, but gently explore the issue to see if any guilt about sex (after becoming a mother) might be keeping you from enjoying your own sexual expression as a woman.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

Return to Dr. Gayle Peterson's Home Page

Copyright 1996-2003.  Gayle Peterson All rights reserved.

Send Comments and Inquiries to Dr. Gayle Peterson at gp@askdrgayle.com