Sexuality and Breastfeeding. Those two words aren’t usually used in the same sentence. But being a breastfeeding mom doesn’t make you a celibate woman. In fact, your new curves may even give you more confidence and make you feel more sexual. What is western society’s attitude toward sex and the breast? How has it impacted women in America? And is there any hope for change?
The Boob Group
“Sexuality and Breastfeeding”
Episode 24, October 12th, 2012
Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.
(00:00:00) Start of Audio
Robin Kaplan: Sexuality and Breastfeeding. Those two words are not often used in the same sentence. Yet just because a mother is breastfeeding, does not mean that she has to turn into a celibate woman. How does our society’s view of breasts and sex affect the breastfeeding mom? Well, today we are talking with Emma Pickett, a Private Practice Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant from London, England and we are talking about Sexuality and Breastfeeding. This is The Boob Group, Episode 24.
Robin Kaplan: Welcome to The Boob Group, broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. I am your host Robin Kaplan; I am also a Certified Lactation Consultant and owner of the San Diego Breastfeeding Center. At The Boob Group, we are your online support group for all things related to breastfeeding. Do you have a favorite episode of The Boob Group? If so, we would love for you to give us a call and tell us why you love it so much. All you have to do is call our hotline at 619 866 4775 and leave a message on our voice mail and we would love to share it on an up-coming episode. Today, I’m joined by three fantastic panelists in the studio; ladies, would you please introduce yourselves?
Erin Esteves: Hi, my name is Erin, I am 42 and my son Cash is 11 months.
Marie Kidder: Hi, my name is Marie. I am 30 and my daughter Aurora is also 11 months.
Sunny Gault: Hi everyone, my name is Sunny and I am 34. I have two little boys, my youngest, I am breastfeeding and he’s about 5 months old.
Robin Kaplan: Alright, well ladies, welcome to the show. Thank you.
Sunny Gault: Thank you.
Robin Kaplan: Thank you.
[Featured Segments: Ask The Experts - Holistic Treatment for Thrush]
Robin Kaplan: So this is a question from one of our listeners. This is from Megan from Washington, DC. “My four month old has thrush. Our pediatrician put him on an antibiotic that has to be placed on the infected area multiple times per day. We are on our second route of this antibiotic because the first dosage didn’t eliminate the thrush. And the second round isn’t helping much either. I’ve heard that there are some Holistic ways to cure Thrush. Can you tell me more about these options? Thanks”
Dr. Tara Zandvliet: Hi Megan, this is Dr. Tara Zandvliet, a South Park doctor. Thrush can be a real pain to get rid of. There three areas where Holistic Treatments can help. One, the environment, two, Mom’s diet and three, Topical Treatments for your baby.First, Environment. Boil any nipple shields, pacifiers or other play things she regularly mouths. If your nipples are sore, smear yoghurt on them after feeds or go naked in the sunlight which helps fight fungus. Wash your bras after every wearing, or go bra-less. Second, Mom’s Diet. Eliminate everything that is sweet including the natural, like honey Agave Syrup. Eliminate dairy except for yoghurts and any yeast containing foods including beer. Avoid wheat if you can and no processed foods. Eat yoghurt and tons of garlic. And you can take pro-biotics if you can. Third, Topical Treatment for the baby. You can give your baby Acidophilus Bifidus supplements. They are found in the refrigerated section of the Natural Food or Vitamins Store. You can also have them suck a finger full of yoghurt off your finger after eating. You could crush an adult pro-biotic pill and have them suck one finger tip worth of the powder once a day. You could also treat it with dissolving one teaspoon of baking soda in eight ounces of water and swab in the mouth with a cuetip over the baby’s cheeks gums and tongue. Lastly, an old fashioned favorite is Gentian Violet solution, 1percent. You swab it around the baby’s mouth once a day with a cue tip for four days. But caution, it turns everything purple! And so wear gloves, put on old or black clothing for you and the baby or make the baby go naked while you put it on and make sure to have to have a lot of bibs around. Anything they drool upon will turn purple. You can put some ointment or Vaseline on their chins also to make clean-up easier.
Robin Kaplan: If you have a question about one of our topics mentioned on our shows, call The Boob Group hotline at 619-866-4775.
Robin Kaplan: So today on The Boob Group, we are talking about sexuality and breastfeeding. Emma Pickett is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in London, England, who just recently gave a presentation at the Association of Breastfeeding Mother’s Conference about Sex and the Breastfeeding Woman. Her talk focused on how breastfeeding can have an impact on a woman’s sexuality and relationships, but also crucially, how the sexualization of Western Society affects the initiation and contin…., continuation [Laughs] of breastfeeding. Hello Emma and welcome to the show.
Emma Pickett: Hi Robin. Thank you. Lovely to be with you.
Robin Kaplan: Well Emma, so how do you think Western Society’s attitude towards Sex and the Breast affect breastfeeding?
Emma Pickett: Well, to answer you very simply, Robin, the answer is “Massively”! And before I started to look at this issue, I’d actually been a breastfeeding mother for seven years, believe it or not and when I started to read about this and talk to other mothers and look at the literature, I was stunned by how ignorant I had been of all the influences on me as a breastfeeding mother and all the messages that are being sent to us about the purpose of our breasts and the idea of the primary purpose of our breasts being about Sex Attraction and you know I didn’t realize I’d been fighting a struggle against all these messages as a breastfeeding mother. If you think that we live in a society and when I say a Society, I’m talking about North America and UK is quite as similar to North America with a lot of these issues. You know, we live in a society where a nuclear family is at the heart of our culture. You know, it used to be the extended family, throughout human history, it’s mainly been the extended family, but now we live these societies where we’ve got nuclear family and the couple is on a pedestal in that, in that set-up and when we talk about a functional couple, we mean a highly sexual couple. A successful couple is a sexualized couple. And the breast is sexy. The breast is part of that sexiness and it’s important to realize that the idea of the breast being sexy, is actually not the biological norm for humans, which to us, from the West, sounds a bit mad, because we just assume that breasts are inherently sexy and inherently part of our sex lives, but actually, that’s not the reality for a lot of cultures out there. One particular study looked at a 190 cultures worldwide and only 13 of them found the breast sexy.
Robin Kaplan: No kidding!
Emma Pickett: Yup! And even then, it was nine of them liked large breasts, two of them liked long and pendulous breasts and two of them liked upright hemispherical breasts. So, you know, there’s not even a consensus about what makes a sexy breast. But in our society we feel very strongly that the purpose of the breast is about attracting a male gaze. You know, it’s in magazines, it’s on bill-boards and for a woman who is becoming a mother, throughout her entire life, she may have never seen breastfeeding. She may have never seen breastfeeding up close. Breastfeeding is private, it’s restricted, it’s away from us, so most of our lives, we feel the breast as a sexual thing. And for a sexual purpose. And we’ve really lost sight of what the purpose the breast really is. You know, the functional organ and we are called mammals because we’ve got mammary glands and we’ve lost sight of that. And the fact that any breastfeeding’s happening seems truly miraculous when you actually think about all the forces on us, telling us about what the breast is for and all the forces on us telling us the importance of being sexualized couples and the importance of being sexy.
Robin Kaplan: So, how do you think that these views affect breastfeeding rates and duration in our culture?
Emma Pickett: Well, I mean, let’s imagine we are talking about a teenage mum, you call them a teenage “mom”.
Emma Pickett: You know, that teenage mum, her whole life, she’s been having images about breasts. You know, in the magazines she reads, you know, around her television programs, she’s been given really strong messages about what her breasts are for and then we’re suddenly expecting her to want to breastfeed when she gets pregnant. We are expecting her to reverse all those messages and you know, someone’s going to give her a leaflet and her doctor’s going to talk to her about breastfeeding and suddenly, all that stuff’s going to go away. It doesn’t happen like that which is probably one of the reasons that initiation of breastfeeding’s pretty low among very young mothers for example. And you know, for older mothers. You know, we are asking them to combine that role of being a breastfeeding mother, alongside being a lover and a sexual partner and you know, when two or three months have gone by and you are struggling to combine those two roles and your partner is struggling with that, it’s inevitable that some people are going to start thinking about giving up breastfeeding and certainly for asking those mothers to get to six months and a year, that’s a long time to struggle with those two roles and struggle trying to make those two roles fit together. And if you’ve got a baby boy and he’s breastfeeding and he’s breastfeeding past six months and society perceives you to be sort of performing a sort of semi-sexual act, when you are breastfeeding him, you know, who’s going to carry on doing that, when you’re baby’s you know, 18 months old? Or two years and beyond, which is what the World Health Organization recommends you know, all societies, that’s the recommendation for breastfeeding. If society tells you that it’s a sexual act and that baby is engaging in an act with a sexual organ, it’s inevitable that breastfeeding duration is going to be hit by that message.
Robin Kaplan: Everyone in the…, everyone in my panel right now is shaking their head, like “Oh my God, absolutely correct.” Ladies, how do you feel that you have been influenced by our society’s views on the breast and breastfeeding? Erin.
Erin Esteves: Well, I know that for myself, personally, I have been dramatically affected to the extent that I rarely, if ever, breastfeed in public. And I’ve had some “Boops” you call them…
Erin Esteves: …, on those few occasions that I have, which only re-enforces my…, I don’t want to say, shame, but I’d rather say “Modesty”, for breastfeeding in public and when people find out that I’m still breastfeeding my son, as I said, he’s 11 months old. Today for example, a friend of mine said, “Well, how long do you plan on doing this? This is kind of odd!” And I said, “As long …., until it gets awkward!” So, yeah, absolutely, it’s affected everyone’s ability to perceive and participate in breastfeeding.
Robin Kaplan: Absolutely. Marie, how about you?
Marie Kidder: I think mine has been more of a transition. You know my daughter is 11 months old, and in the beginning, I was much more modest about it and shy. I’m an only child. I’m the only grandchild here in the States so I didn’t have older siblings or cousins to kind of see as an example of what it would be like and in my family culture, I know my mom breastfed me, so it wasn’t…, my mom was very, very for it. But I didn’t have any examples. But I’m lucky that I had a lot of friends that breastfed, and that breastfed even beyond a year. And breastfed in public, around all the husbands. They were able to do it discreetly and I always said, “Well, that’s what I want to be when I grow up as a mom.” I want to, I want to go out in public and whip it out, but not have everybody see it.
Marie Kidder: Because I am personally modest of that and yeah, because…, because of the sexualization of it, because to me, it has a sexual reference, so I don’t want it…, I didn’t want to show it off. But now, at 11 months, if we are at the zoo and somebody accidently gets flashed a nipple, I just think, “Well, you know, you’ve probably seen better elsewhere, so….”
Marie Kidder: …., okay, go for it! You know? I still try to be quick and discrete, but I’m not like sweating over it, like I used to be in the beginning.
Robin Kaplan: Yeah. How about you Sunny?
Sunny Gault: Yeah. I definitely had the issues with breastfeeding in public and you know, I try to be somewhat discrete about it as well. But I still want to do it because I want people…, I don’t want people to feel weird, but I want them to at least see a mom, you know, even if she’s covered up, I don’t want it to be so…, just a weird thing. Because I think prior to having my own children, I even thought it was kind of a weird thing because I didn’t understand it and I wasn’t around breastfeeding moms growing up, you know? But, you know, the thing that I struggle with, I have two little boys, five months and my oldest is just over two years now. I’m starting to feel a little weird breastfeeding my five month old in front of my two year old. You know, it started kind of like with pumping, I’m like, “Oh, do I pump in front of them?”, but now, you know, I just don’t know how he’s looking at me. And someone said to me the other day, “Well you know, he can probably only see you naked for you know like another year.” So I’m like, “Really? Oh my gosh!” You know, because…., you know I provide for them so much because my husband works so much. I’m like, “If he can’t see me naked, I mean, that’s going to limit a lot of stuff, you know?”
Sunny Gault: And so…, but I would trace that back to a sexualization too. The other day I was nursing my five month old and my two year old came up and he just kind of put his hand on my breast as I was breastfeeding and I…, I got really weirded out by that. I was like…, I mean he obviously didn’t know…, you know, I mean he didn’t mean anything by it, you know, not in that manner, but I just felt like that seemed sexual because you are not breastfeeding anymore. You know, I think that all just comes back to culture and what we experience.
Robin Kaplan: Yeah. Emma do you think, I mean, I’ve read where like Scandinavian countries where extended breastfeeding and breastfeeding in public is just the norm, that they…, that they must have a different perspective on the breast then because our breasts list taboo in their cultures and is this why we have such a significant difference compared to countries who are more comfortable breastfeeding in public and extended breastfeeding?
Emma Pickett: Yeah and I think that’s true. I think part of the story about Scandinavia is about government support for breastfeeding. So, If you’ve got really powerful pro-breastfeeding messages, really good quality breastfeeding support in education, that is going to override some of the cultural messages about the breast being for another purpose, but it is true from what I’ve read that Scandinavian cultures tend to have a more natural approach to the human body, more about the beauty of the natural human body and there seems to be a better integration between the idea of the breast being for sex and the breast being for milk production. I don’t know if you are familiar with the work of Kathy Abbot who’s a Lactation Consultant. She did a study about Finland and she went up to a Finnish dad and said “How do you feel about your wife breastfeeding?” And she said that he looked at her like she was crazy. Like, how could that possibly be an issue? And he actually said, “Hey, you know? Here in Finland, we share! I get one breast and the baby gets the other breast!”
Emma Pickett: And can you imagine an American dad saying, you know, “I get one breast and the baby gets the other breast.” There would be a kind of “Eiek!” about that. That’s kind of crossing the line and you know, the same in England too, whereas they seem much more comfortable with that dual role with the breast. They seem more able to kind of integrate that.
Robin Kaplan: Well Emma, how do you feel society views the woman who is both breastfeeding and a sexual being?
Emma Pickett: Yeah, I mean that really is at the heart of what I think. That’s what society is not comfortable with. I mean if you think back to the Time magazine, you know, cover. If you think back to that cover about the attachment parenting and the mother feeding her three year old, you know, I mean obviously it would be great if we had a copy of that in front of us now, and maybe somebody listening can pull that up on their PC while their listening. You know, what was really threatening about that woman? I mean she was beautiful, she had the blond hair and the beautifully plucked eyebrows and the made-up face. She had you know, tight clothes, a great figure, she had her hand on her hip, her knee was bent, she was looking out at the…, at the…, you know, looking out at the camera; she was looking out at us in a very confident provocative way. You know, she wasn’t looking down at her child, you know, we didn’t have kind of her body language of kind of apology, apologizing for what she was doing. You know, she was really confident. And I think some of the controversy about that, after…, sorry and about that cover, came from the fact that she was being both sexual and maternal simultaneously in that one image. You know, if she had had a hairy upper lip and she’d been wearing baggy clothes, I don’t think it would have been as threatening as it is now. You know one thing that I heard someone say is that, you know, “What upsets us people about that image is the way that she’s moving from the realm of the sexual into the maternal. She’s going backwards and forwards. It’s a liquid movement between that sexual and maternal roles.” And if a woman can do that, they are powerful, they are unpredictable. You know, they are refusing to be compartmentalized which is what society wants them to do. So, you know, society is threatened by a woman who is both sexual and breastfeeding at the same time. They want the woman to separate those roles and put herself into boxes.
Robin Kaplan: Absolutely. And you mentioned in your article on your website several times that the sexy breast is only the non-functioning breast. Can you elaborate on this?
Emma Pickett: Yeah, I mean if you think about, you know, what’s a sexy breast in American culture? You know, it’s pretty much that enlarged, engorged, post-plastic surgery, you know, big, big breast. That’s the kind of Pamela Anderson breast, we’ve got an equivalent celebrity in this country called Jordan. You know, big, big, big, big breasts and they look like the breasts of a new-born mother, ironically.
Robin Kaplan: Yeah.
Emma Pickett: I mean, they are in engorged breasts, you know, three days post-partum, but the minute you add a drip of milk to that breast, you know, whoa! That’s not absolutely sexy any more.
Emma Pickett: You know, if Pamela Anderson is running along that Bay Watch beach and a drip of milk comes down from that breast, immediately, we are all expected to be revolted by that. You know, if you consider that you know, about half of all 16 to 21 year olds are considering plastic surgery in the UK, I’m going to guess it’s pretty similar levels in the States. There’s such powerful messages about what’s the breast for? The breast is for attracting a male gaze. If you look at lingerie ads and I’ve been looking at stuff like this in the last few months, even ads of the nursing bras….
Robin Kaplan: Yes!
Emma Pickett: …., you’ve women with the wind machine in their hair, they’ve got their make-up and looking out through the camera, looking at us. They are even like that provocatively unclipping the clip on their nursing bra, as they look at us. But the minute that ad is for a breast pump, that mother can’t look us anymore, she’s looking down, she’s looking out of the frame, she’s dressed differently, she’s not got the wind machine in her hair, she’s not made-up anymore. You know you cannot have a baby on her hip and she’s allowed to look at us in a sexy way. You know, that we are told very clearly that woman can only look a certain way, when they are not being maternal in that moment. And one thing that…, that a writer called Kathy Detweiler who writes a lot about breastfeeding says is that, we are so used to that image of the enlarged post-surgery breast as being sexy, that we don’t even think about it for a moment. I mean, hang on, this is like Chinese foot-binding in the 19th Century. This is like China where women were, you know, they bound their feet with bandages and their feet became tiny little stumps and they couldn’t walk on them properly. The foot lost its biological purpose. Women are having surgery before they’ve had kids, risking not being able to breastfeed successfully, because they see the purpose of the breast as being about attracting the male gaze. You know, it’s not about a functioning breast. If you get to be able to breastfeed after you’ve had surgery, great! But half the time, women aren’t even asking whether it’s possible when they are having surgery because it’s just not in their heads.
Robin Kaplan: Yeah, or it’s not being mentioned by their physician either. [Laughs].So…
Emma Pickett: Yeah, yeah. True.
Robin Kaplan: Well, ladies, what are your thoughts on this? Do you feel your breasts are less sexy now that they have…, they are functioning with a purpose? Erin, what do you think?
Erin Esteves: No, actually…., my husband is always commenting on how great they look!
Erin Esteves: So, I’m very lucky in that aspect. It was difficult in the beginning and she used a really good word that I have to pull out and that’s “Compartmentalized”, because particularly after my child was born, that’s what I had to do. I had to compartmentalize myself in as many different categories as I could, and until I became comfortable in each one of those categories, could I then begin to try and piece myself back together. And it’s only now, into the 11th month, that I’m really starting to feel more myself and I’m not taking so much issue with my breasts as both nurturing and “Nasty!”
Robin Kaplan: Nasty! Marie, how about you?
Marie Kidder: Mine are still in their own compartment.
Marie Kidder: And luckily, my husband is very understanding of that and he’s totally fine with that. They are a little off-limits unless it’s a very rare occasion, but I think they are more sexy now. You know, I mean they are fuller, I mean, like that engorged look that you were talking about, the first couple of days…, we were…, my child was an icu-baby and we were in the icu and they were huge and engorged, I was like, “Well, at least one part of me looks good right now!” And I definitely feel like I have…, I remember, before I had a baby, watching, you know like E-Online or those shows where they talk about the ladies on the red carpet and they talked positively like “Oh, well, she just had a baby so her breasts are showing it.” And I thought that. So that was a positive example of I guess society with breastfeeding boobs. But, yeah, I think they are more sexy. I like them. I’m a little…, I’m a little afraid of how my self confidence is going to change, once I’m done breastfeeding or in-between babies and if they are going to revert back to being less full.
Robin Kaplan: Okay, good point. How about you Sunny?
Sunny Gault: I’m the opposite, you guys. I do not like my breasts nearly as much, when I’m breastfeeding. I am about a C-cup, even, you know before having engorged breasts or you know, having a full milk supply. And I really enjoyed my breasts prior to getting pregnant the first time and then after I had my son, I noticed an immediate change in their perkiness and I did not like this, whatsoever! You know? I really enjoyed my breasts before getting pregnant and having my first son. And then I kind of…, you know, just kind of came to terms with the fact and I’ve always been someone that has said, “Listen, my breasts are for my children. After I’m done having kids, I’m all for surgery.” You know, that’s fine! Once they’ve served their purpose, and I’ve always thought that, you know, breasts are for my children first and my husband second. I really don’t care about him too much, you know?
Robin Kaplan: The breast not the husband.
Sunny Gault: But…, the breasts. But, yeah, yeah. So…, yeah, to me, it changes the way nipple looks…., I just feel a little deformed. I feel like my body is not my own, so how can I feel sexy if someone else’s taking hold of my body? You know, it’s not my own to feel sexy with. It’s, it’s…., you know, my five month olds. And then I’m like, “Well that’s weird, you know, me feel sexy if it’s really for my five month olds”. So, obviously, you know, I’m struggling with this. And I didn’t even realize before, you know, talking about it, that I really do struggle with this, is the difference between, you know, feeling sexual then also being able to care and breastfeed your baby as well. It’s an issue for me, obviously.
Robin Kaplan: Yeah. Well, and for a lot of women as well. So, when we come back, we are actually going to be delving into that. Do women compartmentalize? Do they need to? Are there ways around it? As well as, how can a breastfeeding mother incorporate sex back into her life? Because we do have this other partner who sometimes feels neglected. So, we’ll be right back.
Robin Kaplan: Alright, well we are back. Emma, can you describe the informal study you conducted last year and the results of this study about sex and breastfeeding.
Emma Pickett: Yeah. I mean basically I really wanted to find out what was in people’s heads and it’s not always women are not always able to talk as confidently as your panel are. Some people don’t want to have that conversation, so I created an anonymous survey, where I asked women about their experiences breastfeeding and sex. You know, how long do they have sex…, how long do they wait to have sex after they’ve had their first baby? Do they like their breast being touched during sex? How did they feel about their bodies? How do their partners feel about their bodies? I asked some kind of closed questions and some open questions. I had about 600 people respond to my survey. I got them mainly from Social Media, Parenting Forums in the UK. I was aware that if you are not feeling great about sex, you probably don’t want to answer some questions that some blooming lactation consultant has asked you, so I tried to encourage those women to come forward and answer those questions too and talk about their negative feelings about sex. And you know, the results were absolutely fascinating. I mean, people were really honest and open and I was just amazed at the huge spectrum of normal and everybody thought they weren’t normal. That was the other thing. Because no one was having this conversation and no one is really talking, even to their close friends about how does it feel to be a breastfeeding mother having sex. Everyone thought, “I’m not having sex. I’m the only person not having sex.” And equally, people thought, “I’m having sex, lots! I’m a freak!” People use that word. “My husband must be a freak! We are going to keep this to ourselves. No one else is having as much sex as I am. I am all alone.” People felt they were alone on each end of the spectrum and the other thing that was really striking was the impact, not just on breastfeeding, of on a woman’s perception of her body, but the impact of giving birth. Lots of women were feeling quite good about their breasts, but feeling bad about their…., their stomach and other parts of their body, or the fact that they put on weight. And so, what was just messages about the breast and the sexualization of the breast that were causing people trouble, but also societies images about what a sexy woman is. You know a sexy woman does not have a flabby tummy that hangs down. That’s not an image that we see very often. You know the celebrities are praised because they get back into their tight clothes and they are looking great after six weeks and the celebrities that keep weight on, are the ones that is not so thrilled about and the celebrity magazines are pretty tough on. And women are being affected by general feelings about their body, not just about whether their breasts have changed. And people were struggling and partners were struggling as well and even in the survey, people were being very honest about saying, my husband wants me to give up breastfeeding. That might not be something he was saying in public, but he was saying it to his partner. So, these people are really having a tough time and because they are not talking about it, it probably makes it even tougher.
Robin Kaplan: Emma, do you find that there is a paradigm shift that have to take place after a woman becomes pregnant and how she views her breasts even before she has a baby or is this mostly occurring after the baby is born?
Emma Pickett: I think one thing I’ve said that nobody can really predict how they are going to feel until the baby’s been born. So although people are beginning to make a transition in their head and they are beginning to think about some of the feelings that might arise, they really haven’t got a clue what it’s going to feel like until the baby’s there and the baby’s there a week or two weeks or three weeks. I think, you know, people are making some shifts and some women make shifts, shift easier than others and some women stop being sexual when they are pregnant and they already start to feel they need to be celibate. They feel that the idea of “Celibate Mother” is something that is required of them. And other people carry on being really sexual and seem to be able to integrate those roles. So there’s such a big range of what people are doing and how women are experiencing that shift.
Robin Kaplan: Absolutely. Ladies, have you found that your sex life is different since you’ve had your baby and mentally, has it been difficult for you to switch from the idea that you are breastfeeding mom to a sexual woman kind of a compartmentalization that we were talking about? Erin.
Erin Esteves: Well, for me it has. I think it does for everyone, particularly the frequency. You know, it’s not like it used to be, as often, and you know for me, before…, while I was pregnant, I actually read a book of women recounting their own tales of breastfeeding and one of the women talked about finding all of these men who were…., their fetish was to have sex with lactating women and that really stuck in my head and it kind of messed me up for a while.
Erin Esteves: Because, I…, I …, just like Marie, I was…., you know…., “This is off-bounds, do not go into this area. It’s the no cross zone”. And that, I did have to compartmentalize it. And we did have to kind of like figure each other out again. Because, you know, when you do things a certain way with someone for so long and then suddenly, an area is off-limits, you have to kind of learn each other again. So, yeah, and it really did help me compartmentalize until I could slowly incorporate back in.
Robin Kaplan: Yeah. How about you Marie?
Marie Kidder: It’s definitely different, in the sense that you’ve got to be a lot more creative with the timing.
Robin Kaplan: Sure.
Marie Kidder: But for us, I think it’s a little bit better because since our…, the frequency is a lot less and the opportunities are less frequent, when they do happen, we are like, “Alright! Let’s go! This is great!” He’s going on fraternity leave and I’m like, “If she takes a nap in the crib, that means like ‘Day-Time Sex!’”
Marie Kidder: You know? Means its Go Time! Upstairs! You know, while she’s downstairs! Wooo! Hooo! I think it was mentally a little bit more difficult for me, in the beginning to switch back and forth because, you know, and when I’d read about how you are giving all of that touch and that feeling to your baby and that intimacy, that really resonated with me, especially in the beginning couple of months, but at the same time, I really craved that one-on-one intimacy with my husband. So, it wasn’t even necessarily as much of a raw urge sexual craving, as it was just to…, just…, you know the act of love making and that intimacy with my husband, I think was, was more, I think, strong for me during that time.
Robin Kaplan: That’s….., you’ve phrased that so eloquently…., I’m…..
Marie Kidder: I’m glad!
Robin Kaplan: I’m still like….. It’s so beautiful. Sunny, how about you?
Sunny Gault: Yeah, I think physically, it’s totally different for me too. I think my issues though don’t have so much to do with breastfeeding, but just complications. You know, Emma was talking about, you know after you’ve gained weight. You know, I still have 25 pounds that I need to lose from this last baby. I don’t…, yeah, I don’t like to look at myself naked, so I think, why would my husband want to look at me naked? So no day-time sex for me!
Sunny Gault: I’m not…., I don’t want to see myself, I don’t expect anyone would want to see me.
Robin Kaplan: Although I doubt he feels that way though, it’s just…., but I understand.
Sunny Gault: Yeah, I know, it’s in our heads and I think for mean, in order to enjoy sex, I have to feel sexy.
Robin Kaplan: Sure.
Sunny Gault: I just, you know, if I’m feeling like a big old blob that’s going to, just…., milk everywhere once we have sex…., I mean, I just…, it’s not clean. I like sex to be clean if that makes sense. So yeah, I’m struggling with this quite a bit and on a lot of levels, not just because I’m a breastfeeding mom.
Robin Kaplan: Yeah. It’s funny too, as a Lactation Consultant, I haven’t had lactating breasts now for five years and I still am kind of…., there’s still a little…, they are less…., they are more off limits then they were before because, literally, I’m touching breasts all day, and so for me, I’m sure my husband would love that view, you know, that like he’d love to be a fly one the wall. But essentially, because, to me, breasts are functional. Still, even though mine are no longer functioning in that way and so I have this dichotomy going on as well, because this is the part I’m looking at all the time. It’s funny, I wonder about OBGYNs, like do they feel the same way?
Robin Kaplan: You know, like, “I look at crotches all day! Do I want to engage in that?”, but so I don’t know, but I still even have this, even without being a lactating mom. But, just a little bit of info, I’m sure my husband loved that I shared that. But, Emma, how can a breastfeeding mom incorporate sex into her life? Especially if she is compartmentalizing it and having a hard time dealing with not only the breasts and the lactating and but also the body? Sunny had mentioned you know, feeling sexy and…., do you have any recommendations for that?
Emma Pickett: Yeah, I mean I think you know it sounds kind of obvious to say it, but obviously the key things is got to be an honest dialogue, you know between the mother and her husband or you know her partner. And it needs to be okay for him to say, “I’m struggling and I miss sex and I wish we could find some way to regain intimacy” and we should be able to open a dialogue where he’s allowed to say those things, because I think sometimes, I’m assuming this is a heterosexual couple at the moment, but obviously some of these issues are relevant for gay couples too, but, you know, it should be okay for him to say, “I’m having a hard time.” And we shouldn’t feel threatened about that and we should be able to talk about these things honestly. The other thing that I would say is that, it’s important to try things. I’m not going to advocate anything too kinky here, but ….
Emma Pickett: …., when you read a lot of books about breastfeeding moms and sex, everyone says, “Oh, put breast-pads on, wear a bra. If you worry about leaking, wear a bra”. But you know, just take them off once, you never know, you could be surprised. I mean, you know, you may feel that this is going to be your husband’s problem, but maybe it won’t be. And you may be just have to try things and talk about things and see how things go you know, as you go along and also, the other important thing is that we are all incredibly tired, if we’ve got young kids, we are shattered. It doesn’t have to be full sex. There are lot of different ways to be sexual, there are a lot of different ways to be intimate, it doesn’t have to be “Oh my God, here we go, this is going to take an hour and this is going to end in penetration.” You know, there are lots of different ways to be sexual as a couple, and it’s important to re-create stuff and start from the beginning because, you know, as one of the panelist, this is new, bodies are new, feelings are new. Nipples are going to feel different. They are not going to feel like they felt like before and lots of women don’t want their nipples touch at all and they really don’t feel comfortable when their breastfeeding to have any breast contact. But you know, some women and these are women in my survey, like it much more than they did before and they are really surprised by how much they like it and they want to incorporate their nipple much more in the sex act, but they wouldn’t have found that out if they were wearing their breastpads and their bra, so it’s important to have a bit of experimentation.
Robin Kaplan: I love that idea!
Sunny Gault: I’d be scared that I’d leak on them though or something, but I’m so sorry!
Robin Kaplan: Well, but I think, I’m I right to say, I mean, but if that may not necessarily…, that may be more of thing that moms are afraid of but not necessarily….
Emma Pickett: You’d be surprised how many women in the survey said that their husbands like that. You know, and let’s be really frank for a moment. Oral sex is okay, but yeah – leaking breasts aren’t? How does that make sense? I mean, why is…, why is the leaking breast dirty, because of all these powerful messages we are getting about valuing milk and about who we are as women. Yet Oral Sex is okay? It doesn’t make sense. You know, I mean, milk is actually sweet, tastes great, you know it’s a lovely thing that’s making your baby grow and it’s not likely your husband is going to be completely freaked out. If he is, how about conversation and put the breast pads back on. But a lot of the time it’s the perception that he husband will be bothered and it isn’t necessarily the reality that he is.
Robin Kaplan: My last question for you is actually, you know, how can we change the way society fails to support breastfeeding moms? And it sounds like just in other cultures where they are breastfeeding in public all the time and they are doing extended breastfeeding and breastfeeding is not as sexualized as it is in the West and that’s kind of really where we need to go with this. Would you agree?
Emma Pickett: Yeah, I mean in an ideal world, sure. I mean, I think it’s going to be really hard to switch off the breast being sexy, that’s the way our culture is and it’s been that way for a long time. That’s never going to go away. But, it’s got to be sexy and functional at the same time. You know? And we’ve got to…. And then, every time somebody feeds in public, every time somebody sits on a bench in the mall, even if they’ve got their cover on, they are still sending a message about “This is what the breast if for.” But every time we hide away, every time we go upstairs because a friend’s husband is downstairs, every time we do that, we are compounding the message that breastfeeding is secret and private and you don’t get to see it because this is a sexual organ. So, you know, as breastfeeding moms, we can, you know, we can try and be brave and go out and do some breastfeeding in front of other women and in front of other girls and you know, that’s going to chip away at this image of the breastmilk being functional. And it’s going to take a long time, but you know, it’s going to get there in the end, and alongside that, there’s got to be some quality breastfeeding support as well, because if you are wavering about breastfeeding and you’re struggling and your nipples are sore and you are already feeling conflicted the sort of sexualization issue, you are not going to be breastfeeding. But if you’ve got really good quality breastfeeding support that sort of makes you feel empowered and helps you reach your breastfeeding goals, you’re more ready to battle through some of those images and some of those conflicting images.
Robin Kaplan: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much Emma for your insight into sex and the breastfeeding mom. We so appreciate your time and I know, it’s really late for you so thanks for staying up. [Laughs] Let us call you.
[Featured Segments: Breastfeeding Multiple Babies - Nutritional Needs for Moms of Multiples]
Robin Kaplan: Before we wrap things up today, here’s Joanna-Rose Fienberg with some tips for breastfeeding multiples.
Joanna-Rose Fienberg: Hi Boob Group, this is Joanna-Rose Fienberg, Editor of http://www.breastfeedingtwins.org . I’m a mom of twins and a Board Certified Lactation Consultant in the Seattle area. Today, we are going to talk about nutrition while breastfeeding. While you were pregnant, you probably paid attention to what you ate, maybe ensuring that you didn’t go too long between meals or that you were getting enough protein in your diet. Once the babies are born, it’s easy to lose track of your own nutrition as you focus on feeding your new babies. But it’s still important for you to eat well, especially if you are breastfeeding just like when you were pregnant, you’re eating for three. Here’s some tips. Try to eat regularly every few hours. Breastfeeding burns a ton of calories and you need to stay well-fed to keep up your energy. Stock your fridge with scavenger snacks you can eat one-handed. This can be as simple as preparing a stack of sandwiches to eat throughout the day or making some snack boxes with rolled deli-meat, cheese and sliced apples. If your partner or mom has time, this is something they can do to help you, even if they won’t be around during the day when you need to eat. For more protein-rich options, consider preparing a whole batch of hard-boiled eggs, or making a smoothie with fruit and yoghurt. If you or your babies don’t tolerate dairy well, you can also add a non-dairy protein powder to a smoothie for an extra boost. Keep some healthy granola bars near your regular nursing spots for a quick snack. You may even want to keep some fruit near the bed middle-of-the-night nursing sessions. Though you may want to pick something that’s less crumbly for eating in bed. It’s also important to stay hydrated. Keep a big bottle of water near your nursing station, so you can sip when you are thirsty. If you are supporting your milk supply with an herbal tea, you can brew a large batch and drink it over ice throughout the day. Making enough milk for two or more babies takes a lot of extra calories. Some recommendations for just an extra 500 calories and 10 grams of protein per baby.Definitely not the time to start a diet. For more tips and personal breastfeeding stories, please visit http://www.breastfeedingtwins.org and keep listening to The Boob Group for more twin tips.
Robin Kaplan: If you would like to share your opinion about the topic we discussed on today’s episode, please call our hotline at 619 866 4775 and leave us a message on our voicemail. We would love to share it on an up-coming episode. Coming up next week, we’ll be discussing “Boobie Traps after a Hospital Birth”. Thanks for listening to The Boob Group, because mothers know breast.
This has been a New Mommy Media Production. The information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though such information materials are believed to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problems or disease or prescribing any medication. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified healthcare provider.
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