Do you remember when your breasts started to grow? How did you feel? Did you receive any kind of comment that bothered you? Did you ever feel ashamed about how your body was developing? Did your environment encourage you to feel comfortable with your breasts or maybe you had to cover yourself constantly?
It could be that one of these questions removes you or that even today your behaviour is conditioned as a result of those experiences, have you ever thought about that?
Without any doubt the breasts, tits, boobs, boobies, knockers, melons… And endless different ways to call this part of our body rarely go unnoticed, in fact, through the objectification of the female body, most times we relate them to a sexual or erotic issue or even to use as a publicity stunt. We learn how the pancreas, the liver, and the digestive system work. But, what about the breasts? When are we taught or shown the biological function of our breasts? What references do we have of women breastfeeding freely? How many dolls have we seen breastfeeding?
Many of us, up to the moment we try to get pregnant, consider maternity or when we are already pregnant, we start to ask ourselves if our breasts will be useful for breastfeeding and if we will have enough milk. In fact, the main cause of abandonment of breastfeeding is the feeling or perception of not having enough milk or that the baby remains hungry, and this connects us directly with our self-esteem, with distrust about our own ability to breastfeed our babies.
We question from the size of the nipple, the color of it, whether we have small, large or asymmetrical breasts, whether we have had a breast reduction or breast prosthesis, even that piercing in the nipple, connects us at that time with the fact of whether breastfeeding will be affected or not. Some women even value whether the embarrassment of showing their breasts in public will condition the decision to breastfeed or not… Suddenly, the function of our breasts matters to us, but no one has ever explained to us how they work. We have no idea, and unfortunately, many of us have had few close references to breastfeeding women.
Luckily, things are changing, thanks to the work of many women who, little by little and over the years, have been creating and building a super-powerful network that fights for the rights of mothers, babies, and the global health of people, favoring that we are increasingly and better informed, being able to decide freely what we want to do and how we are going to do it.
And here we are, with a baby hooked to the breast (perhaps more than we imagined) and with our backpack of prejudices, stigmas, shame, insecurities, fears … Related to our breasts and many other things.
Suddenly, we become a breastfeeding women, and this already conditions many scenarios that we had not considered and that can often be curious (or even comical). We go from hiding our breasts to being out all day with them, to touching them constantly, and this at home can be easier, in privacy and security, but what happens when my father-in-law, my father, a co-worker or even my boss are in front of us? What if I’m away from home? Do I feel comfortable? Do you observe the reactions of the people around you? On many occasions we can perceive discomfort, of course, for many they are still “the boobies”, that part of the sexual body, “I’m looking at the tits of my daughter-in-law, my worker or this stranger. And those looks that judge, that are uncomfortable, that are not complicit looks, and that don’t make us feel good, can condition us when it comes to breastfeeding our child, and look for the thousand and one ways to breastfeed so that we don’t see our breasts, to run from one side to the other so that I don’t ask for breastfeeding in the middle of the street.
So, what happens sexually and with my partner? Many women stop seeing their breasts as an erotic or sexual element, tits become the baby’s food, and therefore, they are the private property of the little one. Many of us may find it unpleasant to have our breasts touched when we have sex, or in an erotic situation, it may be that what we liked before being mothers, now we find unpleasant or that touching the breast breaks the intimate moment with the couple and connects you directly with your baby.
And what happens when we reach orgasm? Surprise! We may start to get milk from our nipples because of the rise in oxytocin levels that also occurs when we have an orgasm. This can cause different sensations: it can make us uncomfortable, it can be very exciting, or we can have a laughing fit.
We may also feel a sensation very similar to sexual excitement while breastfeeding our child, and that may surprise us! Many women experience it with shame, secretly or with a lot of guilt. When what is happening is not sexual excitement as such, it is a body response that reacts to pleasant, pleasurable stimulation without sexual connotations. Pleasure and sex don’t have to mean the same thing. We lose sight of the fact that breastfeeding is part of our sexual and reproductive lives, just like pregnancy and childbirth. And when stimulated, the body responds naturally.
And in the midst of this hurricane of sensations, emotions, situations and feelings related to our tits, one day we connect with what they were before and can appear again the concern that had not appeared for a long time: Will my breasts be erotic again? Will my partner like it? How will I stay after breastfeeding? Will my breasts fall off? Will they feel the same way?
We don’t expect all women to experience breastfeeding the same way, much less we want to encourage you to reflect on what makes you feel uncomfortable, what conditions your way of living breastfeeding, what prejudices about ourselves are being put into play or manifest, how we have been educated and how we are going to do it … Perhaps if we all make this journey in the time we proposed at the beginning and look back, we can analyze where we came from and how we are living or how we have lived our breastfeeding, if we all value this path, we will be empowered to feel safe to do with our tits as we please, freely, without impositions of any kind.
Mariona Busto (psychologist in LactApp Clinic)