Here’s something nobody tells you about breastfeeding: you probably won’t want your partner to touch your breasts, like, ever again. You might as well hang a sign on them that says “BACK THE FUCK OFF” because your baby can’t read but your significant other sure as shit can. Sometimes I think that’s the only way he (or she) will get the hint.
One author noted that women and men she interacted with often ascribed ownership of their breasts to either their husband or their baby (Spencer & Khaki, 2015). As in, “they’re the baby’s food now so my husband will get his playthings back when I’m done nursing.” This was just an observation that was written up as an opinion piece, so not solid research, but she blamed society at large for this phenomenon. Society sells us the idea that we can be a sexual woman, and we can be a mother, but never simultaneously (Spencer & Khaki, 2015). Think back to when Sex and the City portrayed Charlotte & Trey’s troubles in the bedroom. (Am I dating myself with that one? Shit.) Other researchers have theorized that women and their partners have a difficult time mentally separating the breasts as an organ for sexual pleasure and an organ for nurturing their innocent children (Convery & Spatz, 2009). It is an understandably difficult leap to make. Looking down at your breast and seeing your beautiful baby suckling is a sight that fills you with love, joy, pride, and maybe even euphoria. Ten minutes later you’re supposed to look down to see a grown-ass man taking up that same spot and feel turned-on? For some women, it’s totally possible, even enjoyable. For others, a resounding NOPE.
Breasts and nipples can also be super sensitive during lactation (Convery & Spatz, 2009), and so things you used to enjoy may really just not feel the same. My personal hunch (please will someone hire me to properly investigate all my hunches) is that lactational aggression is to blame. In my experience, the feeling of anyone but my baby touching my breasts causes a very physical reaction. I feel my whole body tense up and withdraw. Think to any skin-crawling, “nails on a chalkboard”, icky sensation you’ve ever felt and amplify that x100. The best way I can describe how I feel is to say it’s instinctive, primal, and angry. Lactational aggression is a maternal behavior that has been extensively studied in animals, but it is just beginning to be researched in humans. Because obviously the behaviors of lactating macaques, rats, mice, prairie voles, cats, deer, lions, rabbits, squirrels, and sheep should all be studied before actual human women (Hahn-Holbrook et al., 2011). But I digress. One human experimental study, although it was limited by a small sample size, found that breastfeeding mothers displayed heightened aggression compared to formula feeding mothers and to women who have never had a child (Hahn-Holbrook et al., 2011). One unwelcomed reach towards baby’s food supply and BAM, mama bear is ready to rip you to pieces. Funny how a baby sucking on your nipple with the force of a Dyson doesn’t hurt, but your partner grazing your nipple with a pinky makes you want to punch them squarely in the face.
Convery, K. M., & Spatz, D. L. (2009). Sexuality & breastfeeding: What do you know?. MCN: The American Journal Of Maternal/Child Nursing, 34(4), 218-223. doi:10.1097/01.NMC.0000357913.87734.af
Hahn-Holbrook, J., Holt-Lunstad, J., Holbrook, C., Coyne, S.M., & Lawson, E.T. (2011). Maternal defense: Breast feeding increases aggression by reducing stress. Psychological Science, 22(10), 1288 – 1295. doi:10.1177/0956797611420729
Spencer, B., & Khaki, A. (2015). Whose breasts are they anyway? International Journal of Women’s Health and Reproduction Sciences, 3(2), 75-76. Doi: 10.15296/ijwhr.2015.13