Monday, April 9, 2012

Is Breastfeeding Gross?

I had someone approach me with a curious question before Lydia was born. The question had left my mind until this past weekend, when I was feeding Lydia in our room. She was smiling and grunting and the moment was sweet ... and the question again crossed my mind.

They wanted to know if breastfeeding was gross.

At first I had to stifle the urge to laugh. What in the world? The idea of breastfeeding being gross had never crossed my mind--ever--but when I saw the genuine concern on her face, I realized she was being serious. She was married and wanted to start a family and was honestly worried about the prospect of breastfeeding, because up until that point, the function of her boobs had been purely sexual.

So then I started thinking about it, and this is where I throw out a huge disclaimer, letting you know right now that my approach to answering this question will contain both honesty and humor, so, you know. You will see the word "boob" several times. Just roll with it, okay?

Because honestly, for some women, the idea of someone latching onto their boob--someone that they don't know yet, really--is slightly frightening.

And when I think about it that way, I can understand why someone might have their apprehensions.

For me, breastfeeding was a no-brainer, since I was breastfed and my sister-in-law, the one whom I first saw go through the whole having-a-baby thing, breastfed as well. Breastfeeding just came with having a baby, in my world. But actually having a baby, and going through the breastfeeding process ... it's different when you experience it for yourself. For some women, they don't make enough milk. For others, it's way too much work. And, frankly, for some, they just don't like it. But I would always encourage a Mom to at least give it a whirl and then make their choice.

But is there a possibility that it could be gross? That it's just a tad too intimate for some women?

Every woman's body is different, every woman's life experiences are different, so there are really several factors that come into play when attempting to answer that question. But, this is how I would break it down:

Let's use an example. Like, say, hugs. Hugs are nice, right? We would probably all venture to say that hugs are a good thing. They make us feel good!

Well, not really. Hugs are all fine and sweet as long as they are from someone we like. All it takes is that One Awkward Person, whom we all know, who makes their way towards you, arms open wide, and you freeze and try to shirk away, thus resulting in the ever-popular "side hug", as your getaway meets their embrace and you're stuck there for two agonizing seconds of awkwardness. Bleh. We've all been there. Hugs are sweet and fine as long as you like the person approaching you. But if you don't like that person, your defenses go up and the sweet hug becomes an annoying prison. The point I'm reaching is that there is more to touch than what is purely physical. It is just as, if not more, mental and emotional as well!

The same goes for breastfeeding, I think.

When my baby is born and in those first few moments of his/her life when they put him/her on my belly and the breastfeeding attempts begin, my thoughts and hormones are all baby. Whether you ultimately breastfeed or not, I think most moms would agree that from that moment, everything is focused on doing what's best for the baby--whether you are experiencing elation or terror--you realize that this tiny person's survival is based solely on you. So whether that means that they latch onto your boob, your toe, or your nose in order to live, you acquiesce.

And if you choose breastfeeding, then your boobs become purely functional. It can hurt. It can sting. But, after a while, in my experience, I can't even really feel it anymore. The only "stimulation" I feel is when my milk lets down and oh, the sweet release of an engorged boob is AWESOME. But it's nothing sexual. It's purely ... maternal and natural. And honestly, it's really cool. Our bodies are amazing.

And can your boobs still be sexual? Um, YES. It might take a little getting used to at first, but again, everything is hormone driven. The way you feel when your husband walks into the room is different than the way you feel when you bend down to pick your baby up out of the crib. God created us to be brilliantly multi-faceted and somehow, we are able to play different roles. The transition between the roles can be tricky (really, whether you breastfeed or not!), but that just takes time.

So. Is breastfeeding gross? I don't personally think so. But ... what do you think?

Have a lovely day!


  1. I think it's 100% natural!! Our society is so strange the way we idolize boobs. They are meant to feed our babies. I love this post.

  2. I don't think it is gross. I breastfed 3 babies, and I am so glad I did. My son (2) thinks boobs are for babies, and I hope he thinks that for a long time! :)

  3. I don't think it's gross at all! I have heard people say this MIL actually told me this is the reason she never breastfed her children. She saw a friend do it and thought it was disgusting. Not the 'act' of it, but what her friend's chest had turned into. LOL. She didn't want that to happen to her. I can't even imagine what this woman looked like, but I've never seen anyone who breastfeeds look 'disgusting'. Most women LOVE their breastfeeding bodies. Imagine what she thinks of ME after nursing 3 babies! Ha.

    I say to each their least try it.

  4. I have to admit, the idea of it super weirds me out. Granted, I haven't had babies yet, so of course I have quite a lot yet to experience in life (or maybe won't ever experience). I just can't really comprehend how my body could produce and dispense a life-giving substance and that it does it all on its own. It's like a whole door to my body that I haven't unlocked yet. I guess it's more mind-blowing than gross to me, but yeah, the whole idea is very foreign. I have creepy dreams about breastfeeding all the time--I think it's my subconscious's way of trying to get me used to the idea. :)

  5. Love this! I think it's sad that people think breastfeeding is gross...a direct result, I'm sure, of how overly sexual our culture is. I also think it's sad when mommies don't even give breastfeeding a chance. In my opinion, that's just selfish to deprive your child of what God intended for them to eat. There are obvious exceptions for medical reasons, and by all means, if breastfeeding is making you resent your baby, please stop! :) But as a general rule, I think everyone needs to at least TRY. And actually takes a couple of weeks (at least) for mommy and baby to figure it all out! :)
    *stepping off soapbox*
    Oh, and I agree...there are definitely, um, adjustments in transitioning from mommy to wife. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes you don't want ANYONE touching them, but in my opinion, it's a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of a marriage, and one worth making :)
    I guess I may have stepped back on my soapbox...oops :)

    1. I agree that it's definitely worth trying, but I do try to be careful with the idea that God intended for babies to breastfeed--obviously we were created as mammals and thusly have mammary glands :), but He has also made it possible for babies to survive on something other than breast milk. If a Mom chooses to breastfeed or bottle feed, regardless if the reason is medical or not, that's totally her choice. I hope I was able to communicate that even though I prefer breastfeeding, that really wasn't the point of the post--I was curious to know if anyone had been afraid of breastfeeding because of the, um, potential awkwardness of it!! :)

  6. Great post! Not gross at all. I'm nursing my (almost) 22 month old and still going strong. But, as much as I love breastfeeding now, I wasn't sure how I would feel about it before I had him. I always knew I was going to nurse my babies, but wasn't sure how I it would feel. Definitely not a sexual feeling whatsoever. So glad I stuck through it, even though it wasn't always easy at times.

  7. I had never really given it much thought until I was pregnant. It didn't really gross me out, but the logistics kinda freaked me out. I was worried about being too ticklish to even be able to nurse. Lol! Luckily, my husband and friend Jen provided an awesome support system. I was able to nurse for 1 year, but it wasn't without bumps in the road. I received lovely comments from concerned family members that my child was getting too old. I was also bothered when I received, "it must be meal time," comments when my child wanted me to hold her. So based on my experience, no its not gross. However, there are people who are uncomfortable with it and would probably disagree.

  8. Thank you for posting this honest and quite cute post!!! Several of my girlfriends are have babies and none of them have/are breastfeeding...a couple think its gross, one couldn't make it work, and another just didn't...a girl I work with swears by it, though! As a non-mom, it does sort of weird me out (I feel ya, Spring), but I am totally planning on doing it!

  9. Breastfeeding was an obvious choice for me because it's so convenient and cheap. Honestly my son would be in serious danger if I was responsible for sterilising, washing and preparing bottles for him.. I had no idea that I would love it as much as I do though (we're at 10 months with no signs of stopping any time soon). Bonding with him this way has been an awesome experience.

    I didn't find it gross at all, and on the flip side, I was amazed at how empowered I felt. Everywhere I look women's breasts are treated as sexual objects, something used to sell products and used to communicate to all women that this is who we are, this is our worth, etc.. It was awesome to see that God created our breasts also to sustain the life of another human being - what could be a more noble, strong purpose than that?

  10. I breastfed all four of my babies because it was good for them, convenient and cheap for me, and about the only time I was forced to just SIT. Sometimes I had a toddler on my lap while the baby ate, and sometimes we'd be out in public (gasp!) while the baby was smacking away under the hooter-hider. Lovely. Not gross.

    My first baby was the hardest because, obviously, I'd never done it before. Lactation consultants saved my life. While I had never been man-handled quite like that before, they taught me how to make it work. So, if you're commenting on this post and thinking about giving it a go, utilize those lactation consultants! They're angels in disguise :)

  11. Before I was pregnant, the thought of breastfeeding was kinda weird, mostly because I'd never been around people who'd done it. After I started with Emery, it was so gratifying, convenient (for the most part), cheap, and snuggly that I loved it! Great post.

  12. I think breastfeeding is natural & packed full with all kinds of benefits -- be it financial, convenient, and bonding benefits. But I also know -- and have always known -- it's not for me. And I'm okay with that. And thank goodness my girls are 10 (almost 11! EEK!) and there are no more babies on the horizon! ;)