When I read a passage in Ina May Gaskin’s book that suggested that breastfeeding can be a sexual experience I nearly fell out of bed. Sexual? Was she kidding? I felt as though nursing was one of the least sexual experiences. I had heard women say that breastfeeding was physically pleasureful. While I was curious about whether sexual feelings would arise while nursing, I usually felt more like a dairy cow than a sexual woman when nursing.
But if you had asked me if breastfeeding was spiritual, I would have responded differently. Not in the first weeks of nursing, but now that we’ve mastered the mechanics of nursing, breastfeeding is often elevated to a higher realm.
Let me explain.
At the outset, I couldn’t stop thinking about whether I was nursing correctly that I couldn’t enjoy it at all. Breastfeeding was highly technical. While it wasn’t devoid of emotion—it made me cry occasionally, or wince with pain—nursing certainly wasn’t ethereal.
Then Ayla matured. She perfected her latch. She drank more efficiently. So I tossed my nursing pillow aside and learned to nurse her anywhere, anytime. I learned to maneuver her into the right position while sitting in a restaurant, walking home, rocking her to sleep or flying in a plane. But even with these notches in my nursing belt, spirituality didn’t figure into the picture.
Then Ayla turned 6 months old and began to spend longer stretches of time away from me. When we were reunited, my breasts were so full that I could have squirted milk across the living room into my partner’s coffee cup. At those times, I would thank God for her thirst. It was a tremendous release. But nothing more than that.
But after six months, something changed. I began to notice a current of electricity pass between my daughter and I when we nursed. It grew stronger and stronger. And suddenly, we began communicating on a deeper level when I lifted my shirt and held her close to my bosom.
If I closed my eyes while nursing, I’d often see images of the two of us in the far future—she as a young adult and I as an older woman. I also “saw” us playing on the beach, walking in a forest, taking in a sunset on the top of a cliff. These images were so satisfying. They helped me trust that Ayla would be loved and protected in her lifetime.
There were other times when I could “hear” Ayla speak to me when we nursed. When she looked up into my eyes while nursing, I could almost hear her whisper, “I love you.” Or, after drinking my milk for a long time, I could swear that a little voice said, “Thank you mama” before falling asleep.
When Ayla was eight months old, she contracted the Chicken Pox. She was covered in spots, burning hot and crying from the pain. Nursing was the only salve to her discomfort. I kept Ayla on my breast almost continuously for a whole week. While nursing her I prayed, recited blessings and sang quiet songs.
With each passing day, the energy between and around us intensified. It began with her pain. Then I showered her with motherly love. Before long, I called out to the Divine Mother, and asked if She could join us. Eventually, Ayla and I were both welcomed into what felt like God’s bosom—a place so warm and loving that we couldn’t help but be healed.
That was the day that I had my first spiritual parenting experience. Breastfeeding was the act that helped me see God in the bond between parent and child.
Do you have a similar story to share? Was breastfeeding sexual for you? Or spiritual? Or both? I’d love to hear from you.