Is breastfeeding a sexual act?




children taken because of a breastfeeding photo






See the full article from Dallas Observer at 1-Hour Arrest; When does a snapshot of a mother breast-feeding her child become kiddie porn?

From the News: 
Children taken away because of a breastfeeding photo in Texas

Adapted from "Breastfeeding a crime?" by Linda Folden Palmer

Two children were taken away from their parents after a photo of a 12-month-old baby with his lips on his mother's nipple was developed at a local drug store and then reported to authorities by the shop's clerk. No experts were consulted, no evaluations were made, the children were simply whisked away and the parents charged with the second-degree felony of "sexual performance of a minor."

According to the Dallas Observer, after responding to the photo clerk's alert, Richardson police in Texas reportedly considered the pictures to contain sexuality. A Child Protective Services supervisor, without any information beyond the photos, ordered the children to be removed from their home.

The police searched the one-room home for other evidence of pornography or questionable parenting as the children were taken away from their perplexed and pleading mother Jacqueline Mercado on November 13, 2002. Nothing was found. Subsequent psychological examinations of the parents revealed no signs of sexual deviancy. 

The family's attorney Steven Lafuente was very surprised to see the innocence of the pictures and to discover that there was no other evidence whatsoever. Still, a Grand Jury swiftly indicted the couple in January, basing their decision on the breastfeeding photo and no other incriminating evidence. 

The charges against the couple were dropped in late March after a reporter from the Dallas Observer asked a District Attorney to look into the case. The children remained in State Custody however. When reporter Thomas Korosec broke the story in the Observer on April 17, the paper received some 50 letters and the courthouse and attorneys were similarly flooded with mail. Members of a national attachment parenting organization flooded the offices with their own treasured breastfeeding and bath time photos. Only days after the story hit the stands, the children were returned to their mother.

The attorney described the distraught Spanish-speaking parents as never entirely understanding what they had done wrong, why they were being threatened with prison, and why their family was torn apart. They explained to him how they had worked so hard and long to move their family to this "land of the free" and that they loved their children so very much. They expressed that they would never do anything to harm their children and did not intend to break the laws of their new country.

While the family tries to heal, the real crime is going entirely ignored. It is a sad statement of our new civilization when a photo store clerk, two police detectives, a CPS supervisor, and an entire grand jury have all forgotten how babies are fed, and are unable to appreciate the treasury of capturing the tender fleeting moments of childhood on film.

Dr. Palmer coordinates attachment parenting support groups throughout San Diego County and lectures and consults in issues of pediatric nutrition and health. She maintains the website



oxytocin cuddle hormone






Read more about hormones and bonding in this excellent article by Linda Folden Palmer Bonding Matters: The Chemistry of Attachment

 - Lots of info about oxytocin


The above incident sadly proves how in some people's minds breastfeeding is a sexual act.  In other words, they think that the mother and/or the baby have sexual feelings while nursing is taking place.  The truth is that breastfeeding is fundamentally a feeding act.  It is about giving food or nourishment to the child.  Female breasts produce milk, which is the normal food for human babies.  The obvious biological function of breasts is to make milk, not to be an essential part of human reproduction, so WHY in the world is breastfeeding seen as a sexual act?  There are two main points to consider...

1) Is breastfeeding an act of sexual pleasure?

Do mother and baby feel something sexually while nursing?  To think that the baby would feel something sexually is utter nonsense.  Little babies and children don't have any such thoughts or feelings going through their mind.  For them the breast is simply a source of food and comfort.  Of course nursing feels good to the baby, but that feeling is not sexual, just a general good feeling.

The mother also generally enjoys nursing her child (unless her nipples are sore!).  This is largely due to a hormone-like substance called oxytocin which is released as a consequence of nursing and holding the infant, the levels being based on the amount of this kind of contact.

Oxytocin also produces uterine contractions during labor, is strongly involved in mother-child bonding after birth and during breastfeeding relationship, it is released during sexual intercourse, and its blood levels rise also in response to touch, warmth, and remembering a positive relationship.  It is released in the brain chiefly in response to social contact, but its release is especially pronounced with skin-to-skin contact.

This hormone has been called the "love hormone" or the "cuddle hormone" or the "bonding hormone".  It provides a sense of calm and well being and promotes bonding patterns and creates desire for further contact with the individuals inciting its release.  It helps the mother and child to bond together.  It is involved in those mothering feelings we experience after giving birth to a child. Since it is present during sexual intercourse, it also helps men and women to bond together and form lasting relationships.  It makes you want to cuddle, touch, be close, be affectionate towards another human being.  Without oxytocin, animals don't recognize or remember their partner though they are able to recognize objects.  Autistic children (who often have difficulty with social relationships) have lowered levels of this hormone.

Oxytocin is not the only part of the soup of chemicals produced in our bodies when we cuddle and feel close to our children.  Opioids (pleasure hormones) are natural morphine-like chemicals that reduce pain awareness and create feelings of elation. Social contacts, particularly touch - especially between parent and child - induce opioid release, creating good feelings that will enhance bonding.

It is wrong to say that breastfeeding is a sexual act just because the "cuddle hormone" oxytocin is present both during nursing and sexual intercourse.  We should instead say that both nursing and sexual intercourse are connected to LOVE, INTIMACY, CLOSENESS - one towards your child, the other towards your spouse.  Ask breastfeeding women; the vast majority do NOT feel anything sexual while nursing their babies.  If some do, it is because they connect breasts with sex, and their own thinking causes them feel aroused.

Hugging, kissing, nursing your child is not a sexual act but AN ACT OF MOTHERLY LOVE.


Another important point to consider is...

















(for milk and a toy)






breast seen as sexual because of cultural influence

2) Are breasts sexual objects?

Certainly people in the US, UK, Australia, and other countries think of breasts as being a sexual organ.  However, the obvious biological function of breast is to make milk for the baby.  Human reproduction can certainly be carried on without ever touching the breasts, so breasts are NOT inherently a sexual organ.

But are they somehow both a feeding machine and secondarily a sexual organ, as many think?  Consider the fact that about 100 years ago woman's ankles were very sexual in men's minds.  And tiny feet were a fetish for Chinese men in times past.  All kinds of parts of female body have been inspiring to men during history and in various cultures, so we ask you to consider that breasts simply have been turned into a similar fetish in US society and others influenced by it.  Anatomically or physiologically there is nothing in the breast to make it sexual; breasts take no part in human procreation.  Nipples are not by nature a special erogenous body part - unless you think so.  All this is just the image created by television, magazines and the surrounding culture that almost everybody in the USA believes.

"Well, we do have a peculiar obsession with breasts in this culture. A lot of people think it's just the human nature to be fascinated with breasts but in many cultures, breasts aren't sexual at all. I interviewed a young anthropologist working with women in Mali, in a country in Africa where women go around with bare breasts. They're always feeding their babies. And when she told them that in our culture men are fascinated with breasts there was an instant of shock. The women burst out laughing. They laughed so hard, they fell on the floor. They said, "You mean, men act like babies?"

Carolyn Latteier, the author of Breasts, The Women's Perspective on an American Obsession, in a TV program "All about breasts". (see transcript

Of course anything on the human body can be sexual if used that way, and it is up to the couple what they do during their intimate moments, which body parts they touch or caress.  We are just emphasizing that breasts are not inherently sexually arousing.  The greatest sexual organ is the brain.  Human beings can get aroused by about anything if the brain is in it, depending on their beliefs, experiences, and state of mind.

Breasts are of course a very feminine body part.  Just like long hair and curved hips, they signal that a person is of the female sex.  In fact, the word "sexual" can simply mean "pertaining to either male/female sex", and in that sense you could say breasts are sexual.  It is just fine and commendable that men view female breasts as feminine, as something that accentuates that the person is mature and capable of feeding her children as God intended.  Breastfeeding is a wonderful and beautiful process of nourishing and comforting your offspring with your own body.  There is nothing wrong if men and boys appreciate breasts for their real purpose and see them as 'sexual' in the sense of 'pertaining to the feminine sex, something making the person very much female, a woman, a MOTHER who can feed her children'.



Bonding Matters: The Chemistry of Attachment by Linda Folden Palmer

‘Cuddle hormone’ - Research links oxytocin and socio-sexual behaviors

Hormone involved in reproduction may have role in the maintenance of relationships

Oxytocin may mediate the benefits of positive social interaction and emotions.
by Uvnas-Moberg K. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1998 Nov;23(8):819-35.

Plasma oxytocin levels in autistic children
by Modahl C, Green L, Fein D, Morris M, Waterhouse L, Feinstein C, Levin H. Biol Psychiatry. 1998 Feb 15;43(4):270-7.





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Disclaimer: Information here is not medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, nor to replace the advice you could get from a health professional. If you are in doubt, please see a doctor (or several). So if you're in doubt, and especially if you have some other symptoms, please see a doctor.