For three years, I nursed my son.
I had some many challenges during that time: clogged ducts, low supply, thrush. I sometimes wonder how I made it through, but made it through I did.
And then there was the weaning—very gently, deliberating, with lots of child propaganda (books about kids weaning), lots of cuddles, lots of reassurance.
And so, I reclaimed my breasts. They were mine again.
But recently, my 6-year-old son has been asking if he can suck on my nipples again. I don’t know why this timing (parenting can be so oblique sometimes), but I do know it’s not just a one-time ask.
Don’t get me wrong, I love breasts. I also find them fascinating. Beautiful, luscious, all shapes and sizes. On the one hand: profoundly utilitarian, but on the other, sensual and sexual. I have certainly appreciated the aesthetic beauty of breasts (and certainly the women who own the breasts), but I find it fascinating to see my six year old also so magnetized.
Our household is a clothing optional household, so it’s not like he’s never seen my breasts. He’s seen all of us naked, but breasts—he is drawn to mine.
Each time he asks about my nipples, I gently say no. I let him know my nipples are sensitive. He says he’ll be gentle. I tell him no. No amount of reasoning seems to quite land for him. He tells me I can touch any part of his body; this is fine. It’s not a game of tit for tat. (Or tits for tats ;).
There are times when I’m fine with him putting a hand on my breast, or even a hand on my nipple. Something gentle, heavy, but I draw the line at suckling.
It is strange these lines we draw with our children. Where are those places? When are those times? What is cultural? What is personal? What is sensual? What is arousing?
To be clear, breastfeeding was both utilitarian and sensual to me. Oxytocin floods the system as the milk lets down. When I was too tense, my milk wouldn’t let down, but when it did, I felt my body flooded with oxytocin, and it felt wonderful.
It was not the same, however, as having an adult suck on my nipples, which is very arousing.
And herein is the difference. My son is not a baby anymore. He’s not a toddler. He is an articulate child who builds forts, knows how to swear, is beginning to understand the more complex nature of humans. He’s not an adult. But, him sucking me gets into a gray area that I don’t feel comfortable with. My body contracts, and I say no.
Instead of taking it out on him (I don’t), I continually reinforce my gentle no. I sent boundaries. I hope that one day he will appreciate that when he is with someone who also sets boundaries around their body.
I hope one day he will appreciate my no.
This piece originally appeared on Paget Norton’s blog.