Erotic lactation refers to a person achieving sexual arousal by breastfeeding or sucking on a female’s breast. Depending on the context, the practice can also be referred to as adult suckling, adult nursing, and adult breastfeeding. Practitioners sometimes refer to themselves as being in an adult nursing relationship (ANR). Two persons in an exclusive relationship can be called a nursing couple, though this term is also sometimes used for a mother and her child. “Milk fetishism” and “lactophilia” are medical, diagnostic terms for these paraphilias.
Breasts, and especially nipples, are highly erogenous zones, both for men and women. Nipple and breast stimulation of women are a near-universal aspect of human sexuality, though nipples in males are not as sexualized.
Humans are the only primates that have females with permanently enlarged breasts after the onset of puberty; other primate species only are enlarged during pregnancy. One hypothesis postulates that the breasts grew as a frontal counterpart to the buttocks when primates became upright, thus attracting males.
Another hypothesis suggests that breasts provide an unfakeable and sexually stimulating indicator of maidenhood, with which women compete (through sexual selection) for mates. Other theories include that by chance breasts act as a cushion for infant heads, are a signal of fertility, or elevate the head in breastfeeding to prevent suffocation. That said, there is another school of thought that sees breasts as an evolutionary flaw because they can actually suffocate a nursing infant.
Unintended milk flow (galactorrhea) is often caused by nipple stimulation and it is possible to reach normal milk production exclusively by suckling on the breast. Nipple stimulation of any sort is noted in reducing the incidence of breast cancer.
Because female breasts and nipples are generally regarded as an important part of sexual activity, it is not uncommon that couples may proceed from oral stimulation of the nipples to actual breastfeeding. In lesbian partnerships, mutual breastfeeding has been regarded as a familiar expression of affection and tenderness.
A 2005 scientific survey (composed of 1690 British men) revealed that in 25 to 33% of all couples, the male partner had suckled his wife’s breasts. Many men gave a genuine emotional need as their motive.
The breasts have two roles in human society: nutritive and sexual. Nikki Sullivan in her book A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory calls erotic lactation a manifestation of “Queer.” She defines Queer as an ideology; that is, as a “sort of vague and indefinable set of practices and (political) positions that has the potential to challenge normative knowledges and identities.” Drawing on a statement of David Halperin, she continues “since queer is a positionality rather than an identity in the humanist sense, it is not restricted to gays and lesbians but can be taken up by anyone who feels marginalised as a result of their sexual practices.” The heteronormative profile of breastfeeding is that it is seen only in infants between zero and twelve months old, so Sullivan’s notion of Queer can be applied to erotic lactation.
The following are various methods people employ to practice erotic lactation. They are listed according to prevalence, in decreasing order:
Lactation games. Any kind of sexual activity that includes the woman’s milk. Such activity is widespread, and often unintentional, in the time after a woman gives birth since many women experience a let-down reflex (releasing milk) when sexually aroused.
Lactation pornography. While lactation does appear in pornography, it is a specialty niche and is considered a taboo by many because of its proximity to incest and children. Most breast representations are without milk, and abound in the media in an erotic way both in and out of pornography.
Adult Nursing Relationship (ANR). The suckling of milk from a female’s breast on a regular basis from one or more partner(s). Successful ANRs depend on a stable and long-term relationship, as, otherwise it is very difficult to maintain a steady milk flow. Couples may begin an ANR by transferring regular suckling from a child to a sexual partner (e.g. husband).
Such a relationship may form as an expression of close intimacy and mutual tenderness and may even exist without sex. Breastfeeding can have a strong stabilizing effect on the partnership. The breastfeeding woman may experience orgasms or a pleasurable let-down reflex.
ANRs have also been employed in cases where a mother may desire to breastfeed her child, but has to find an alternative ways of inducing lactation. She may have difficulty beginning lactation, so supplements the infant’s suckling with that of a partner. Or there are cases where breastfeeding was interrupted for an extended period of time as a result of infant prematurity, infant absence, or mother’s illness (taking prescription medication). In such cases, adult nursing has often caused lactation to continue until it was possible for the child to resume breast feeding.
Others may want to nurse an adopted child, so use an ANR to stimulate breast milk production before the adoption occurs. Though such scenarios do not have erotic motivations, erotic expression may be an additional aspect of the relationship.
Pumping. Some women experience sensual pleasure from pumping milk from their breasts or expressing milk manually—with or without a partner. In addition to the sensual pleasure, women have reported feeling more feminine while producing milk and continue with lactation for emotional or sensual reasons after weaning a baby.
Lactation prostitution. This is the act of breastfeeding adults for pay (not to be confused with breastfeeding infants or babies for pay, i.e.: wet nursing). In 2003, there was a report of New Zealand brothel that offered lactation services to its clients. Though not strictly prostitution, a Beijing restaurant has recently offered breast milk-based dishes on its menu.
Infantilism. The non-lactating partner assumes the role of a baby in sexual role play. Breastfeeding might play a secondary role in this type of relationship, and being pampered by “mummy”, wearing nappies or a hidden incestuous character may be the predominant motivation in this kind of relationship.
BDSM. Breastfeeding as a reward (or surrogate pleasure): Breastfeeding of the submissive partner can serve as a reward for his/her submission. There is also milking of the submissive woman, or commanding her to give milk for her dominant partner.
Milk production can be “artificially” and intentionally induced in the absence of any pregnancy in a woman. This is called induced lactation, while a woman who has lactated before and re-starts is said to relactate. This can be done by regularly sucking on the nipples (several times a day), massaging and squeezing the female breasts or with additional help from temporary use of milk-inducing drugs, such as the Dopamine antagonist Domperidone.
In principle—with considerable patience and perseverance—it is possible to induce lactation by sucking on the nipples alone. It is not necessary that the woman has ever been pregnant, and she can be well into her post-menopausal period. Once established, lactation adjusts to demand. As long as there is regular breast stimulation, lactation is possible.