Anniversary edition: The great breast debate

Editor’s Note: Flipping through the editions from the last 10 years – a veritable trip down memory lane! – it’s only fitting that our anniversary issue be a reflection on the best of Ottawa Parenting Times. We poured through the pages and gathered the classics you may have missed the first time around.

During her tenure, founding editor Kelly Roesler wrote a column called Motherhood Musings, in which she shared the moments she experienced as a mom of three. The stories were poignant, relatable, sometimes humorous and definitely well-read by our readers, who we bet were nodding their heads in agreement as Roesler pulled them into her world with her chosen tool of personal journalism.



Breasts. I’ve been fascinated with them, especially mine, for as long as I can remember.

At the age of 12, as a skinny, flat-chested pre-teen, showing absolutely no sign of developing the full, curvaceous breasts I was enviously noticing in many of my peers (and of course, on TV, etc.), I was very concerned. I agonized: would I ever have breasts?

Even back then, I had observed that beautiful, desirable young women had breasts, and the bigger, the better. Whenever I looked down at my own chest, and saw what immature boys had teasingly described as my “bee stings,” I felt conspicuous, like something was wrong with me and I simply didn’t measure up to the ideal silhouette of an attractive female.

I thought about stuffing my barely-needed training bra with Kleenex, but quickly rejected it. Too much of a hassle, and I couldn’t bear the possible humiliation if they slipped out of place.

So, I spent most of my teen years dealing with the fact that I was a small-chested woman. Over time, it bothered me less.

But in my late teens, when I became pregnant with my first child, they finally appeared: the full, luscious breasts I’d always dreamed of. Yes, they signified the presence of my unborn child and were quickly filling with milk, but real breasts nonetheless. I was thrilled!

Alas, with the birth of my first child, and my inability to breastfeed, those dream breasts were gone as quickly as they came – but not without a few days of engorgement, which were agonizing.

As the years passed, while I became more comfortable with my body, I was always keenly aware of the widespread sexual fascination with breasts of any size. And of my own intense response to breast stimulation.

Turns out, science backs it up: “The breasts play a key role in female sexual arousal and we are beginning to understand why in terms of hormones and neuroscience,” reads a 2013 article published in Psychology Today.

In a report on female sexual response, researchers pointed out that breast volume increases during sexual arousal, in addition to changes in the areola and erection of the nipples.

“There is not one, but three sensory maps in the (woman’s) parietal cortex that light up in functional MRI images when the genitals are (self) stimulated. One represents the clitoris, another the vagina and the third represents the cervix. All three of these maps also receive input when the nipple is stimulated.

“From a functional perspective, this means that the breast doubles as a truly sexual organ. It is not just an exciting visual stimulus for (most) men but also a key source of sexual pleasure for most women.”

No doubt, breasts are sexy. But they also serve a major biological purpose: feeding children, something I hadn’t experienced until giving birth to my third child.

After some difficulty, I finally achieved success in breastfeeding my daughter. And it was a mind-blowing experience. I felt so close to her, it was an unbelievable emotional connection and I was elated to provide many of the benefits associated with breastfeeding.

It also involved getting to know my breasts in a whole new way.

For the first year of her life, my breasts essentially belonged to my daughter. While I occasionally had some vague recollection of their sexual nature, in the time of breastfeeding, anything else was pretty much moved to the back burner. It was awe-inspiring to see my body in a whole new way, as this child’s core source of nourishment.

Accordingly, I was uninhibited about where, when and how I breastfed. When I went out, if there was a quiet, dimly lit, tucked away space provided, we went there – purely for peace and quiet. I wasn’t concerned about being discreet or not offending anyone with the sight or even semi-sight of my breasts at work, and my child feeding. I had no problem plopping down anywhere and feeding my baby. And I did, in many places. Sometimes I had a specially designed nursing blouse with a small slit for discretion. Often I did not.

Sometimes I would strategically place a light blanket over us, but for the most part, my daughter wanted nothing to do with that, and would either fuss and squirm until I removed it, or would simply rip it off herself, repeatedly, until I gave up.

If I got any funny/disgusted looks, I didn’t notice. And I wouldn’t have cared. I was enjoying some of the very best moments of my life, breastfeeding my beautiful daughter. And I felt strongly that I didn’t have to stay home or hide away in order to do that.

Of course, I’ve read the many stories of breastfeeding moms who have been shamed into leaving stores, restaurants and public spaces because people claim to be uncomfortable at the sight of a nursing mother, which is absolutely ridiculous.

Much of the controversy surrounding breastfeeding in public stems from society’s fixation with breasts as they relate to sex, and of course they do. That’s undeniable.

But that is not, and will never be, their sole function.

Their other function is fundamental, crucial, and highly beneficial. And in my mind, when in play, it negates the “sexy” factor – at least, for a time.

This distinction must continue to be strongly emphasized, and it’s important that the discussion continues, and breastfeeding moms be encouraged, cheered and empowered to nurse their children wherever and whenever they need to.

My breastfeeding and childbearing years are now over, and, with recently losing a significant amount of weight, I’ve returned to my true, small-breasted form, of which I’ve learned to be proud and accentuate in many fun, appealing ways.

But when I think about what my breasts have meant to me – and they have meant a lot – nothing tops the cherished memories of being so close to and feeding my baby, anytime and anyplace I wanted.