When mommy vlogger Tasha Maile posted a video discussing her habit of breastfeeding while having sex, the backlash was immediate. People not only accused Maile of being inappropriate or creepy, but they also accused her of involving her baby in a sexual act, or getting sexual pleasure from the act of breastfeeding itself. There's even a petition circulating to have Maile put on the sex offender registry.
If Maile's critics had watched the video in full, however, they would have learned that Maile wasn't endangering her child or copping to pedophilia. She was delivering an honest account of the messy and bizarre realities of motherhood, which often involves creative multitasking. So it's seriously time to stop shaming her or accusing her of endangering her children.
For many new parents, making time for anything outside the realm of parenthood is an immense struggle. A new baby can come with a complete rearranging of everyone's internal time clock. It can also come with perpetual exhaustion, postpartum depression, or a general loss of sexual desire.
Maile is an attachment parent who uses a combination of co-sleeping and/or bed sharing, meaning she has an infant on or next to her bed every night. And when your kid is physically in the room with you, it's even more difficult to make time for intimacy. What if you finally get in the mood, and the baby starts screaming? What if they interrupt right before you're about to climax? What if you never get the chance to make love at all, because your baby rarely sleeps anyway?
Some people may tell parents to suck it up, and to always prioritize the baby's needs above their own. But it's important to remember that a satisfying sex life is an important part of maintaining a healthy relationship. After all, sex has been proven to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. It's also a way for many couples to connect with each other; to feel satisfied and happy and optimistic and alive, so they can be better equipped to parent their children.
Maile just happens to be a mother who doesn't feel the need to sugarcoat her desires, fantasies, or humanity outside of motherhood.
It's up to every couple to find workarounds to the inconveniences that come with raising an infant. For Maile, one workaround was simply to leave the baby to settle down and sleep while still attached to her, and to have quiet, "gentle" sex at the same time. "[The baby's] not sitting there judging you and thinking ‘my mom and dad are having sex.’ It’s a 2- or 3-month-old baby. They’re so innocent," she told This Morning.
She's not wrong. According to Baby Center, "Long-lasting conscious memory of specific events won't develop until your baby is between 14 and 18 months old." Before then, an infant's thought process is pretty abstract. By 9 months, for example, a baby can remember faces, toys, and pictures that they have seen before, but they can't make much sense out of those things. They certainly don't know what sex is, nor would they be able to recognize whether an act they've just witnessed is remotely sexual. This means that even if Maile's baby had been awake while she and her partner were having sex (which, as she initially said, he wasn't), he likely wouldn't have remembered much. Either way, he wouldn't have had any conception of what sex actually is.
Some YouTube commenters have also equated Maile's actions to child sex abuse, as if Maile derived pleasure from nursing her baby during sex. While it's not entirely uncommon for some mothers to feel aroused during breastfeeding (even if the thought of it might make a lot of folks uncomfortable), it doesn't seem like this is what Maile was doing at all. In her videos, she makes it pretty clear that any pleasure she derived from having sex while breastfeeding was due to the sex act itself. What she did was arguably just an example of multitasking: The kind of multitasking that mothers need to quickly become expert in, lest they want their lives to be consumed by dirty diapers and baby food and very little else.
Maile isn't sexualizing breastfeeding. Instead, she's simply saying that sometimes, parenthood is a balancing act. We have to balance the needs of our children alongside our own.
Some critics also believe that Maile's admission is "sexualizing breastfeeding, and undoing all the hard work that dedicated lactivists have done to decouple sex and breastfeeding," as Elizabeth Broadbent wrote for Romper. Most breastfeeding moms can agree that the sexualization of breastfeeding is tiresome, and moms who practice extended breastfeeding, as well as moms who nurse in public, are regularly accused of deriving an inappropriate sense of satisfaction from nursing. Why would they nurse a child for so long, or continue to expose their breasts in public, if not for their own gain?
But Maile isn't sexualizing breastfeeding. Instead, she's simply saying that sometimes, parenthood is a balancing act. We have to balance the needs of our children alongside our own. As someone who wants to feed her baby and stay in tune with her sexuality, Maile found a way to do both. But in no way was her baby there to serve as some kind of accessory to the sex act.
In truth, there are a lot of things that parents do in the first year of a child's life that they may never do thereafter. Whether that's taking nude family baths, cursing incessantly, or even pooping, many of us don't see the harm in exposing our infants to such activities when their cognitive skills are still so under-developed.
Maile didn't say this outright, but it seems obvious that she wouldn't make love in front of her older children, who have language and memory and the ability to understand the world around them. Although she joked that she wouldn't necessarily be embarrassed if her older kids walked in on her having sex (which, again, is not abnormal — after all, this is someone whose many videos suggest that she is passionate about de-stigmatizing sex and sexuality), she is certainly not seeking to involve her children in her sex lives. She just happens to be a mother who doesn't feel the need to sugarcoat her desires, fantasies, or humanity outside of motherhood — and that is worthy of our applause, not our condemnation.