Because female breasts and nipples are generally regarded as an important part of sexual activity in most cultures, it is not uncommon that couples may proceed from oral stimulation of the nipples to actual breastfeeding.In its issue of March 13, 2005, the London weekly The Sunday Times gave a report of a scientific survey (composed of 1690 British men) revealing that in 25 to 33% of all couples, the male partner had suckled his wife's breasts.She may have difficulty beginning lactation, so she 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).Regularly, the men gave a genuine emotional need as their motive.Breastfeeding in general is considered by some to be mildly exhibitionary, especially in Western societies (see breastfeeding in public).Some women lose the ability to be aroused while breastfeeding, and thus would not find lactation with a sexual partner to be erotic.This can be a result of physical reasons (soreness) or psychological reasons (conflicted about her breasts being used other than for an infant).
During the lactation period the partner starts to suckle on the female breast, and continues after the baby is weaned off.
Breastfeeding mothers have faced legal ramifications for nursing their children into toddlerhood or in public, or for photographing themselves while nursing.
Researcher 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 assumes certain norms: Any kind of sexual activity which includes the woman's milk.
One hypothesis postulates that the breasts grew as a frontal counterpart to the buttocks as primates became upright to attracting mates, a model first developed in 1967.
The association of pleasure and nutrition holds true as well for the lips, also erogenous zones, where pleasure may have led to "kiss feeding", in which mothers chew food before passing it on to the child.