The dance of breastfeeding

The act of breastfeeding has often been likened to a dance—parent and baby move together to figure out their own unique rhythm and fit.

Mary Renfrew, in the March 1989 issue of the Journal of Human Lactation*, wrote:

To insist that the baby is positioned precisely in the way that the caregiver has been taught will be counterproductive unless there is careful consideration of the effectiveness of that positioning, and the individuality of both mother and baby. This individual patterning can be seen as a dance between mother and baby.

It’s a good analogy. I can see lots of ways that dancing is like breastfeeding.

Dancing requires practice. You and your partner(s) may spend a lot of time, especially in the beginning, experimenting and using tricks (like taking to the water to help soothe a baby who is frantic when trying to latch) to find out what works for you. Every baby is different, too, so what worked for one may not work for another. But eventually, you go from this…

…to this.

There are days where you’re dancing perfectly in sync…

…and times when one (or both) of you is Left Shark.

Dancing can feel magical. When you look into your baby’s eyes and they give you a big grin while nursing, well, that’s priceless.

Or intense. Every nursing parent has those moments where you’re powering through.

Your dancing may be silly—especially if you’re nursing a toddler.

And it can be exhausting. Those late-night nursing sessions and growth spurts are no joke.

When it comes to whether or not you’re breastfeeding the “right” way, the important things are your comfort (in your whole body and your breasts), your baby’s comfort, and getting enough milk from breast to baby to keep baby well fed and your breasts making milk. Your dance may not look like what you see in the movies, and things may be a bit awkward at times, but if everyone’s having a good time, that’s what really counts.

*If you have access to this journal, read the whole article. It will reaffirm how you approach breastfeeding support, teach you new skills, or both.