Two people learning to do the same thing with their bodies at the same time. Each has to learn a set of new skills but also has to learn how the other will respond.
Stage 1 – Starting Out:
When you start out learning ballroom dancing there are tense hands and shoulders, sore feet, twisted ankles, stepped-on toes, irritation at the partner for not behaving as expected. Nothing makes any sense, the music goes too fast and the instructor seems smug and self-satisfied.
In breastfeeding this is the stage of: “How do I get her on if her little hands are in the way flailing about and when do I know if her mouth is open enough and as soon as I get her latched on she falls asleep and if I take her off she wakes up right away again and HOW OFTEN do I have to do this every day? The breastfeeding counselor gives me all this advice, but SHE doesn’t have to wake up four times every night! I bet she’s forgotten all about how hard this is.”
Stage 2 – Got a grip:
Eventually, you and your partner learn one set of steps to one piece of music and you can do that reliably, though with some false starts and a lot of effort. You grip each others hands too hard and use up way too much energy. You’re not really having fun yet, but you’re going to stick with it a little longer.
In breastfeeding this is the stage of: “I can only breastfeed in one chair with exactly five pillows in precisely this position and if anyone talks to me while I’m doing it, it won’t work. Why am I doing this again? Oh, yeah. It’s good for the baby.”
Stage 3 – Almost there:
At some point dancing gets to be fun, at least some of the time. You can do more than one step and sometimes you can even have a conversation while you’re doing it. And you realize that you really do like your partner after all, these lessons were not a terrible idea that is going to ruin your relationship.
In breastfeeding this is the stage of: “Hey, that wasn’t so bad and it doesn’t hurt and I only had to re-latch him once! Look at his little hand lying on my breast. Isn’t it sweet? Oh he’s come off the breast and he looks like he’s had enough to drink. Hey, he smiled! Maybe not right at me, but he smiled!”
Stage 4 – And you’re off!
A very few dancers get to the next stage where they can walk into each-other’s arms and sail off across the floor through complex figures to whatever music is playing. They don’t even think about what their feet are doing, but rather how much they are enjoying moving to the music.
Luckily, almost every mother who breastfeeds for longer than four to six weeks gets to this stage. “It’s 5am. Have I fed her since midnight? I can’t remember. I must have, we started out with her on my left side and now she’s on my right and my bra’s unhooked. I guess I did it in my sleep. I can’t believe it’s become this easy to feed her!”
In some ways, breastfeeding is much more difficult than ballroom dancing because your partner doesn’t understand the instructions given by the ‘teacher’. You can’t explain to your baby how he should open his mouth or where he should put his hand.
In other ways, breastfeeding is easier than ballroom dancing. You’ll get way more practice, feeding your baby 10-12 times a day in the first weeks. Also, you have hormones that are helping you to bond with your baby and make you want to feed him.
Actually, breastfeeding is really a lot simpler than ballroom dancing. Trust me, I’ve tried both.
Copyright Eva Bild, 1999
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