Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Dr. Mitchell Kossak

Second Advisor

Dr. Valerie Blanc

Third Advisor

Dr. Steve Harvey


Dancing with your baby: The experiences of the breastfeeding mother-infant dyad discovered through the artistry of symbolic dance is a study that explored the experiences of the breastfeeding mother-infant dyad through the dance/movement therapy techniques mirroring, leading and following, image making, and symbolic dance.

An art-based research study with the inquiries of the breastfeeding mother-infant dyad in mind, was designed with a phenomenological approach that included autobiographical narratives and embodied lived emotions and reflection, which allowed for the integration of dance and movement within the arts-based research realm. Interviews were conducted with each participant to provide an in-depth comprehension of their breastfeeding and postpartum experiences. The participants attended three open group discussions where they expressed their breastfeeding struggles and accomplishments, bonding with their child, and motherhood.

Participants were asked to create gestural descriptors that described their breastfeeding experience, and through the image making process, participants choreographed a symbolic dance which was captured on film. Journal entries included written testimonial and self-portraits created through photography and visual art. Eight themes emerged from this study: loneliness, pain, tired, importance of nurturing their infant, guilt, grief, joy, and closure. The researcher’s embodied empathetic reflection to the mother-infant movement sequences were also captured on film and is accompanied with a voice over that addressed the participants feelings and thoughts, and the overarching themes.

This study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic and provided participants insight in finding resilience during breastfeeding and nurturing their infants during stressful times through therapeutic movement, kinesthetic empathy, and artistic dance.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



Number of Pages





The author owns the copyright to this work.