The very first time I attempted to latch my first son, it was a nightmare. Many moms, myself included, may expect that moment to feel like “it was beautiful,” or it was “meant to be.” But it wasn’t. I learned many lessons from breastfeeding my first baby that taught me so much about myself, my baby, and my overall willpower. I want to share these lessons with you in hopes that you can learn from them too!
Lessons I Learned Breastfeeding My First Baby
These breastfeeding lessons I’m about to share are dear to my heart. I had a somewhat rough breastfeeding journey from birth, to say the least. Horribly low supply was such a struggle for me that my son would avoid even trying to latch onto my breast. He cried often, and he struggled with bottles. Everything and anything surrounding breastfeeding felt so hard for us.
I had read the pamphlets the hospital gave us and followed the instructions the hospital’s lactation consultant directed me to do. Still, I felt like I was failing. I felt like there was nobody there to listen or help. And I almost gave up. Week 11 is when things finally changed for the better. I want to share with you these lessons I learned breastfeeding as I reflect on a memorable breastfeeding experience with my firstborn son.
1. Breastfeeding for beginners won’t always feel so natural.
It’s true, breastfeeding for beginners may not feel like it was meant to be. I’ve talked to countless moms repeatedly just to find out they shared a similar experience. It took time, sometimes weeks, before it felt “natural” to them. After giving birth, a mom can be easily (and understandably) overwhelmed between her postpartum body image, fluctuating hormones, physical recovery from birth, lack of support, and the list can go on and on.
Most moms probably received hand-outs explaining WHY breastfeeding is so important. But nobody took the time to show them how or help them actively work through some of the daily challenges like:
- Difficulty latching baby
- How/When to switch sides
- How to handle a fast let down
- When or how to use a pump
- Managing pain for various reasons
- What to do if she develops a clogged milk duct or mastitis
Again, another long list of things moms get sent home to figure out on their own. It’s overwhelming! This is why it can be so difficult to feel made for this process. You’re truly learning as you go, just trying to survive. Hopefully, you can be more aware of some of these challenges and feel more inclined to get help when needed so you CAN feel like this journey was meant for you.
With my 2nd baby, challenges and all, I felt 100 times more confident going into our breastfeeding journey. I was actually excited because I truly knew what to expect and how to handle the challenges that blindsided me the first time.
2. If your baby wants to breastfeed constantly, it’s okay. Let them!
Did you know that breast milk production is based on a supply and demand process? The more you nurse, the more milk you produce. When your baby starts wanting to nurse more often, it’s their way of letting your body know it needs to ramp up the milk production. Pretty neat, right?
You’ll hear the term “cluster feeding” used often, and it’s normal. It feels like the days will never end. Instead of fighting them, try to embrace them. Gather your favorite snacks, put on a movie, and enjoy those snuggles while you can.
Sometimes, cluster feeding can indicate that maybe you have a low supply or other issues — and in those instances of concern, you should always bring those concerns up to your doctor or lactation consultant. Babies are smart. Your body is smart. Together, they make a darn unique team!
3. Don’t ignore lip and tongue ties in baby, please.
Lip ties and tongue ties in infants are far too overlooked, in my opinion. As a mom with two boys who had them and struggled to breastfeed or take a bottle, you can see why I have such a stance to fix them.
In a nutshell, the lip and tongue ties (sometimes it’ll be just one or the other or both) can prevent the baby from latching and/or suckle milk efficiently. This can not only lead to lots of discomforts for mom but also for baby! Your baby may have a hard time gaining weight as they can’t effectively empty your breast. And you may end up with mastitis or plugged ducts because you’re not being emptied. It really is no fun to deal with.
The key takeaway from this lesson is that if you feel like your baby’s lip and/or tongue-tie is causing a problem, do not settle for a generic “they’ll grow out of it” answer. Trust your gut and get a second opinion.
4. ‘Breastfeeding hunger’ is totally normal.
The hunger is REAL for breastfeeding moms! Our bodies are working hard to make that precious milk for our baby. If you remember what pregnancy hunger in the third trimester felt like, your body will kick it up a notch while breastfeeding.
I was not prepared for this little curve ball with my first and found myself underprepared for the late-night hunger pains that would come on sporadically. Eventually, I made myself a little breastfeeding basket where I filled it with a water bottle and easy snacks to munch on while nursing my son. I did this immediately with my 2nd baby, and it helped curve the intense hunger so much. Read here for our top nursing essentials.
5. It’s normal NOT to lose weight while breastfeeding.
I remember reading and having so many people tell me, “you’ll lose all your pregnancy weight when you breastfeed.” Color me surprised when I didn’t lose ANY weight while breastfeeding! In fact, in the early days, I GAINED WEIGHT.
Breastfeeding indeed causes your body to burn slightly more calories. Chances are, you’re going to be consuming the difference. Not that it even matters because weight loss should be the last thing on your mind amongst all your other pressing issues. But I won’t lie, I was a tad disappointed.
The truth is, breastfeeding makes us hungry. We may eat more and move less. But you know what? I’m glad I learned this lesson the “hard way.” It opened my eyes to shift my focus on things that truly mattered instead of just the number on the scale.
If you’re interested to learn more about burning fat without dropping your breastmilk supply, read HERE.
6. Every breastfeeding journey is unique.
The most important lesson I learned from breastfeeding is that, just like childbirth and postpartum, it is also a unique journey all on its own. It would be filled with ups and downs. The BEST thing we, as moms, can do to stay the course without being discouraged is to prepare for it the best we can. This means taking a legitimate breastfeeding course, meeting with a lactation consultant, and even having a supportive support system at home with you and your baby.
Ultimately, knowledge is power. You deserve a fair shot to breastfeed your baby while feeling confident in your abilities to tackle breastfeeding issues that may arise, even when it’s for the first time. I hope these lessons I learned breastfeeding my first baby will help you get a leg up on the process!