7 Surprising Things About My First Month of Breastfeeding

I gave birth to my second baby about five months ago. Before he was born, I knew I would be re-entering the world of breastfeeding. I breastfed my daughter until she self-weaned at 18 months and have wonderful memories of our breastfeeding bond.

The thing is, breastfeeding didn’t necessarily start off easy for me the first (or second) time around. It’s a crazy thing actually. Breastfeeding comes with a learning curve that I simply didn’t expect. For something that’s so natural, it doesn’t always come naturally to many mamas and babies.

Learning about how milk production works, how to get the right latch, and identify your baby’s hunger cues before they’re a wreck all take some time to learn. But once you get it, the benefits to mama and baby are so worth it.

Fast forward to the start of my breastfeeding journey with my second baby, and I was genuinely surprised by how many things still shocked me in the beginning! Sure, I knew a lot of the basics, but I’d forgotten many of the nuances of breastfeeding in the first month.

Let me share some of the things that surprised me during my first month of breastfeeding—both times around!

Babies don’t just latch on themselves…the correct way anyway

I don’t think I’m alone in having the notion that because human survival is dependent on breastfeeding (especially in the days before alternatives existed) babies must just know how to do this.

Well. That’s only partially true. Newborns are born with a rooting reflex and sucking reflex to promote breastfeeding. However, most newborns cannot latch on in the most effective or optimal position.

In the early days, weeks and even months, you’ll need to help them latch on with a wide mouth and confirm their lips are splayed out (like fish lips).

This ensures you don’t wind up with an abrasion or laceration on your nipple, will help keep your nipples from getting sore, and will help your baby remove milk most efficiently and effectively.

How dang thirsty I’d be

Before I gave birth, I’d heard a lot about breastfeeding hunger. I’d been given advice to stash snacks in my bedside table for middle of the night nursing sessions when hunger strikes. I knew breastfeeding burned a lot of calories, so I was ready for the hunger.

What I didn’t expect? To be so insanely thirsty! And regular water didn’t cut it. I wanted to chug large amounts of ice cold water round the clock. Insert: giant insulated water bottle into my life.

Later, I learned how important proper hydration is to your milk supply. Your body needs a lot of water to make breastmilk. So follow your body’s thirst cues to help keep your supply up.

That breastfeeding might not be snuggly and relaxing at first

I think some mamas do get the hang of breastfeeding quickly and immediately have snuggly, enjoyable nursing sessions with their newborn. In fact, I was one of the lucky ones who had this my first time around. But with my son, it took a solid 8 weeks before nursing became reliably enjoyable.

Now I’m not saying this to scare you or put you off, but just to set a realistic expectation. The second time around I had a few factors going against me that made our nursing sessions frustrating:

  • My son has a dairy allergy that I didn’t identify until he was 4 weeks’ old which caused him a lot of gas and pain
  • He had significant reflux (related to his allergy) that meant an increased need for burping throughout feedings and lots of spit-up
  • I had a forceful letdown that he had a really hard time managing

But we persevered, and I am so glad we did. It makes our snuggly, quiet nursing sessions now that much sweeter.

I’d start to smell like spoiled milk

I mean it makes sense, but this genuinely surprised me! When you’re nursing, or between breastfeeding sessions, milk tends to get on your shirt or bra.

Whether it’s leaking between feedings, baby dribbling a little out of their mouth, or your letdown happening on both sides, you will wind up with milk on you. And, yes, in about an hour or so, that milk starts to smell spoiled. Suddenly you’ll catch a whiff of yourself smelling like soured milk. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

How obsessed I’d be with another human’s elimination

As a new breastfeeding mama, one of the toughest things to accept is that you can never know exactly how much milk your baby is getting. It can be easy to doubt yourself or worry they aren’t getting enough, when they actually are.

Your one huge clue? Your baby’s diaper output! I had no idea how obsessed I’d be with another being’s poop and pee than before I started breastfeeding. Every wet diaper was another sign that my baby was taking in enough milk.

How isolating being a new, nursing mother can feel

Breastfeeding, especially in the early days, is a round the clock commitment. Your baby does become more efficient at nursing as they get older, but in the beginning, it wasn’t unusual for my baby to nurse for 40+ minutes and then eat again an hour later.

All of the time spent sitting and nursing can make it difficult to leave the house and can feel a little lonely at times. Finding interesting podcasts and listening to audiobooks were ways I kept myself occupied early on.

I also started going to a support group for new mothers every week. We were all in the same boat and it was the perfect place to practice going out with my new baby. I could easily nurse, change diapers, and lean on others for support, all in a safe place.

That I could provide everything my baby needed

Perhaps the biggest and most amazing surprise of all? The fact that my body is able to nourish my baby and provide them with everything they need to grow and develop. A truly incredible and empowering phenomenon indeed!

42 comments

  • Thank you for your blog. I felt as if I was reading my own exact own experience! Our second son has been a very different breastfeeding experience than our first. I think he may have a dairy allergy and he most definitely has GI issues. I also have a forceful letdown. Little one struggles to pass gas and bowel movements at times. It has made breastfeeding frustrating at times. I don’t want to give up though!

    PS: I get so repulsed at my sour milk smell! Lol

  • I needed this! I’m a new mom as of last week. I had done so much research ahead of time preparing myself for the breastfeeding journey ahead of me. And now that I have started that journey I have been getting frustrated with my fast letdown and how it makes my little one gag. I get frustrated in the middle of the night when I’m struggling trying to help her latch on. And the isolated part has really gotten to me and brought me down. But this has extremely helped me see things in a different way. Thank you!

    • CONGRATS! I’m so glad it helped. The power of perspective is so incredible. You’re doing a great job, mama!

    • I feel the same way. I am a new mom as of 4 days ago. The struggle I am running into is the I ran out of colostrum and haven’t produced milk yet. That has been my biggest struggle that I feel doesn’t get talked about as much. I do feel better after reading this blog though.

      • Right there with you. My 4 day old son doesn’t want to latch and if he does it for 5 mins then he’s done or if he does longer, he ends up spitting up what he just drank before I can burp him. Pediatrician is concerned about weight loss. I’m seeing a lactation consultant Monday. I really want to make this work but definitely feel alone and like a failure. Thank goodness my husband is super supportive.

        • I ran into the exact same problem. What ended up happening with your little one and feeding? We’re still dealing with my girl spitting up a lot. She’s 6 was old. And is slowly gaining weight.

      • I had the same thing happen to me. I wanted to exclusively breastfeed (or pump) and my body had not produced milk yet. The pediatrician recommended I supplement just until my milk came in and I’m sure glad I did! She is now almost two weeks old and only had to supplement for two days while my body produced what she needed.
        Thank you for sharing your experience! It’s nice to know others go through the same thing!

      • I feel this. Had to supplement with all three of mine. I felt like I was pumping or breastfeeding around the clock. Because I couldn’t feed them on my own I felt less than. With my third, I still want to exclusively breastfeed but three weeks in she’s had a few bottles and I don’t let it stress me so much.

      • I’m still pregnant with my second but with my son I feel like my milk never really came in. He was in the NICU for the first 2.5 weeks and I could only pump. He also had terrible acid reflux (he was a premie) so we had a really hard time find a good position for him to be comfortable in once we were home. He also struggled with gas and pooping. Windis did the trick amazingly!! As weird as they may seem, they were a life saving little tool!!

  • I absolutely needed to read this!!! I have felt so alone, emotional, and frustrated it makes no sense. My daughter is only three weeks on and this breastfeeding journey has definitely been difficult. However, I intended to continue and pray for easier times. It shall all be worth it.

  • I’m a mom of 5. Just had a new born. my previous children three were no problems. My new little one has trouble latching and cries everytime i try. I feel terrible. I have a house full of people but I’m still feeling very isolated and alone. My husband laughs at me during my crying moments and that i just cry for everything right now. Thank you for your blog.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that you aren’t receiving the support you need and deserve to help see you through your breastfeeding journey. If you’re ever in need of advice, encouragement, or just a listening ear, our on-staff CLCs are always happy to assist or just cheer you on!

  • My first little one was born almost 5 years before my 2nd (born October 1st 2020). I remember nursing my first daughter and it started off rocky. I was scared to nurse and worried she wasn’t eating enough so I pumped around the clock the first month then I got tired of pumping and just nursed and it was wonderful (minus the spit up part lol). Now with my 2nd daughter I was nursing and pumping and its going pretty good but I completely forgot how exhausting it was. I am tired and you hit the nail on the head, it’s lonely and I dread having to go places because it’s so much work to go out in public.

  • My baby is 6 weeks old, and has taken formula most of his life because of the poor latch on, and how I just wanted to get him fed. I’m in quarantine now, and have sent my son to his grandparents, and have now decided hey, why not try breastfeeding since he’s not here. This article made me relate so much! And has inspired a new hope in me, even though I’m still skeptical I can do this lol thank you so much for sharing!

  • Thank you ! I feel inspired.. I was almost ready to throw in the towel, but I’m going to keep pushing thanks to your blog!

  • This so true, thank you for this article. Just as every pregnancy/baby is different, every breastfeeding journey is different. I’m on baby number 2 and she was a preemie by 2 months. I breastfed both of them but only 2 months for the first bc of mastitis and I’m struggling to keep my milk production up with this one bc she doesn’t fully empty my breast. Thank you for the encouragement!

  • Thank you so much for this! I am expecting twins in June and I plan on breastfeeding. I have two older kids that are 12 and 10 and I wasn’t able to nurse them past 3 weeks. I was also 11 years younger and I feel I am much more mature now. I do remember how hard it was back then tho and I get nervous. Thank you so much for the pointers! I will be using them. I am also fortunate to have great support here at home so I am praying that helps with the process. Thank you for being open and honest about your journey.

  • Hello. I am glad I came across this article. I am a new mom, my baby girl is 3 weeks and breastfeeding has been one of the most challenging things for me. It has brought me the so called “baby blues”. Never imagined how super painful the process is. Getting her to latch on properly, the fear of not feeding her enough and me being able to withstand the horrible pain… I haven’t given up yet since most say that things will be better and the pain will disappear. I am begging for that moment already since I have not experience the beauty of breastfeeding yet. I love knowing that I am nurturing my baby but will like to enjoy the moment too… and not dread the next feeding. Omg! The smell is so real. I feel super stinky all the time.

  • Thank you so much! For sure needed this. 4th baby. First time ever breastfeeding. She’ll be a month old tomorrow. And it’s definitely the isolation for me. I’m working up to the breastfeeding while out. I’m a sahm so I build a stash just for the sake of having bottles for when we go out. Which hasn’t been too often. For Dr appts and quick Wal-Mart runs to get outnof the house. This article was very reassuring. Thank you again 💓

  • Melissa Castillo

    My daughter also has GI issues. I recently removed dairy from my diet per my doctor’s recommendation. Baby girl spits up so much, we can’t even change her diaper after a feeding, we have to keep her up for at least 20 mins after a feeding. I try to reposition myself to help decrease my forceful letdown while still keeping her upright. Do you have any other recommendations/tips to deal with reflux?

    • Idk if you are still having issues with the reflux. I had the same issue with my baby girl and we took her to a chiropractor and it made a HUGE difference. I definitely recomend

    • Are both breasts let down forceful? Maybe have her on the less forceful side and use a hakkaa on the other

  • This was a relief to read! Thank you for this!!

  • Thank you for sharing your experience, you took the words right out of my mouth. I’m a new mom and was really feeling down in the dumps about breastfeeding after learning my son wasn’t gaining weight as quickly as he should after birth. Knowing there are multiple factors but couldn’t help but blame myself. thankfully my husband, OB, and lactation consultant I follow with are extremely supportive but nothing accounts for hearing another women’s perspective And experience. made me feel “normal” during this transition.

    • Same. My son is 8 days old and the lactation consultant already is saying he’s not gaining enough with each feeding and that I should pump and feed him that as well after every feeding. Around the clock. It’s hard because I feel it takes longer with breast feeding for them to gain the weight back, and I wish I didn’t now worry about if he’s getting enough because I also feel like I’m failing. It’s so hard! Hoping he’ll continue to get better at latching and staying focused. Best of luck to you

  • Thank you for this blog! I’ve been going through exactly the same situation with my son. He also has reflux and I have an oversupply and forceful letdown. I would really appreciate if you could give some advice of how you overcame all that and were able to get smooth nursing sessions. My son is 3 weeks and I’m get so frustrated at times. In need of someone’s help.

  • I had no idea what to expect with breastfeeding and ended up getting horrible milk duct clogs and mastitis during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. I would get sharp excruciating pains in my nipples everytime my daughter nursed for weeks. I also ended up getting a fever of 104 and had to start taking antibiotics due to getting mastitis. Figuring out how to work out the milk duct clogs and avoid getting them took time but I’m finally at a point where it’s not painful to feed my baby. There is so much I wish I had know a head of time.

  • My peds is concerned about weight gain. Little man is 12 weeks old. Weighed 6 lbs 13 oz. lost down to 6lbs 3 oz on day 3 waiting for my milk to come in. He currently weighs 9lbs 5oz. He’s happy. Has soiled diapers. Mets milestones etc. she wants me to supplement. I also pump ( when I can) foremilk before I nurse so he can get more hind milk. ( hoping this helps weight gain). If he’s still fussy I’ll give what I’ve pumped or sometimes follow up a little formula. 8/10 when I feel uncertain and think he might need more he throws it up. Feeds on demand every 1 1/2 hrs and nurse through the night. Wasn’t able to breast feed my other two. This is the longest I’ve been able to exclusively BF. I feel like my little ones ok but peds is concerned about weight chart

  • Thank you so much for this !! I am a new mom at breast feeding. I am going to tell you the last couple of days have been emotional for me. Having delivered my baby non Sunday. Needless to say it has been difficult already in the process! I have been wanting to quit breast feeding due to I have soft nipples the baby didn’t latch correctly it was hurting when I did breast feed ! But as time went on it has gotten better .

  • Thank you for this! My newborn is only a week old and whew breastfeeding has become a little stressful and frustrating. I have struggled badly with getting her to latch on correctly and my breast are in pain. Running into this blog let me know that I should do a little more reading and research to help. Knowing I’m not alone brings a comfort that I can’t describe. I won’t give up! Good luck to you all!

  • Thank you for this! As I read, tears began to flow because I share the same sentiments. ❤️🙏🏾

  • Hi! My son is now 3 weeks and we have noticed the gas and reflux thing as well. How did you find out it was a dairy allergy and how did you end up fixing the problem?

  • No jokes, I just had my son a month premature and I’m 11 years out of practice, we are both on a learning curve! But I was glad to read that others are having the same struggles, I don’t feel so isolated in this. It’s been hard because we are still 2 hours from home at the nicu, but hopefully going home soon

  • This article really touched me. Im a new mother of a 5 day old and mt let down takes him out. He will start to cough really bad but is super aggressive when it comes to feeding. That kind of intimidated me at first but my husband constantly reminds me he’s only a few days old ; He’s just learning to suckle and latch on. I tell myself that Im gonna just buy milk but when I feed that little face it warms my heart. I will keep doing it for him.

  • I love this post. It was so comforting and validating to me because I’m a new mom, exclusively breastfeeding, and feeling so lonely and excluded from everyday life. I tried confiding in my girlfriends (who formula fed) or my newly pregnant friend and they all make me feel like I’m the only one who feels this way, or that I’m being negative because I feel left out. So thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone.

    • You are NOT alone! Please consider joining our Latched Mama Love Facebook Group. It may be the most supportive mom group on the internet. You can ask all kinds of questions and express how you are feeling in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. We are sorry that your friends haven’t been able to do that for you!

  • I am starting breastfeeding again with my third child, my other kids 9 and 10 years old, and I breast fed them both. I feel like I know what I am doing, but he has started and stopped during his latch in many feedings, making it hard to let down, and he would get frustrated. But the lack of stimulation made it hard to let down. Also, with my other kids the let down was so forceful they would turn away. He also falls asleep this time during feedings so far, which makes it hard to finish a good thorough feeding sometimes and I have to try to keep him alert. What’s even harder now is he’s a week old and with tracking his weight, the lactation consultant recommended I feed him every two to three hours, then pump after every feeding, and feed him that, just to keep him gaining weight right away. I’m exhausted and sore, and still recovering from a c section. I’m worried that with giving him a bottle he won’t want to breastfeed anymore. With my other two, they lost weight with delivery too, but it wasn’t as rigorous of a process of tracking that weight every day for the first week plus. Any thoughts or advice is much appreciated!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *