When I was pregnant, the topic of breastfeeding was never far off. For some reason, people seem to be very concerned about how you intend to feed your baby. When I would mention that I was hoping to breastfeed, I would hear the same piece of advice over and over again, “if you can make it through the first two weeks, it gets so much easier!” This elusive “two weeks” hung over my head as I neared my due date. What was so awful about those first two weeks? What were they going to be like? What was magically going to change once they were over?
Those first two weeks are far off in the rear view, but I’ve been thinking about them lately since we’re creeping up on Weston’s first birthday. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what made it possible for us to make it to the one year mark while still breastfeeding and what I can share to help other moms reach their breastfeeding goals (whatever they may be). Here’s what breastfeeding is really like in the first two weeks!
Breastfeeding is Naturally Unnatural
Just because we were made to feed our young doesn’t mean it comes naturally. In fact, breastfeeding feels very awkward at first. It’s hard to find a comfortable position, hard to get your baby’s tiny mouth to latch on, and hard to understand if you’re “doing it right”. This is where having Sam by my side made all the difference in the world. For some reason, he always knew how to position the baby (outsiders perspective I guess) and would gently tickle Weston’s face to keep him suckling in those first few days.
In those first two weeks, so much is happening with your new boobs and your new baby. Your milk is changing from colostrum, to transitional milk, to mature milk. This is where engorgement comes in. Once your milk arrives, your breasts can feel like two giant boulders attached to your chest. The best way to deal with the pain is to frequently feed, wear a supportive nursing bra, and enjoy a hot shower. These breast therapy packs are also really great. You can use them hot (for clogged ducts or mastitis) or cold (for engorgement). Make sure you have plenty of nursing pads on hand during this period as well. Your body hasn’t quite regulated your milk supply and leaking is bound to happen.
Your baby’s latch can also affect how painful breastfeeding is. If your little bundle doesn’t have a great latch, it can be extremely painful and extremely rough on your nipples. Make sure you’re applying nipple cream after every feeding (and any other time you feel necessary)! This page has tons of helpful resources for latching and positioning.
I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again, our bodies are amazing, mommas! Unfortunately, this also leads to a bit of pain while breastfeeding. In those first few weeks, our uterus is working on shrinking back to its original size. Breastfeeding sends a signal to your body saying, “alright uterus, the baby is out, you can go back to being the size of an orange.” When your uterus is shrinking, it causes some pretty bad cramping. Therefore, every time your baby latches on, you instantly get cramps. The good news, this means your baby is latching well (and your belly is shrinking)! While I was at the hospital, the nurses gave me a few instant hot packs to help with the pain. I loved them (and asked for extras to take home).
One additional bit of pain I wasn’t prepared for was my letdown! A letdown is basically when the milk starts flowin’. It’s a sensation I still can’t put into words, but it feels almost like pins and needles pricking your nipples! Luckily, this strange feeling only lasts a few seconds when baby is feeding. In those first two weeks, be prepared for letdowns to happen at any time. If you hear your baby crying, if you think about how much you love your baby, if you smell a poopy diaper… basically anything related to my sweet baby boy made my milk start drippin’.
Breastfeeding makes you Hungry and Thirsty
Don’t think that eating for two is over with because you’re not pregnant anymore. For some women (me included), breastfeeding makes them hungrier than being pregnant ever did. Don’t spend any time worrying about your post baby body, and EAT! Breastfeeding burns a ton of calories and it will all even out in the end.
Having your little babe attached to your boob also makes you insatiably thirsty. I’ve been breastfeeding for 10 months and I still get an overwhelming feeling of thirst as soon as I start nursing or pumping. Breast milk is about 88% water, so naturally, you’re going to need to ramp up your h2o intake. I always had a big jug of water within arm’s reach. Make sure you grab the one from the hospital if you can. It has measurements on it and I’ve always felt like having a straw helps me drink more.
Breastfeeding is a Round the Clock Job
Nonstop nursing sessions were probably the biggest surprise in those first two weeks. I had no idea I would be breastfeeding round the clock (literally). Nursing on demand helps establish your milk supply and provides baby with all their nutritional needs. Babies go through several growth spurts in their first few weeks on the outside, which leads to lots and lots of eating (also known as cluster feeding). Now is the time to catch up on every Netflix series you’ve ever considered watching.
Breastfeeding makes you Second Guess Yourself… a lot
Unlike with bottles, our boobs don’t have measurements on them letting us know how much our baby has eaten. This can leave you constantly wondering if your baby is getting enough breast milk. The best thing you can do is pay attention to wet and dirty diapers and your baby’s weight. We kept track of every feeding and every messy diaper on the Glow Baby app for the first week so that we could remember when he ate, how long he ate, and how many messy diapers he had each day. It seems a bit neurotic, but when you’re exhausted and sleep deprived, you can’t rely on your memory.
There’s a lot to Learn
Breastfeeding is one of those things you just have to learn as you go. You quickly figure out what position you like, your baby’s normal eating habits, how to use your pump, and how to scroll social media, watch the news, eat breakfast, and nurse your baby all at the same time (I’m kinda not kidding about this one). If you want to be more prepared than I was for this crazy breastfeeding journey, do yourself a favor and educate yourself. I skipped this step and truly think I did myself a disservice by not knowing what to expect. Since then, I discovered Milkology (an online breastfeeding class) It’s packed with need to know information for breastfeeding moms and covers topics like milk supply, latching, and troubleshooting common issues. I absolutely love it and recommend it to any new or expecting mom.
Having a new baby is overwhelming on its own. Add nursing into the mix, and it can be downright exhausting. As difficult as things may seem in the beginning, they will get better. Practice makes perfect (or close enough). Soon, unclipping a nursing bra and getting your baby latched on will seem like second nature (and before you know it, they learn how to help themselves to the milk buffet). Try not to put too much pressure on yourself and remember that it’s totally normal for breastfeeding to not come naturally. If you need additional help after you leave the hospital, reach out to a lactation consultant in your area. Best of luck, momma!
Disclaimer: This statements made in Mamas’ Stores are not medical advice. The Mama’s Stories section is a place for women to share THEIR EXPERIENCES with postpartum health topics. Statements or third-party promotions made by mother’s do not necessarily reflect the 4th Trimester Project brand. The 4th Trimester Project does not endorse the statements, brands, or products mentioned in any posts. The 4th Trimester Project aims to only partner and promote people and organizations who adhere to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (also known as the WHO Code). For details, click here .