Between being taught to "clean your plate" at dinner as a child, and adopting self-ignoring mantras like "sleep is for quitters," as a hard-working, hard-playing young adult, I've spent a lot of time unlearning a skill we're blessed with at birth: the ability to listen to my body. I started to really learn to listen to my body in my most recent pregnancy and later childbirth, but breastfeeding definitely took that knowledge to another level. There are multiple ways breastfeeding teaches you to listen to your body because, well, you can’t rely on reading instructions and looking at measurements to do it successfully.
Breastfeeding doesn't necessarily come as "naturally" as it seems like it should according to the pamphlets and other information we get before our babies arrive. However, the more we learn from observing our babies and our bodies while nursing, the better we can get at doing those "natural" things we should; like eating, drinking, and sleeping as much as we need to, rather than depending on external rules and cues to get that information.
For me, I quickly realized that while I can run myself pretty ragged when I'm not pregnant or nursing, I have wayless room for self-neglect when my body is doing so much for my son. That whole "getting so far into the zone that I forget to eat" thing I could occasionally do when I was younger? Totally impossible once I had a baby. Same for forgetting to drink enough water. That kind of stuff catches up with you really quickly when your body is keeping two people alive. If you don't want to feel downright horrible, you start to get sensitive to its signs way earlier, so you can get things in check before things get really bad. Breastfeeding also taught me to listen to my body, because: