Breastfeeding Tips for Your Second Baby
When I look back on my experience as a first-time mom four years ago, the thing that stands out as the most humbling part of those early months is – hands down – breastfeeding. It took me a long time to figure it out, and now that’s I’ve also been through baby number two, I’d love to share my breastfeeding tips for success, especially when it wasn’t so successful with your first.
My Breastfeeding Trials and Travails
I went into my breastfeeding journey with my daughter – my first child – pretty naively. I thought if I just avoided the common early breastfeeding issues like latching problems or a tongue-tie, I’d be free and clear. Oh, how wrong I was.
I didn’t know nearly enough about how to maintain my milk supply, what might happen when the baby started sleeping through the night, the differences between pumping and nursing, how to manage going back to work while continuing to breastfeed, and so much more. As a result, I started having to supplement with formula about four months in, and by nine months or so I’d abandoned breastfeeding altogether.
When I became pregnant with my son last year, one of the first thoughts I had was, “Oh, no. Breastfeeding was SO HARD and I’ll have to go through all that again.” In the weeks and months that followed, however, I was able to turn that worry into a much more positive breastfeeding mindset. This time, I was going to do my homework and be more prepared, in the hopes I would experience greater breastfeeding success with baby number two.
Breastfeeding Tips to Succeed with Baby Number Two
If you’re planning to breastfeed your baby and experienced something similar with your first, my hope for you is that you can avoid the experience I had with my daughter. Whether you’re a first-time mom or this is your second or third, one of the best things you can do is be prepared before the baby is even born.
But first, I want to throw in a quick disclaimer here that if you go the formula route – whether you go 100% formula or feed your baby a combination of formula and breast milk – it’s perfectly fine. I don’t approve of the stigma formula sometimes gets, so please know this post about breastfeeding isn’t at all a dig at that approach.
Here are some ways to set yourself up for breastfeeding success if it didn’t go so well the first time around:
1. Have Appropriate Expectations and an Open Mind
Having a goal to exclusively breastfeed for six months or a year (or another goal) is wonderful. I think it’s also helpful to be aware of alternatives. At first I thought you had to either breastfeed or feed your baby formula, and didn’t think about the possibility of breastfeeding while also supplementing with formula. Just think through some of the different ways to feed your baby – and visualizing those being your reality. You’re entering a new, physically challenging and often emotionally taxing phase of life, especially if you’re also caring for other children.
2. Recognize That It Doesn’t Come Naturally
Recognize that although breastfeeding is a natural part of motherhood, that doesn’t mean it comes naturally every time. Likewise, just because it might not have gone so well with baby number one doesn’t mean the same will happen with your second baby.
If you recall, breastfeeding will very likely feel anything but natural at first. For one thing, it HURTS (even if your baby latches well), so be sure to have a good organic nipple cream on hand. But beyond that, everything from how to hold the baby, to how to help the baby latch, to how to know when your baby is full can take some time to learn. Expect that learning curve –and every child is unique and prefers different things – and be prepared for it.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
This is something I was absolutely guilty of after my daughter was born. Because I thought breastfeeding should be such a natural thing (see point number 2 above), I was embarrassed to seek out the help I could really have used. Don’t make the same mistake I did. You can meet lactation consultants in the hospital after childbirth. They’ll give you ways to connect with them and with other breastfeeding moms once you go home. There are also lactation consultants who will come to your home to walk you through breastfeeding tips. They’ll share invaluable information with you, so check into some of those in your area. Have a list of consultants ready before the baby is born so you’ll easily be able to get help if you need it.
4. Take a Breastfeeding Course While Still Pregant
Especially if you’re hoping to make breastfeeding a success for baby number 2, this may seem a little remedial. And if you have a little one at home, you can likely also find a virtual breastfeeding course online too. A good breastfeeding course will walk you through positioning during nursing, pumping tips, storing and using breast milk, and more.
5. Have the Right Equipment on Hand
The right breastfeeding equipment includes a breast pump, breast milk storage containers, bottles, sterilization/cleaning tools (for bottles and pump parts), a milk catcher like a Haaka, nursing bras/tanks, etc. Having these items ready to go before your baby is born makes the breastfeeding process much easier. You should also take the time to familiarize yourself with them before giving birth.
6. Keep Your Milk Supply High
Oh, milk supply. You’ll be thinking about this often once you start breastfeeding. It’s a good idea to start even earlier and understand it during pregnancy. Of course, some women produce more milk (and produce milk more easily) than others, but there are some good overarching things to be aware of when it comes to your milk supply. The most important factor to bear in mind is supply and demand. Nurse your baby or pump milk often in order to signal to your body to keep making enough milk. Also, when you’re breastfeeding be sure you’re hydrating well, since breast milk is 90% water. The general recommendation is to drink about 16 cups of water per day. You’ll also want to be careful not to cut calories while you’re breastfeeding, since your body needs enough energy to produce breast milk adequately.
7. Prepare Baby’s Breastfeeding Schedule
This part of breastfeeding is so, so challenging. For me it’s tough, because although my husband and I are all about 50/50 parenting, with breastfeeding the bulk of the work falls on me. Your newborn will need to breastfeed VERY often – every couple hours at first, and every few hours after that. It can get taxing quickly, so keep in mind a schedule in advance.
No matter what your journey ends up looking like – and whether this is your first, second third or other baby – as you strive for breastfeeding success, please remember this wise and much-used saying: A fed baby is a happy baby, no matter how that feeding takes place. Sending you so much love, mama to be, and be sure to be patient with yourself and give yourself lots of grace throughout this process.