Most breastfeeding advice, articles, and information is directed at first-time moms, and understandably so. That's when you're really in the thick of things and have the most to learn. People assume that breastfeeding your second child, therefore, is basically going to be the same. Sometimes that's true, but that's hardly the whole story. There are things no one tells you about breastfeeding your second child... but I will. I'm cool like that. You're welcome.
Of course every mother, baby, and situation is different. So this is hardly a universal rundown of how things will or won't go. That said, while I know anecdotes aren't data, I talk to more moms about mom-stuff than the average person (#LoveMyJob), and I feel like I've noticed a lot of themes and common narratives. And here's the good news: by and large, it's a more positive experience than attempting to nurse the first time around, for a number of practical reasons.
So what is breastfeeding your second baby like? What's going to be the same? What's going to be different? What are the aspects that you don't even know to expect because no one is talking about this?
It Won't Always Be Easier
Now, breastfeeding for a second time was certainly easier for me. With my first it was a lot of fretting over latch and not knowing exactly how to position them and worrying that he wasn't getting enough milk. With my second it was basically the way you imagine breastfeeding will go — stick the baby on your boob, then the other, burp her, repeat in another two hours. And most moms I have talked to agree. It makes sense. After all, you've got some experience under your belt, and you have a better idea of what to do and how to comfort (and, frankly, cope with) a new baby.
Of course there are situations that may make your second time around more difficult — if your baby has a tongue-tie, for example, or have to spend time in the NICU. Or maybe they are just a little more hapless than average when it comes to breastfeeding. Hey, it happens (hopefully it won't) but chances are you're going to have a better handle on things with this baby.
It's Still Going To Hurt At First
Sorry, dudes. Even if you nursed another child recently, newborns nurse differently than toddlers or even older infants. When they're doing it properly they have a latch like a gummy little bear trap and manage to get half your boob in their mouth, and that takes some getting used to.
Of course, if it really hurts and doesn't stop hurting then you should see someone, because you shouldn't have to endure toe-curling pain for the next however many months. But as far as getting back into the swing of things, expect some nipple soreness. Again, I'm so sorry to be the bearer of bad news but knowledge is power!
You're Way More Laid Back
Everyone is different in this regard, but from personal and anecdotal experience you are going to care so much less about nip slips this time around than last time. First of all, if you breastfed for any length of time you almost certainly had some sort of embarrassing, boob-related incident that has toughened you up a little bit. Secondly, you have not one but two children now, and they take up, like, a solid 80 percent of all the f*cks you have to give. This leaves you with a mere 20 percent of your f*cks and about 60 percent of those are "flying f*cks" which are less significant than the regular type.
Anyway, don't be surprised if your fancy, adorably patterned nursing cover goes completely neglected in your closet with this baby. This isn't an absolute, but there's a good chance.
Bonding Will Be Different
With your first baby it was just you and them. There were long hours of quiet contemplation while you were nursing, which probably included eye contact, whispered conversations, and gently uttered mantras.
You will be lucky to get a few fleeting moments of that with your second child, because you still have to do everything you had been doing with your firstborn. So you're going to be doing all that exhausting, fully-immersive parenting crap, only now with a baby on your teat.
While some people feel guilty about that, I say don't. The way I see it, there's something special that happens to your second being literally attached to you in the middle of all the action. It's not a "stare into each other's eyes for a glimpse of the other's soul" kind of bonding. It's a "we're in this together" kind of bonding, which is sort of awesome.
Your First Will Get Curious
"How is there milk there? Do you pour it in?
"How do you make milk?"
"Do I have milk in my nipples?"
"Can I have some milk?"
"Why doesn't the baby eat food?"
"When will she eat food?"
"Will she eat my food?"
IT's cute, sure, but it's a lot.
Your First Will Provide Breastfeeding Related Laughs
Since you'll be nursing a lot, it will become totally normal for your second child. And anything that is normal for a child, for better or worse, gets incorporated into their play. So don't be surprised if you find they start breastfeeding their dolls and stuffed animals, or talk about your breasts in a hilariously uncouth (but honest) fashion, or become obsessed with your pump. My oldest was fascinated by that thing, and was known to put the flanges to his nipples, pretend to push the button, and impersonate the pump as he yelled, "Look! It's coming out of my breast!"
I may have this on video. I may also be hanging on to said video to show friends and dates as he gets older as a friendly roasting.
Hey, he woke me up every day at 6:00 a.m. for three years. I've earned a morsel of his embarrassment for my pleasure.
It'll Be Less Stressful
Because either you will have a better idea of WTF you're doing and achieve success in your breastfeeding goals, or things will not work out and you won't sweat it as much. Because you will know, from experience, that the important thing is to love and nourish your child, and there are a million and seven ways to do that, many of which do not involve breastfeeding or exclusive breastfeeding.
There's a kind of freedom in knowing that, generally speaking, nothing is going to go exactly to plan with your babies and reaching the stage where you're like, "Eh, I'm gonna wing it."
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.