When I talk about breastfeeding (and I do, kind of a lot) I discuss it as though it were one uniform experience between two children over the course of more than three years. However,
breastfeeding your first kid versus breastfeeding your second kid are two very, very different experiences that blur together the way everything about parenthood sort of blurs together: into one chaotic, joyful, stressful, wonderful, difficult, memorable, and hazy cloud.
Now, of course,
everyone's breastfeeding narrative is going to vary a bit (or wildly). Some have a miserable time nursing their first child and have no problems with Number Two. For others, Baby Two doesn't seem to catch on the same way Baby One so effortlessly did. Some people are unable to meet their breastfeeding goals with one child, but use that experience to motivate and inform their attempts with another child, with whom they succeed.
Personally, I'm speaking from the fortunate experience of a person who
exceeded her breastfeeding goals with both her children. In the long-run, both experiences were pretty similar; I experienced no major medical issues and I nursed well past a year. Still, comparing the early days, weeks, and even months of nursing my first child and my second child are night and day in many respects, including the following: With Your First Baby, You Are Shocked By How Much Of Your Day Is Spent Breastfeeding...
A newborn has the unique and otherwordly ability to reorder how you conceive of time. Infants have no concept of linear time, and they do what they do when they do and for however long they please. Breastfeeding was something that took up so much more time, both in terms of frequency and duration, than I ever could have imagined before kids. It definitely took a lot of time to get used to the idea that I would nurse every 1.5-3 hours for at least 20 minutes a pop for a while. On paper that might even sound straightforward, but that's four solid hours a day breastfeeding. That's a part-time job in and of itself.
...With Number Two, You Know Not To Make Plans For, Like, Three Months
It's not that you don't make plans, really. But you know how the game is played, so simultaneously prepare for the intense
demands of breastfeeding and are less bothered by them because they're familiar to you now. Nursing Your Firstborn Was A Lot Of Gazing Into One Another's Eyes And Cooing Sweet Nothings To Them...
You read a lot about screen time in your baby books when you were pregnant, so you
keep TV to a minimum and stare quietly at your beloved child, stroking their little head, sending positive energy out into the universe to nurture their soul as well as their body.
(Or, you know, you
stare into their eyes as you sob in pain because you still haven't gotten the hang of nursing yet and it feels like your nipples are on fire, but you're powering through because you really want to do this for your child.) ...Your Second-Born Largely Ate On The Move To The Sounds Of You Scolding Their Older Sibling
There's no time for silence in a house with two children. My daughter was mostly fed while I was walking around in the backyard with her older brother. I mastered the art of Time Outs while nursing. Oh, and I definitely powered through a
lot of TV shows while nursing whenever I got the chance. I was already a mom, and moms are nothing if not masters at multitasking. One Of Your Favorite Shower Gifts Was Your Really Adorable Nursing Cover...
Because you're going to breastfeed, but
nursing in public is something that makes you a little uneasy. Still, you know it will probably have to happen at some point, so you get a functional and aesthetically pleasing cover to shield your boobies (and your easily distracted baby) from the wandering eyes of Lookee Lous. ...Which Now Sits Crumpled In A Ball In Your Second Baby's Closet
So not everyone does this, but I totally did. A few months into breastfeeding, I began to question why I was even bothering covering up, what with my baby frequently fighting the cover and my belief that neither breastfeeding nor breasts are anything that need to be hidden from public view. Still, habit and hesitation meant that I covered up whenever I nursed my little boy in public.
Once my daughter came along, however, I couldn't be bothered. I was fully prepared to fight anyone who tried to give me crap about it, but (blissfully)
no one ever did. (And why should they? Besides, I knew what I was doing with nursing at that point, so most of the time I'll bet people didn't even realize I was feeding her.) With Your First Baby, You Are Determined To Succeed, And As Such Are Regimented About Feeding Every X Hours For At Least X Minutes...
Since you don't know what you're doing yet (no judgment: you've never done this before!) your pediatrician's advice isn't seen as a general guideline but written in stone laws that must be followed to the letter
or else. You set timers and alarms. You keep journals. Sometimes you even weigh the baby before and after to see how much milk they consumed. Often, breastfeeding follows a precise scientific method with your first. ... Second Time Around Is A Lot More Like A Cruise-Ship Buffet
Because, meh, the
baby will eat when they feel like eating. As long as they're generally gaining weight we're in good shape. It's not like they're going to not cry or get fussy if they're hungry. They're babies: they have no filter, and they're designed not to hold back from loudly voicing their needs. So you're totally OK with the idea that your boobs are going to be out and at the ready pretty much all the time. First Time Around, The Learning Curve Seems Insurmountable...
So wait. I hold my breast, how? And the baby goes where? You keep saying latch, but how do I know they're, like,
latched latched? Precisely how much of my areola should be in their mouth. Because some people are like "the whole areola," but I've seen enough naked women to know they're all different sizes, so can we be more scientific about this? OK. Hold up? Was that a hungry cry? And how do I know when they're done? Because my kid will chill on my boob for hours if I like him. That can't be right.
This is a tough time. There's a lot to learn about breastfeeding in general and about how your baby in particular will breastfeed. Godspeed, friends...
...Second Time Around It's Like Coasting Down A Hill
Because now you know how to breastfeed. You just might need a little bit of a refresher course and now it's all about just learning how this particular baby breastfeeds. (Spoilers: it's probably going to be very similar to how your first baby went about it, because everyone's different, but the foundations of nursing are all pretty much the same.)