There are a lot of things that can change when you’re preparing to have your second baby. Maybe you realized that co-sleeping was the way to go, so you’re skipping the crib for now. Maybe you want to try putting your baby in day care instead of staying home. And maybe you’ve decided to breastfeed for the first time. If you’re wondering, “can I breastfeed my second kid if I didn’t breastfeed my first?”, I get it. There are so many things that can complicate breastfeeding — tongue and lip ties, flat or inverted nipples, and stress plummeting your milk supply, to name a few — that it can be overwhelming to think that if you didn’t do it before, your body won’t get the message to do it again.
But hey, your body’s pretty incredible. International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Tori Sproat, owner of Tiny Tummies Lactation Services, tells me that the short answer is yes. She notes that one of the best ways to guarantee success with breastfeeding your second child, especially if you didn’t breastfeed your first, is to reach out to support groups. “La Leche League International and Baby-Friendly USA are huge here," she says. "Also, research indicates that support at home is a big deal — get your family members more knowledgeable.”
In fact, getting help seems to be the general theme of most lactation consultants’ advice. Lactation consultant Nadine Fournier tells me that there’s a lot of factors that play into this. “Why didn’t they breastfeed the first child? Did they try and stop? Misinformation? Pain? Low milk supply? Lack of support?” Fournier says. Determining if you can breastfeed your second child when you didn’t breastfeed your first really depends on the reason why you couldn’t or didn’t breastfeed as a first time mom."My biggest tip is to get help,” Fournier says. “See an IBCLC, preferably before you give birth.”
IBCLC Carrie Wilson DiStefano agrees with Fournier. “The factors are so highly variable depending on each mom’s situation with their first — lactation and milk supply can and may vary from pregnancy to pregnancy, so I would also be sure that moms are aware of that,” DiStefano says. “This is definitely a case where I would strongly recommend meeting with an IBCLC during pregnancy and having that same lactation consultant follow her for a couple of weeks postpartum so that she can establish a plan that mom can stick with.”
As with any journey into breastfeeding, education is key. If you decided not to breastfeed the first time around, you may be totally unsure of where to start. IBCLC Kristin Gourley from Lactation Link says breastfeeding classes are a great resource. Lactation consultant Tera Kelley Hamann says that a huge factor in unsuccessful breastfeeding is not trusting your intuition or listening to your baby. If you’re hoping to breastfeed your second child, she recommends finding a baby-friendly hospital so you can work on skin-to-skin immediately and allow your baby to try to self-latch. “Breastfeeding is a learned skill for mom and baby,” Hamann says. “Don’t question too much or be too hard on yourself if things don’t go perfectly or there are bumps in the road.” Get your support system together and seek out resources so you can put yourself on the path to successfully breastfeeding your second baby.