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You know how it is. The restless mornings, hearing the echo of your firstborn crying – right on cue for her morning feeding. Your mama bear instincts kick in as you cradle your babe to your chest. She has a proper latch, but none of the good stuff comes out. What gives?
Low milk supply is a common problem among many first-time mothers, begging the questions, is breastfeeding my second baby worth a shot? Is breastfeeding my second baby, but not my first, something I should do? And not surprisingly, we sided with science on this one.
In a study following 22 mamas, researchers measured the amount of milk mothers produced during week one and week four post-delivery of their first and second children.
Mamas not only saw an overall increase in breast milk supply, but those who had the toughest time producing milk in their first pregnancy stood a chance to produce the most in their second.
Your body goes through tremendous changes to prepare for your newborns. According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, with each pregnancy or breastfeeding experience, more breast tissue is made.
And, like most repeated biological functions, the cells in our breasts remember how to behave. This routine is something Camila dos Santos of Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York likes to call "lactation cellular memory."
When dos Santos' lab studied changes in the mammary glands of twice-pregnant mice, they found that the tissues responded to the pregnancy hormones more quickly than during the first pregnancy.
This cellular "memory" and expansion of breast cells primes your body for mammary function in the future. Enhancing your body's ability to produce mature milk, and sooner than last time. When exactly does milk come in for the second baby? Jan Barger, a board-certified lactation consultant, writes that you'll likely notice your milk coming in around two or three days.
And for all the second and third time mamas out there? Well, you've probably got some good practice already. Maybe you've mastered the coax and latch or learned to recognize subtle feeding cues. It's little tricks like this that also make breastfeeding your second baby easier.
Here are some more ways you can set yourself up for success.
Your support system is everything during this exciting but vulnerable time. By connecting early on with an obstetrician, you can discuss the many possible reasons why breastfeeding didn't quite go as expected the first time. Mayo Clinic recommends making your first appointment during the first 8-10 weeks of pregnancy to ensure you have knowledge, confidence, and clarity for the next steps forward.
Your OBGYN will also recommend you see a lactation consultant. Because of the rigorous curriculum for board certification, your lactation expert is trained to identify even the smallest complication. By discussing any prior pregnancies and your medical history, your lactation consultant can make a plan tailored just for you.
Attending prenatal breastfeeding classes is another option. You will learn everything about breastfeeding your second child, from understanding and protecting your milk supply to coaxing your baby to properly latch and drink effectively, ensuring a great start to bringing your newborn home.
A healthy baby is fed eight to twelve times a day, so it's essential to set aside time and space to breastfeed and/or pump throughout the day.
According to UChicago Medicine, your employer is required by law to give you a suitable place to pump or breastfeed, other than a bathroom. Start the conversation early to verify the room they provide is private, intrusion-free, and properly locked. Many mothers find it helpful to have an electric outlet nearby to charge their pump.
At home, try to set up care for your older children while you breastfeed. Make sure your other kiddos are looked after, so you can focus exclusively on your newborn while nursing.
Every baby and situation is unique. Just because your firstborn didn't latch doesn't mean your second one won't.
Dallas Parsons, a board-certified lactation consultant, told Today's Parent that babies are "born with instincts that drive them to breastfeed, but sometimes instincts can be a bit suppressed from delivery, from what's happened after the birth."
A birth that is too long or too quick, or using drugs like morphine and Demerol, can make a baby too sleepy to latch on well at first. They can also compromise the quality of your breast milk supply.
Other interventions like forceps or a vacuum delivery can cause muscle soreness that affects the ability of your baby to nurse. The most common sign that this has happened is if your baby can only nurse on one side.
A lactation consultant can help pinpoint many of these issues and provide solutions to manage them.
The more milk is removed from your breasts, the more your body will produce that liquid gold. You can establish a steady and sufficient milk supply by regularly breastfeeding or pumping.
An article published by the New York Times recommends mothers nurse every 2 hours in the day and every 3 to 4 hours at night. That's great advice when everything is working properly, but what happens if your body won't budge?
We've got you. Here are other pro tips that can get your milk flowing:
If your baby doesn't want to feed, use a high-quality electric pump to increase milk production.
Take turns. Nurse your baby for 15 minutes on each breast. Doing this has been shown to increase milk supply.
Don't be afraid to wake your baby up. A tired infant is normal, but wakefulness is crucial for proper latching.
Pump immediately after breastfeeding during the day. Mothers sometimes produce more when they pump 5 minutes on and 5 minutes off.
Gently massage your breasts before and during feedings to get things flowing.
Stress less. Relaxation techniques such as a warm bath or warm milk can promote milk flow.
Try breast compression to help drain the breast.
Practice proper nutrition. Mayo Clinic recommends protein and nutrient-rich foods to fuel milk production.
Parents should also speak to a professional, like a lactation consultant or OBGYN, about any underlying medical issues or previous breast or chest surgeries that could affect future feedings.
Holding your baby feels like the most natural thing in the world, an instinct. According to a Polish study, mothers who had skin-to-skin contact lasting for more than 20 minutes after childbirth were able to breastfeed exclusively longer.
Your little one can pick up on things like your heartbeat and smell, making them feel more attached to you and likely to have a better latch.
According to La Leche League GB, when your baby refuses to breastfeed, having patience is vital. Most babies will learn to latch and breastfeed successfully with gentle repetition, time, and patience.
While sometimes it can be hard to keep your cool, we've come up with a small list to pacify any impatience.
Practice relaxation techniques. Some of our favorites include warm baths, breathing exercises, relaxing music, and subdued lighting.
If possible, also arrange to have a helping hand. Those first 6 to 8 weeks are challenging, especially if you’re trying to juggle a newborn and older children.
With some help and patience, you can reduce your stress levels and get back to getting your little one on a regular feeding and sleeping schedule.
According to the New York Times, being attentive in the first few days and weeks after birth can help you learn your baby's unique nursing cues, which can include:
Turning her head to the side
Rooting mouth movements
Sucking on her hands
Crying (although this is a late sign of hunger)
By paying attention, you can get your baby to latch early enough, before she gets upset and has a harder time settling down.
When you work with a lactation consultant, you can get the support you need to navigate any troubles.
Lactation consultants will help you by:
Discussing any prior surgeries or underlying medical issues that could affect future breastfeeding
Identifying what did or didn't work when breastfeeding your first child
Developing a plan to breastfeed your second baby successfully
Provide post-pregnancy support, expertise, and planning if anything seems out of the ordinary
With an informed consultant by your side, you can face the adventure of breastfeeding your second baby.
You mastered every nursing hold in the book with your first baby. And your body? Well, it has a spectacular "cellular memory" that makes breastfeeding your second more manageable.
With proper tools, planning, and guidance, most mothers can breastfeed naturally through infancy. It is also so important to give yourself grace. Any amount of breastmilk you produce will help nourish and benefit your precious little one.
How can we help you?