Is Breastfeeding Easier with Your Second Child?
By Jennifer Hodges
Florida resident Lori S.* remembers one thing about the first time she put her infant daughter to her breast to nurse: pain. When she was pregnant, she was excited about the upcoming breastfeeding relationship. That excitement quickly turned to fear after the birth. Every time her daughter latched on, Lori S. experienced tremendous discomfort. It was so painful that she considered giving up the relationship she had once been so excited to have. Finally, with the help of a great lactation consultant, Lori S. and her daughter got into “the groove,” and the pain stopped. They had a successful nursing relationship that lasted for over a year.
Five years later, Lori S. gave birth to her second daughter. She was scared about the pain returning, and wondered if she was “strong enough to handle it again.” “I was so hesitant to even try to nurse … because of the intense pain that I had with [my first daughter], but I knew breast is best, so I tried again,” Lori S. says. “Surprisingly, I had no pain at all.”
Many women who experience pain and discomfort while nursing their first child have an easier time with their second.
Lori S.’s story is one echoed by many women. “I did get sore nipples with my first when she was about 1 to 2 weeks old,” says Jessica Riedmueller of Greenwood Lake, N.Y. “In fact, one nipple did crack and was very painful. It really hurt when she latched, and I pumped one side and only let her nurse on the non-painful side for a day or two. I also had to use Lanolin after every feeding and leaked really badly and had to wear nursing pads for the first 6 months.”
When Riedmueller gave birth to her second child, a son, three years later, she did not experience any discomfort, did not have to use Lanolin or wear breast pads and did not have “the leaking problem.” Riedmueller also prepared herself for her second nursing experience by reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International (Plume; 7th rev. ed., 2004) before her son was born.
“Many women who experience pain and discomfort while nursing their first child often have an easier time with their second and subsequent children,” says Dr. Debbie Albert, doctorate in counseling and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). “Most of the women that have problems with their original nursing experience often seek the help of a lactation consultant and learn the appropriate techniques to make nursing more enjoyable and pleasurable.”
All Things Considered
Albert has also encountered women in her practice who somehow manage to “nurse through the pain and discomfort, and Mom and Baby get used to whatever the problem may be.” She says that many of these women are unwilling to “take the necessary steps to fix the problem, which more often than not, is caused by a poor latch.” Working to correct a poor latch can be “stressful for both Mom and Baby,” Albert says. “Baby has gotten used to latching on a certain way, and Mom has gotten used to nursing a certain way. It takes time and patience and often lots of crying by Baby to get them broken of a bad latch habit.”
Albert says that “other factors go into nursing as well. Many times the birth itself can add stress to a successful nursing relationship, regardless of the birth order. A long labor, a hard birth, a Cesarean section can all contribute to difficulties with nursing. Thankfully, most women recover from childbirth easier when they have already had children, which can make nursing easier.”
Both Lori S. and Riedmueller say that while nursing their second children, they knew what to expect, that there was help available and that they knew how to get it. They also felt more comfortable and confident once nursing began. They knew what was normal, and what was not. Perhaps most important, they had learned from their lactation consultants the correct way to latch a baby.
In addition, both women were prepared for the nonstop cluster feedings that most newborns demand. They were not worried about Baby not getting enough milk because they had been through this before and knew that their newborns were nursing a lot to build up Mom’s milk supply.
A Word About Support
Albert recommends that nursing women surround themselves with a great support system. Being around “other women who have successfully nursed or are successfully nursing can be a wonderful source of support and inspiration,” she says. “If a woman is having problems nursing, she needs to have someone show her how to do it. Speaking with a lactation consultant over the telephone regarding breastfeeding issues is really not the optimal way to achieve success. While breastfeeding is natural, it is a learned skill, and the best way to learn it is to be taught by successful breastfeeding mothers and breastfeeding professionals.”
Breastfeeding can be a joyous experience for both mother and child. If problems arise, it is very important that the mother seeks help from an experienced professional. Problems can be corrected if the mother is taught appropriate techniques. She can then use these techniques on her subsequent offspring to enjoy a pain-free nursing experience.
* Last name withheld to protect privacy.