Breastfeeding the second time ’round? Support still needed.

A few friends were surprised that I was worried about breastfeeding the second time around. Sure, they knew I’d had lots of difficulty getting breastfeeding off the ground with Talitha (tongue-tie, domperidone, pumping, SNS, supplementing with expressed milk and some formula – it was harder than giving her birth, in a way). I think the fact that we’d got there in the end and were still breastfeeding at heading towards three made people think I was a bit old hat at this nursing thing.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t wrap my head around what I’d do if the same problems arose a second time. I also wondered whether there was more than tongue-tie to our story since it had taken such effort to get my milk supply up and since Talitha has always had issues with her latch, and still does. I prepared myself for the worst, telling myself that at least this time I’d spot a tongue-tie sooner, this time I knew how to get the most out of pumping, this time I’d bypass bottles for an at-breast supplementer right away.

But, more important than any of that? This time I had support around me. I volunteer as a breastfeeding peer supporter. It’s meant that this time I’ve had a lot more knowledge than I started out with last time. I also have friends who are breastfeeding peer supporters, breastfeeding counsellors and lactation consultants. I knew that it would help to have other eyes on our situation. More than that, I knew I’d need sisterly and motherly help when I was feeling vulnerable or frustrated in this new breastfeeding journey.

Ophelia was born four months ago. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but she is such a different baby. She hasn’t had the breastfeeding problems her sister did. In fact, she’s piled on the pounds. I have no idea what she weighs as she’s not been weighed for two months, but she’s a proper Buddha baby. It’s incredible to me that she’s managed to grow so much just on my milk, invisible and unmeasured, straight from the breast. From the start, there’s been no question that she’s getting lots of milk. Her poo changed from meconium to bright yellow on Day one.

Yet I still worried. I dug out my copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding again because I needed its reassurance. I worried when my supply settled down and my breasts no longer felt full, even thought I knew that they were doing what they should. I worried at each growth spurt when she would feed on and off for hours on end, even though I knew how normal this was. I worried about colic, about cluster feeding. I was paranoid about each weigh-in and what they would find, even though she was filling out before my eyes. And I am so grateful for friends who listened to me and reminded me that this was normal. I’ve been reminded of what power there is in knowledge and love.

I did initially have difficulty getting Ophelia to latch. It really threw me as I tried everything I’d learned about to try to get her to gape and take enough of the breast into her mouth but she just didn’t seem to know what to do. She was also pretty sleepy. A lactation consultant friend who had helped with Talitha, popped by to see what was going on, listen to me and suggest some a position I hadn’t tried. She also reassured me, which was probably the thing I needed most.

This experience has made me think that maybe we need to be really mindful that mothers who aren’t first-timers still need a lot of care. Even if things have gone well before, every baby is different and a new breastfeeding journey might throw up new challenges. Even if everything gets off on the right foot, looking after a newborn is still terribly hard work and we can still feel vulnerable. We can still need to be reminded of things. We can still need to be heard.

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  • So true as each child is different but I have also found the support is even more vital as you do not have the time to sit and focus just on breastfeeding baby, but someone else decides that just as you have got baby latched on someone else needs the potty and the other a game/book/snack out of reach which they had shown no indication of needing when asked just before you settled down to feed, or at night when solo parenting and you are nursing and one of the others wakes up and needs you.. And those hormones that you allowed to take over with one and let you close your eyes and rest while nursing your first frustrates your eldest who wants you to read the longest chapter book they can find while you are nursing:)

  • it’s so great to hear you found it that much easier this time around, I must admit it’s almost the list of worries about doing it all again another time round. Tomorrow will be a week of no breastfeeding! Feels so strange to say that after two and a half years! x
    Fritha recently posted..Father’s Day

  • My hubby and ibclc Ann who snipped the ptt and helped me for 4mths struggle with blockages etc I found hospital totally ignored me (left me to it) as second timer despite not bf successfully first time (epd) whilst nice to not have been bothered I could focus on baby I did need help!! Quicker to shout for it this time

    • Good that you shouted! I found too that people kind of left me to it with breastfeeding this time too but I have to admit I really didn’t want their help. I just wanted to get out of hospital! Heard some great conversations between mums and peer supporters on the ward though.

  • My husband has always been my number 1 support, never making a big deal of it but often chipping in with a suggestion making it clear that he has been listening to me all along 🙂 I tandem fed for 8 weeks and really found it tough with a 2 year old and then a newborn – different latch, different needs, one not dealing well with the fast letdown, one demanding more more more. I’m so glad I persevered though because they now have the most wonderful relationship and my eldest sometimes sits with me holding my breast while his younger brother nurses, “helping” him 🙂 Of course when I was pregnant the immediate assumption was that I would wean the elder one, because people thought it would be impossible to feed him.

  • I wrote about this last year I think – and I’ve just had my third baby and had another different experience! How did you find it being a supporter and wanting to breastfeed? I have reflected on it and realised that just the fact that I had been training as a breastfeeding counsellor for a year before Daphne was born affected how I found support – I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do it and a bit embarrassed that I needed support; and then I realised that I really shouldn’t be! It was a great learning experience for me.

    Hope you are enjoying the journey with Ophelia and thanks for sharing – a lovely and thought provoking post x
    Lauren recently posted..Flying vs Breastfeeding – top tips #KBBF2014

    • Really interesting comment! I felt similarly to you but I think it helped that I new a much more experienced breastfeeding supporter (a BFC, actually) who was having a baby at the same time and she just seemed so real about things.

  • I worried about breastfeeding my second as well – partly because there were so many problems with my first that I never resolved. A few hours after my daughter was born, I was having difficulties latching her on my left side (because I had an IV in my left arm and I couldn’t find a comfortable position). I rang the bell to ask the nurse for help. She brusquely asked me “isn’t this your second? Did you not breastfeed the first?” When I said yes, she was my second and I had breastfed my first, she replied “What’s the problem so?” Needless to say, I didn’t look for her help again that night, even when I found myself struggling not five minutes after she left.

    Thankfully, I too was better informed this time around, and I knew where to seek good help, so things worked out, and we’re here now at almost 15 months and going strong. But I don’t think i’ll ever forget how that nurse made me feel. So you’re totally right – we need to remember that it’s not just first time mothers who need help.
    Lisa | recently posted..Pumping on the job

  • We are trying for our second baby now and I cannot wait to breastfeed again – I found it quite emotional when it ended when Mr A was a toddler, he was also tongue-tied but with the help of my local group we got past it. I have to be honest I will feel exactly like you – nervous but also more confident than the first time round. Great giveaway, fingers and toes crossed

    Laura x
    Laura recently posted..A week of Gratitude

  • What a great post, I know that if we have another baby I will fret slightly as my journey with F breast feeding was not smooth in any way. Glad to know that there is support out there is you can get it for second time round. x
    Lori recently posted..OH MOTHER // BERLIN

  • my husband was a huge support, even though breastfeeding my three was never easy, mainly as I have to take meds and i can’t when i’m pregnant/breastfeeding and without them i’m sick. but he supported my decision to breastfeed them, and to stop x
    Polly recently posted..Bailey Hill Festival

  • What a beautiful reminder that every breastfeeding experience is different. I will share your post with my nurse colleagues as a reminder that “mothers who aren’t first-timers still need a lot of care”!

  • My husband is my greatest support. This post was very interesting to me. If we are lucky enough to conceive again, I will make sure I don’t just assume it will be plain sailing second time around!

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