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Breastfeeding a second (or third or fourth) baby

by Sky Mykyta, Community educator

‘With my second baby I faced so many of the things I had with my first — a poor latch, lack of exposure to breastfeeding in general, nipple damage and infections, nipple shields, mastitis, an inability to express a lot of breastmilk ... but with the support of the ABA I am so proud to say that, with my second baby, I achieved all of my breastfeeding goals.’ Michelle, mother of Samuel and Callum.

Many families seek out the help of ABA when they are expecting or feeding a second or subsequent child. This can be because they had an easy time the first time round but experience difficulties the second time or it can be because their breastfeeding journey didn’t work out the first time. The good news is that the vast majority of women we help with a subsequent baby are able to breastfeed their babies. Breastfeeding is a powerful process. With support and encouragement, mothers cope with many different stresses and still breastfeed successfully.

There are a few common scenarios that come up when breastfeeding second or subsequent babies. This article explores some of these. Our website is filled with information on common breastfeeding concerns affecting babies and mums as well as special situations.

When breastfeeding didn’t work out the first time around

The vast majority of women in Australia intend to breastfeed their babies and most of them do start breastfeeding in the days after birth. Unfortunately, there are still a number of families who don’t get the support or accurate information in the early days to help them breastfeed the way they wanted. If this was you, please know — it doesn't have to be the same next time. You can change the story second (or third or fourth) time around.

A good time to start thinking about how you will have a better experience this time is when you are pregnant, especially around the second trimester when you are feeling well. Here are some things you can do:

If you stopped breastfeeding (weaned) before you wanted to, it may be possible to restart breastfeeding. This is called relactation.

When breastfeeding didn’t work out due to low supply

Most women produce more than enough milk for their baby (or babies). For some, an oversupply of breastmilk is the reason that breastfeeding doesn’t work out. We can help you manage an oversupply if this was you. Rarely, a woman has breasts that do not produce enough milk because of insufficient glandular tissue (IGT). Glandular tissue is the milk-making tissue in the breast. The good news is that if you have IGT, it is likely that you can still breastfeed your baby.

Breastfeeding works on a demand and supply basis. As milk is removed from your breasts, your body produces more milk. If milk is not being removed from the breasts (by your baby or by pumping or hand expressing) your body will start to produce less milk. There are lots of reasons why this can happen in the early days such as too few breastfeeds, mother-baby separation and too much unnecessary formula supplementation.

Some mothers who have experienced unexplained low supply or IGT find that, for subsequent babies, their supply improves. This is because more glandular tissue is made with each pregnancy and breastfeeding experience.

If your baby weaned before you were ready last time around

Some women successfully established breastfeeding and everything seemed to be going well but they weaned well before they were ready to, or they would have preferred to breastfeed their child for longer. There are many benefits to breastfeeding a child past babyhood.

Weaning before you are ready can happen for a number of reasons. For example, some women mistake a temporary breast refusal for child-led weaning. Another common reason for premature weaning is introduction of formula top-ups, or when introducing solid foods. Commonly, the advice in Australia around introducing solids is presented with the intention that babies will wean when they are around 12 months old. If you want to continue breastfeeding to 2 years and beyond (in line with WHO recommendations), you may want to plan the introduction of solids differently, for example by trying the baby-led solids approach.

Another reason for early weaning is around mum’s return to work or study. With planning and support, you can continue to breastfeed when you return to work. Continuing to breastfeed during this time can mean reduced illness for you child due to the immunological factors in breastmilk and can help you both to reconnect after periods apart.

Increased knowledge and support can help you avoid weaning before you and your baby are ready.

Breastfeeding take two: change the story!

Many women find they can breastfeed second or subsequent children, even if it didn’t work out before. We are here to support you.

‘When it all got too much and I was really struggling, I reached out to my new ABA mum friends and they gave me the advice I needed to get through the next feed, then the next. I made it 15 and a half months of breastfeeding! I am incredibly proud of that, 5 weeks with my first child to 15 months with my second is an incredible difference! I know that past breastfeeding experience is no indicator of future breastfeeding experiences and, that with the support of the Australian Breastfeeding Association, I was to achieve more than I ever thought possible. I will always be thankful to everyone at ABA who gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to have a much nicer breastfeeding experience the second time around.’ Michelle, mother of Samuel and Callum.

© Australian Breastfeeding Association Revised June 2018



Last reviewed: 
Jun 2018