The Difference Between Breastfeeding Your First and Second Baby

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Breastfeeding your first baby comes with new and unexpected experiences, and things don’t always go according to plan. But by the time you are expecting your second baby, you likely have a better idea of what breastfeeding entails, along with the challenges you might face.

Of course, no two babies are the same, and no two breastfeeding experiences are exactly alike. Still, there are some common experiences that parents have when it comes to breastfeeding baby #1 vs. baby #2.

We reached out to experts to help us understand what some of the differences may be, both physiologically and emotionally, and what to expect as you set out to breastfeed baby #2.

What Happens Physiologically Between Baby #1 and #2

If low milk supply—or a delay in your milk “coming in”—was a concern for you ith your first child, there’s some good news. Typically, breastfeeding parents can expect to produce more milk the second time around, especially in the first few days postpartum, explains Jenelle Ferry, M.D., neonatologist and director of feeding, nutrition, and infant development at Pediatrix Neonatology of Florida.

“It often takes less time for milk to come in with subsequent pregnancies,” Dr. Ferry says. "You will still produce colostrum in the first few days of life, but it may take less time to reach full milk production.” This phenomenon may depend somewhat on the amount of time that elapsed between your two children—the closer together, the more milk you are likely to make, explains Dr. Ferry.

Part of the reason why so many second-time parents experience a higher milk supply is because of the fact that our mammary glands have a way of remembering how to make milk.

“There is some scientific evidence that [suggests that] the mammary gland forms a sort of long-term memory of pregnancy that primes it to respond to hormonal changes with subsequent pregnancies,” Dr. Ferry explains. “The response to these hormones (estrogen and progesterone) cause a large increase in growth of mammary epithelial cells, forming new ducts, and overall support of milk production and transport.”

Still, even though you may experience increased milk in those first few weeks, other factors will influence your overall milk supply during your second pregnancy, including how often your baby breastfeeds. So breastfeeding frequently is still important in terms of establishing and maintaining your milk supply.

Emotional Changes

They say that with each new child you have, you are a new parent all over again, and this is the case when it comes to breastfeeding, too. At the same time, once you’ve been through a few months or more of feeding a previous baby, you've developed knowledge and experience that may guide and influence your feelings.

Here are some of ways your attitudes and emotions might change between baby #1 and #2.

You May Feel More Confident

Katy Linda, IBCLC, lactation consultant and owner of The Rumina Center, says that many breastfeeding parents experience more confidence the second time, especially if they were previously able to meet their breastfeeding goals. Yes, having that second baby and preparing to breastfeed again might come with stress, but parents have usually learned from their first experiences, and are better connected to resources and support than they were before, says Linda.

Dr. Ferry agrees: Parents who’ve successfully breastfed their first baby for a year or so have probably gained a certain amount of confidence.

“They've also likely experienced some of the struggles and have multiple strategies for getting through rough periods, cluster feeding, growth spurts, and balancing working and pumping,” Dr. Ferry describes.

You May Feel Anxious or Less Confident (And This Is Normal!)

On the other hand, if you had a difficult experience breastfeeding your first child, you may not experience a higher level of confidence, Dr. Ferry notes. Feeling concerned about what will happen the second time around is common and understandable.

But what you do have now is the knowledge that you may need a little more help this time. Connecting with breastfeeding consultants and supportive healthcare providers can help you meet your goals, Dr. Ferry says. If you had trouble breastfeeding previously, it might make sense to gather those resources while you are expecting your second child, instead of waiting until after delivery.

You May Be More Likely To Follow Your Instincts

Many breastfeeding parents will tell you that they care much less about what others think—whether it has to do with how frequently they feed their babies, formula supplementation, sleeping arrangements...the list goes on. This is partly because of the fact that, the second time around, parents are more likely to trust their instincts when it comes to personal choices, says Brittani Edds, RN, IBCLC, nurse and lactation consultant.

“With their second child, I often see parents follow their intuition a lot more,” Edds shares. With your first baby, you are getting different ideas and tips, seemingly from everywhere and everyone—some of it conflicting advice. “With the second baby, families tend to really know what works best for their dynamic when it comes to infant feeding,” Edds adds.

You May Be Surprised How Different Your Babies Are

Every baby is different, with completely unique qualities. As such, each baby will have a different “breastfeeding personality.” For example, while your first baby may have wanted to eat on a more regulated schedule, your second baby may be more of a snacker, or vice versa.

“Babies can have different feeding patterns and preferences,” says Dr. Ferry. “One infant may prefer a football hold while another prefers the cross cradle; one infant may feed vigorously for 15 minutes and empty the breast, while the next may suckle more slowly with breaks and take closer to half an hour to empty the breast.” 

These sorts of differences can throw second-time parents for a loop, but there are many different ways that breastfeeding can look, all within the spectrum of normal, Dr. Ferry assures.

You May Be Faced With New Challenges

One major difference between breastfeeding your first child and your second is that you now have another child to tend to at the same time.

“Trying to manage the other children while breastfeeding can be a challenge,” says Linda. Your older child may not be used to not being the center of attention, and if they are little, they may still have many needs of their own.

Linda has some suggestions for making this transition a bit easier.

“Finding ways to involve the older siblings with the care and feeding of the new baby can make the experience much better,” she says. Your older child can do simple tasks, like bring you diapers, wipes, and burp cloths. Some kids may be able to refill your water bottle, or bring you a snack.

“For younger children, having a special box of toys that only come out when baby is feeding can be a great way to keep them safe and occupied,” Linda suggests.

A Word From Verywell

The truth is, while there may be some common experiences when it comes to breastfeeding baby #1 vs baby #2, everyone is unique, and has different experiences.

“You might come across new challenges, hurdles, or frustrations with your second [child] that you did not experience with your first,” says Edds. “On the contrary, feeding your second baby might feel like a breeze.”

The most important thing is to make sure you have a good support network in place, such as a lactation support person and family members who are willing to pitch in with the housework and meal prep. After all, if there’s anything to know about breastfeeding a baby—whether it’s your first or your fifth—it’s that it’s not something you are meant to do alone.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ingram J, Woolridge M, Greenwood R. Breastfeeding: it is worth trying with the second baby. Lancet. 2001;358(9286):986-987. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(01)06126-8

  2. Dos Santos CO, Dolzhenko E, Hodges E, et al. An epigenetic memory of pregnancy in the mouse mammary gland. Cell Reports. 2015;11(7):1102-9. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.04.015

  3. Nemours Children's Health. Breastfeeding FAQs: Supply and Demand.

Additional Reading

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.