When Pearlyn Ho first became a mother five years ago, she looked forward to breastfeeding her newborn. After all, she had heard so much about the health benefits of breastmilk and the bonding sessions she would share with baby.
Instead, it turned out to be a time of great frustration and agony. Ho, an administrative manager recalls, “I could not produce enough milk, my son was not latching properly and I got very little support from my confinement nanny who kept pushing me to supplement with formula milk.” After a month, she stopped breastfeeding.
Last year, when Ho was pregnant with her second child, she wondered if history would repeat itself. Luckily, her worries were unfounded. Ho managed to breastfeed successfully with help from lactation consultants. They taught her how to hold her baby, so that he could latch on properly. This time, not only was she producing more milk, the whole feeding process became a lot smoother and faster.
“Second-time mums now know what to expect and are able to implement the measures they had used previously to overcome the challenges they had faced with their first baby.”
Experts agree that when it comes to breastfeeding, “If, at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again” as nursing can really be easier the second time round. One reason is that having prior experience caring for a newborn, second-time mums are now less anxious.
Says Yasa Yong, a senior lactation consultant at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, “They now know what to expect and are able to implement the measures they had used previously to overcome the nursing challenges they had faced with their first baby. Breastfeeding becomes more satisfying and they are able to enjoy the time with their newborn.”
Nature plays its part, too. The mother’s body seems more prepared the second time round by remembering how to make milk. Yong adds, “Some studies have shown that milk-producing mammary glands remain in a state of preparedness to make milk when it is needed again.”
Dr Mythili Pandi, lead trainer with the Breastfeeding Mothers Support Group Singapore (BMSG), says that the second-time mum’s milk is likely to come in faster as she’s more confident and relaxed, “Also, her nipples will be less tender compared with when she first started. When baby is feeding on a ‘virgin breast’, so to speak, it might be uncomfortable for her if she doesn’t know how to cope with the challenges of intensive breastfeeding.”
When the second time might not be easier…
While breastfeeding in general tends to be easier subsequently, this is not always the case as other factors might come into play. Dr Mythili lists them. “The second baby could be premature, there could be birth difficulties, a prolonged labour, or the mother might have to undergo an emergency Caesarean. All these will impact her breastfeeding efforts from the start.”
Mothers should persevere to overcome the initial difficulties of breastfeeding as “it is a skill which requires a village of support. “
Mums who have faced stress and trauma during delivery or are unable to have direct skin contact with their preemie might find that their breastmilk production is taking a while to establish. But Dr Mythili believes that mothers should persevere to overcome the initial difficulties of breastfeeding as “it is a skill which requires a village of support. “
Yong adds that what mothers can do in such situations is to express their milk and feed their baby with the bottle. “This is commendable as baby is still getting breastmilk, albeit not directly from the breast. “
Seek help early
Whether it is for your first or subsequent baby, the experts say that it is always a good idea to seek help early if you feel you might have issues breastfeeding or to clarify any nagging doubts in advance. Here’s what to note:
* Consult a lactation expert, preferably from the third trimester. She should be able to assist you with queries either on the phone, via e-mail or during workshops and group sessions.
* Find out what support system is offered by your hospital’s lactation department. Besides helping you while you are still warded, check if the consultant does home visits after you have been discharged to get an update on your progress or offers one-one sessions to guide you on your breastfeeding efforts.
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