First Child Versus Second Child: How Parenting Changes
While we may like to believe that we treat all of our kids the same, the reality is that, for most of us, there are some fundamental differences in how we parent our first child versus our second child (or any subsequent children).
First Child: From the moment you find out you’re pregnant you are determined to do everything right. You buy the books. You go to your doctor’s appointments armed with questions. You Google everything before you eat it to make sure it’s pregnancy-safe. You know what size of fruit the baby is each week. And when people ask how far along you are, you tell them, 28 weeks and 3 days.
Second Child: You regularly forget you are pregnant. When somebody asks how far along you are, you do a bit of mental math, give up, and tell them the month you’re due.
At the Hospital
First Child: You pepper the nurses with questions: Is he supposed to be that loud? Is that poop normal? Am I feeding him correctly? Can you show me how to swaddle him again? Am I doing this right? You’re discharged reluctantly, check the car seat about 100 times before leaving the hospital, and drive home at approximately half the speed limit.
Second Child: Other than when you ask for things you need (ahem, more mesh underwear), you’re pretty much left alone. You stay in the hospital for the requisite 24 hours, then happily go home to your older child, who has grown remarkably overnight.
First Child: You spend weeks in that incomparable newborn haze. You’re tired, your house is a mess, and you’re crying at the drop of a hat, but you are so very much in love.
Second Child: You spend hours in that incomparable newborn haze. Then your toddler spills his dinner everywhere and refuses to go to bed, and you are jolted back to the reality that life goes on. You’re tired, your house is a mess, and you’re back to crying at the drop of a hat, but you are so very much in love.
First Child: You follow all the rules. You will get this baby to sleep alone, flat on their back, in only a sleep sack, if it kills you (and some days it feels like it might!). Naps and bedtime are an elaborate, structured routine, which is never to be disturbed.
Second Child: You follow most of the rules. But if bed-sharing is going to get everyone some sleep, that’s what’s going to happen. Baby quickly learns to nap on the fly, and bedtime becomes a matter of survival (especially if you’re doing it alone!).
First Child: When the pacifier falls on the floor at your house you wash it with soap, and consider whether or not it’s necessary to sterilize it.
Second Child: When the pacifier falls on the floor out in public, you take a quick look around to make sure nobody saw, brush it off, and give it back to them. Gotta build up that immune system!
First Child: You research and prepare elaborate puree combinations. You introduce new foods cautiously, writing down the foods that you’ve tried and baby’s reaction.
Second Child: You spoon feed them. Once. Then you realize there’s no way you’re going to be able to do that multiple times a day, and decide baby led weaning is the way to go. Your baby is eating the same meals as the rest of the family from a remarkably young age. Other than the main allergens, you’re hard pressed to remember what they’ve tried and what they haven’t.
First Child: No screen time until two. Or at least until you’re really pregnant and completely exhausted.
Second Child: No comment.
First Child: You document their life with thousands of photos, from the moment you find out you’re pregnant. You painstakingly fill out their baby book, and display their coming home outfit and hospital bracelet in the nursery.
Second Child: You rationalize that there are more pictures of them as a baby than there were of you, so you’re doing ok. You wish you had never filled out a baby book for your first.
First Child: Your world revolves around them. They have the benefit of your undivided attention, doting on their every move. You worry about their development, their sleep, their eating habits, and their safety. Surprisingly, firstborns tend to become more cautious…
Second Child: Your world revolves around them…and their older sibling. They very rarely get your undivided attention, but they get plenty of attention from their older sibling. You worry about very little, knowing that every baby is different and almost everything is a stage. They become incredibly self-sufficient and fiercely independent.
Related: Nobody Told Me
First Child: You love them more than you could have ever imagined.
Second Child: You love them more than you could have ever imagined.