Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Second time mum? A word to the wise...

As you'll know from elsewhere on this blog, I have five children under 8.  With each subsequent pregnancy I have searched for advice on what to expect but have rarely come across anything useful to someone who is on their second (or third, or fourth) pregnancy.  Granted it is useful to get some general reminders - it's amazing what you forget, but I'd have loved something aimed at my new situations.  With baby five approaching his 6th month milestone, I thought it was time to reflect on some of that advice I could have used.

Caviat: Every child and every family is different, but you might find these thoughts helpful starting points.

Somethings you'll already have guessed or worried about:

One. Child number one is going to be the one who has to make the biggest adjustment to the new addition.  This is inevitable, whether there is only a 9 month age difference or several years. From being the centre of your attention - even if you consider yourself to be a laid back parent - they will suddenly have to share you, and many times take second place in the first months after the new baby arrives.
My advice: Have some routines already established in place to ease transition!  For example, if mummy, or both mummy and daddy, usually puts child/ren to bed, start shifting this to just daddy - you can guarantee that bed time is when your new baby will need a feed or a nappy change or just a cuddle and it will be a lot easier on your older child to keep to routine if they're not expecting you to be there.  Conversely, choose one part of their routine that will remain the same so they have a bit of security in their day, perhaps sitting down to breakfast with them and leaving daddy or someone else to look after baby for ten minutes.
Other suggestions I've heard / used: Make sure when your child sees you after the baby is born you give them a cuddle before introducing them to baby.  Get a present for the older child from the baby and a present for the older child to give the baby.
Two.  Your second child will (almost certainly) be different from your first born.  For example, if your first child was a bad sleeper, chances are number two will settle more easily (you've had practise!), unfortunately the reverse may also be true - if you've had a good sleeper, you may be in for a shock!  Subsequent children are also likely to be different again.
My advice: Be prepared for surprises.  You'll probably be bracing yourself for the difficult bits you remember.  Keep an open mind - some stuff will still come out of no where, like a child that needs a feed every hour, when you'd been acustomed to three or four hourly feeds.
Other suggestions I've heard / used: Try to keep records for each child without comparing them - child one may have talked first, but child two may walk first.  Child two will mostly likely fit to your routine, so don't try to religiously stick to a newborn routine if you did with child one.
Three.  Boys and Girls are very different!  For one thing, anyone who has had a girl will have quite happily left her lying on an absorbant mat without a nappy on - this cannot be done with a boy, and wee fountains can get you right in the eye if you're not careful.  And this is only the beginning.

My advice: Talk to parents who have children of the opposite sex to your first born, and if you have a boy make sure you have a piece of kitchen towel to hand when changing nappies (of course, this applies if you're a first time parent with a boy too!).
Other suggestions I've heard / used: Babies don't care what colour they're wearing so you can reuse the baby clothes regardless - but bear in mind that photographs may be distressing in later years and strangers may become confused.
Things that may take you by surprise

One.  Your older child, no matter how small they are, will seem like a giant when you see them for the first time after meeting your newborn.

Two. Child two (or three or four) will play with toys you would never have given to your first born - my younger children all loved holding (and chewing on) the little Happyland people from about three months.

Three.  The availability of older children's toys and belongings will become a source of trauma to you.  For example, your first child probably didn't have access to pens before they were old enough to understand not to draw on every surface available.

You will have forgotten

One.  How small first size nappies are... and baby socks... and baby clothes.

Two.  That small baby nappies cannot contain the quantity of soft poo that your baby will expell on a single occassion.

Three. That breastfeeding a tiny baby is a very different thing to breastfeeding a six month old (or older).  I learnt to my cost that just because you have experience doesn't mean you don't need help in the early days.

What will increase?

One.  Washing.  A meal for four is not much harder to prepare than a meal for three.  However, with every new addition to the household, washing will increase by a noticeable measure - even if you only have half a load of washing per person per week it soon adds up.

Two.  Required kit.  Every child has their own equipment and tat vital possessions to be taken wherever you go.  Whether it's the regulation car seats to fit in the car, the spare clothes you learn never to be without, toys or activities to keep them entertained, you'll find the boot space appears even more limited than when you first had a baby.

Three.  Your ability to multi-task.  You will find that not only do you have the requisite eyes-in-the-back-of-your-head that you developed with your first child, you now have the ability to look in several places at once.  You may even find yourself aware of the movements of every small person in your vicinity.  (When I was learning to drive I had to turn this ability off as it made me over aware of the irrelevant activity around me.)

What are the best bits?

One.  Your capacity to love.  It may be a bit of a cliche, but love really does increase with each person you have to love.

Two.  Siblings play together.  Yes, there are likely to be many fights, but ultimately most children will keep each other entertained in a way that as parents we will never be quite as good at.  When I listen to my children playing, explaining 'what happens next', I know that I could never be as satisfying a partner in their imaginative games as they are for each other.

Three.  At the end of the day, two cuddles will always be better than just one.

Did I forget anything?  Please feel free to add your experiences!


  1. Only have two at the moment, but so much of what you've written rings true. I have two little boys and can confirm how incredibly different and amazing in their own ways each are, and also that eldest managed to not just regularly pee on me, but he also got himself right in the mouth once, although, funnily enough he then stopped peeing on me - leading me to think he may have been doing it on purpose prior to that :)

    1. It makes you wonder, doesn't it! I'm also always amazed by how different mine are from each other, and somehow surprised by the things they do the same.

  2. Wow that is such a useful post, thank you! I suspect I will be reading that again in the future as and when I have another! And thank you for linking up to my new bloggers post too.x

    1. Thank you, I had some fun writing it, thinking what I would have found useful and I hope people will find it helpful. It's great to have linked on your post - I've found all the other blogs really interesting.

  3. With baby number 3 due in less than three weeks this makes for interesting reading!

    1. Congratulations, I hope everything goes smoothly for you! I'm sure you've heard this, but (apart from the washing!) the jump to three isn't as hard as the jump to two - although those early weeks are always going to be tough. All the best!


Long or short - I love to hear your thoughts.