Monday, May 27, 2019

From Baby #1 to Baby #2: What's changed the second time around

As the second oldest of six kids, I recall different phases that my parents went through throughout the years. They'd try various techniques with different kids, trying to find the best way to discipline, educate, and love us. Every kid is different, so going through phases seems normal to me. It's something that I've expected to go through myself as I work with my husband in raising our children. However, I've been astonished to see that even though we just had our second child at the end of last summer, I've already been changing things up. When my firstborn was a baby, I learned a lot about myself and my assumptions of what motherhood "should" look like. The mental adjustment during that first postpartum period was a bit challenging. So, as I prepared to birth my second child, I knew that some things would be different.

The baby is now nine months old (how????), and looking on these past several months, I think it's fascinating to think about what is different with caring for a baby the second time around.

Regarding Sleep Arrangements
When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I knew that I wanted to do bedsharing with the baby. Part of this had to do with practicality: our apartment did not have much space in the bedroom, and I didn't really want to take up more space in there with a crib or co-sleeper next to the bed. But, I also had heard from other people that bedsharing was the way to do things, particularly if I was going to breastfeed the baby. So, the baby slept in our bed, and it was fine. Good, even-in those first months, there were some nights where I got quite a bit of sleep because I nursed the baby in a mostly-asleep-state. Even though it sometimes drove me crazy to constantly be touched all day and all night, there were definite benefits-until the baby hit around 8 months old, when I became hit punching/kicking bag all night long.

For baby #2, I knew that things could be different. We're in a house, now, with more space. Our mattress has a soft top that supposedly isn't safe for bedsharing. We keep our mattress on the floor, so we decided to put the baby on a mat a few feet away. It has been awesome. It's still really easy to nurse and care for the baby (I can literally roll out of bed, grab and nurse him, and do a ninja roll back into bed), but I have my own space. He's not even touching out bed-so when we move, it won't wake him up. He's been a lot more consistent with sleep (and better sleep at that) than kid #1, and I think part of it is definitely the different sleep arrangements (though each kid is different-I have one friend whose child would not sleep well at all, until they finally put him in their bed).

Regarding Night Wakings
With baby #1, my husband would offer to get up in the night to help out, but I rarely asked him to do so. It just made sense to me-since I'd be breastfeeding the baby-to let him sleep. Plus, while caring for a baby all day long was exhausting, it wasn't like I'd be sitting through office meetings like my husband-so I wanted to make sure he got sleep.

This time around, though, I've started asking my husband a lot more frequently to take nighttime shifts. While yes, I do still stay at home (so I don't have to attend work meetings like him), I am caring for not only a baby but a toddler and a baby. And caring for a toddler all day long requires that I get some sleep. So, I've been asking my to take things at nighttime much more frequently-particularly if I've nursed the baby and he won't sleep and I'm struggling to stay awake. I'm still not getting tons of sleep consistently (there have been a handful of nights when the baby has slept through the night, for which I'm grateful, but it's not like that most of the time!), but I'm definitely getting more this time around! In the past couple days, we've even stuck the baby in a room with the toddler, and that's been going better than I expected.

Regarding Breastfeeding
I had grown up with the understanding that if one wants to breastfeed, it needs to be done "on demand." That way, you can ensure that the baby gets enough food. Not to mention all of the mother-baby closeness and attachment that supposedly happens in this constant breastfeeding all day and night. So, this is what I did. And it was ROUGH. Yes, part of that was due to latch issues in the first couple months. But even once breastfeeding was easy and natural, I got extremely exhausted and touched-out. Even when my child was just over a year, he was still doing 8-10 nursing sessions a day (not including 1-2 at night) because it was "on demand" and that's how he was directing things.

During my pregnancy with kid #2, another mom mentioned that she was exclusively breastfeeding her baby on a schedule. My mind was blown, and my life was changed. My midwife was totally on board with this (she just advised doing the first few weeks "on demand" to build up a supply) and I was excited to try it out. However, in the first few months postpartum, every time I would attempt to put the baby on a schedule, someone would get sick, and I'd abandon things since I wanted him to get as much milk as possible to ward off sickness. It was fine, though, because I knew that we were working towards a schedule, and that this would not last forever. And it didn't! When he was about 6-7 months old, I suddenly had the realization that without even trying much, he was on a loose eating schedule. It's made me a lot more sane, he's gained tons of weight, and it's helped me be much more attentive to his actual needs, instead of just nursing him whenever he cried (which is what advocates of "feed on demand" had taught me to do). Breastfeeding on demand works for some people, and that's awesome, but I am REALLY happy that the baby and I have gotten onto more of a schedule because it's working so well for us!

Random picture from a recent "walking pilgrimage" 
that the kids and I took (more on that later).
I think it's fun to look at how I used to do things, and how I've changed. And I'm sure as my kids and I continue to grow and change, and if/when our family expands, I'll probably continue to change things up even more! If anything, looking back at these past several months is a good reminder to me that just because I did something one way with my first kid does not mean that I "need" to do it that way again. 


  1. Great thoughts!! I had some different goals for #2 plus he was just such a different baby! Some things we did the same and some we did differently. I imagine we'll change it up again for #3 a bit as well! I feel like it's good to hold motherhood goals/plans very lightly, haha!

    1. I think that's so cool you've been changing it up as well! I love your point about holding motherhood goals and plans lightly. I 100% agree! It seems that when we cling tightly to certain motherhood goals or images as a core part of our identity or a non-negotiable thing, we can make life way harder than it needs to be for ourselves-since we constantly have to be adapting to the needs of our kids!

  2. I think this will definitely be interesting to see what changes with our next one! With Cyrus, I kept him in his crib in our room for about eight months before moving the crib to his room...and but then the chaos of Chinese New Year (fireworks all night long for two weeks straight), plus my brother staying with us for six weeks (he slept in Cyrus's room so we had to move the crib out to the living area of the apartment) I think delayed his development of good sleeping habits. Now that he's been weaned and is in his own room he pretty much sleeps through the night and it's great! I never had Angel get up at night until after I was pregnant--since then I've been so tired and sick and wasn't supposed to lift Cyrus anyways, so he took over nights, and honestly I think that was part of Cyrus's motivation to just stay sleeping. Somehow it was less appealing when Daddy came to soothe him than when Mommy did.... hahaha! I actually don't know what factor really led to him sleeping through the night, as they all happened so close together.

  3. Yes! This is so true! I feel like with #2 I have been (she’s 15 mo) much more relaxed - with my first we were always home for naps and I worried about a lot more.

    1. Julianne, that's so interesting you've noticed this so early on in your parenting as well! I've heard that it's common to get even more laid-back past two kids, so if and when I have more, I'm interested to see how I loosen up even more ;)

  4. I've definitely experienced this. I find it quite humbling! I think I know how to do something or the best way to do something, but then the next baby has a different personality and different needs. Other times I do one thing for a few months and then have to change even though it is the same child!
    It's helpful to me to remember that there's not always a "right" way to do things. Different things work for different kids. I think it's like this with older kids, too. Different things motivate them to use the potty instead of diapers, they need different forms of discipline, some are really motivated to do school work while some need more encouragement, etc.

    1. I love how you tie this to the virtue of humility, Shannon! You make a great point. I think the whole "do one thing for a few months and then change it" can be frustrating, but like you said, it's so important to be flexible and see what a particular child needs instead of thinking about how we've "always done it this way" and that kind of thing.