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Differences Between First and Second Children

What I've Learned From Baby Number Two

We're excited to share this post from our partners at BabyCenter! Every week, we will be bringing you the best parenting and lifestyle stories from the experts at BabyCenter, including this post from Carolyn Robertson about lessons learned from a second child.


Motherhood has been a very humbling experience so far . . . which is a nice way of saying it’s knocked me on my ass many times over. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been midconversation with another grown-up and suddenly realized that (a) my breasts are leaking, or (b) I have a crusty old food stain on my shirt, or (c) I am decorated with Little Mermaid tattoos and sparkly dinosaur stickers and Phineas & Ferb Band-Aids.

Related: Would you want a big family?

I assumed, though, that I would have a much better handle on things the second time around. Sleep issues, tantrums, separation anxiety, potty training: been there, done that, bring it on. And then I met my second daughter.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned from baby number two:

  1. Sleep training doesn’t always work: I was one of those moms who swore by sleep training. CIO works, I’d tell my mom friends. It’s not fun, but if you stick with it, it works. My oldest, after all, started sleeping through the night and never stopped after we let her cry it out at 6 months old. Well, it turns out it doesn’t always work, after all. I did everything exactly the same with Amelia, but at 21 months old, she’s still not a great sleeper.
  2. Sometimes babyproofing really is necessary: I read in some baby book that we do our kids no favors when we babyproof the home — they have to learn limits, after all. Made sense to me! So with our first, we did the bare minimum (baby gate on the stairs, potentially poisonous stuff out of reach) and took care of everything else with a firm “no touch!” and gentle redirection. Worked like a charm. We figured we’d do the same with our youngest, but as it turns out our little angel loves to body slam the window screens and climb into the fireplace. Everything — everything — goes in her mouth. We tell her "no," we redirect, and she laughs and becomes that much more determined. Our house is now so childproofed that even I have trouble getting into the kitchen cupboards.
  3. No two kids are the same: My first is shy and cautious — my second would run into traffic to hug a stranger. My first is sensitive and gentle — my second is a crazy little steamroller. They are different in every way imaginable, and I’m starting to see that all those tried-and-true tricks that worked for one probably won’t work for the other.

One last thing I’ve learned? You really can love another baby as much as you love your first. I harbored secret fears that I would never be able to love any other child with the depth and intensity that I do my older daughter. I was wrong.

What did you learn from your second — third or fourth — child?

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