For first-time moms the journey into motherhood is one massive body of uncharted water. No amount of reading or polling the audience can ultimately prepare you for all of the changes that come with pregnancy and a new baby—you have to rely on good old-fashioned experience … and boy is there a lot to learn!
Thankfully, it appears common for those learning curves to come with a few parental perks. According to a recent survey conducted by Perrigo Nutrition, about 51 percent of mothers said they had more confidence with their second child, and one-third claimed their anxiety was better than that compared to their first child.
Feeling more relaxed and capable, even if still unsure about parenting two children simultaneously, and the ability to better go with the flow from the start are also shared differences of second-time moms. And while some differences are certainly drastic (like not getting to nap nearly as much because you’re chasing and caring for big brother all day), not all the differences are struggles. Read on for more takeaways on how moms do second pregnancies differently.
The Announcement Has No Timeline
From the get-go, some expectant women choose to be open about their pregnancies sooner—and some later—then previously. “I didn’t feel the pressure to wait until I was past the 12-week mark this time like I did my first pregnancy, says Alexis, mom of one and due with baby No. 2 in February. I let my closest family members and best friends know as soon as I found out around six weeks. I felt like even though there was a higher chance of something going wrong that early on, it didn’t change the truth of the matter: I’m pregnant with my second kid, and I want to celebrate!”
Others may feel like keeping their little secret under wraps for a while in an effort to savor and appreciate the special time with their partner and older child. Telling your little one they’re destined to be a big sister thanks to a new sibling on the way is a moment in time to be remembered.
Another factor is pregnant moms are so busy, they may not keep track of how far along they are on a weekly basis or have enough energy to make a grand announcement at all. This is true of Megan, new-again mom of two boys. “People would ask me how far along I was, and I would just reference my due date; I didn’t check my pregnancy app hardly at all and was heavily preoccupied with my firstborn, who was only age 1 at the time. I even let him FaceTime his grandma to share the news about losing his only-child status!”
Either way, the point is there are no rules (there never were!) when it comes when and how you choose to spill the beans to family and friends, so let go of any expectations carried over from your first baby. (Our only piece of advice is to rope your employer in at an appropriate time for work purposes.)
The Registry Looks Very Different
While it serves the same function no matter the baby number, your secondary registry will probably be a bit more practical and less about the latest gear and gadgets. (Spoiler alert: You don’t need the fanciest brands to have a happy baby!)
When you and your partner are new parents (and newly departed from your baby-free lifestyle), your child’s needs may involve a lot more stuff than originally anticipated, but thankfully much of that can be reused or modified to accommodate your budding brood. For example, double strollers are super versatile these days and can be assembled in all types of configurations to meet your needs, such as a bassinet and regular seat, two bassinets, two full-size seats, etc. Chances are you would only have to register for an additional seat or rider-board attachment to cruise with the whole family. Car seats, sleep bassinets, bouncers and more can all be passed down pending the pieces are in decent condition. Add in some new bodysuits, bibs and burp cloths, and you’re ready for your littlest bambino to join the party.
(P.S. It may be helpful to know that a whopping 71 percent of second-time moms included in the survey also shared they would be more likely to use store-brand products for everyday baby items, including diapers, wipes and infant formula, so go ahead and add it all to your wish list.)
The Birth Plan is More Concrete
It’s easy to understand how obsessed pregnant women can get with controlling a birth plan. After all, there’s nothing in life like childbirth, which can be quite unpredictable, but once you go through it, there’s a wealth of experience to draw from that can equip you to make future plans and on-the-spot decisions come delivery day.
Women who have given birth often know how to better advocate for themselves during the labor and delivery process. They know what they liked (dimmed lighting, less interruptions) and didn’t like (an excess of cervical checks) about their previous experience and have a firmer voice in the conversation surrounding consent. It’s unfortunately common for first-time moms to have limited awareness of their birthing rights and what they can decline in a medical setting. This knowledge makes her a more active participant and stronger voice in the room, even if it’s coming from the birth team or her written plan.
One example of this is an understanding that the given due date is not the end-all-be-all of when birth should occur and feeling more at ease advocating to go into spontaneous labor instead of being induced. Veteran mamas are less concerned about due dates because they know it’s just an estimate that can fluctuate by days or weeks.
Another bullet point on the list is visitation. While having the entire family anxiously crowded in the waiting room may have felt expected and normal the last go around, many moms simply aren’t interested in entertaining from the recovery ward. “I got some mild heat from my family when my second baby was born for not allowing visitors outside of my parents and in-laws while in the hospital, says Taylor, soon to be mom of her fourth babe. With my third delivery, COVID prohibited visitation, and I’m assuming the facility I’m birthing at in a few weeks will have the same policy. We will host visitations on our own schedule once we are home and it works for us. I now have zero issues with kindly asking others to wait a little while and get text and photo updates until we are ready.”
Other questions second-time mothers are likely to feel settled on upfront are whether she wants to breastfeed or bottle-feed, her plans for offered vaccines and newborn medications, and whether or not to circumcise. These sometimes-touchy topics can create turmoil and confusion for a new mom, but once she’s has the opportunity to make those tough decisions with her firstborn, it’s expected to be easier to navigate without as much inner conflict.
The Newborn Haze is Expected
It should go without saying that those early days and weeks are still survival mode for most families. Sleepless nights, long, foggy days and a general state of delusion are uncomfortable, but not alarming. Parents know it’s coming and that it doesn’t last forever. They may even be more prepared to better enjoy the experience overall.
“I practiced the 3-3-3 rule after I had my third daughter, says Krissy, mom of three. It’s where you do your best to respect the postpartum period of rest and healing by staying in bed for three days after birth to focus on sleep, breastfeeding and connecting with baby. The other six days are a slow return to your daily routine. I did way too much too quickly when I had my first and still regret it.”
Speaking of postpartum connecting, you’re likely to not stress too much about initial bonding with a second baby. For many parents the emotional attachment isn’t instant and gradually comes with daily care of their baby, which ultimately takes time.
Other partners may have perfected the art of communicating during the fourth trimester, which is no easy feat! The new role of parenting comes with many expectations that can be hard to discuss ahead of time, simply because you don’t know what kind of emotional support you will need or how you will respond to challenges like sleep deprivation and feeling isolated. (Tip: We encourage not bringing these matters up at 3 a.m. when your baby isn’t sleeping and you’re both feeling on edge. Agree to stay on the same team and hatch a solution in the morning.) Any practice you got the first time through will only serve to set you up for better success later on. Remember you aren’t a newbie now, and you have the tools to totally rock it.