20 Things You Need to Know Before Having a Second Child

Second-time moms can expect less fanfare (what, no baby shower?), but the experience is no less magical. It might even be better


Photography by Carlo Mendoza

I have friends who have chosen to not have kids and others who stopped at one, but I just wasn’t that person. I always wanted two. According to the most recent numbers from Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey, I’m not alone: 959,000 Canadians between the ages of 20 and 40 with one child intended to have a second. For parents in the same age group who have at least two children, the average gap between their first- and second-born is 3.2 years.

My story is this: Couple plans for another baby, it doesn’t happen as quickly as anticipated, what seems like an eternity passes, conception finally occurs, happy ending. But this time, parenting seems different. But good different. So here’s what I and others have observed, and our advice for parents with Baby Number Two on the way.

1. Enjoy the Last Days as a Threesome. Baby One will lose only child status soon enough.

2. Don’t Expect People to Care as Much About You Having a Second Child. Try not to be offended. And be sure to meet a friend’s second or third babe (I hear a third announcement is often met with disbelief). You’ll want them to do the same, because these things matter.

3. Make Time for Baby Two. We kept our first in daycare part-time. This meant much of my employment income went towards child care, a luxury absolutely, but worth it if you can swing it. That said, it was good to have both kids home sometimes. I work outside the home, so maternity leave was precious. The days spent gallivanting to museums, the park, grandparents’ homes—those were my happiest, bar none.

4. Buy Some Newborn Clothes. Infant loaners were plentiful for the first, but when I realized all those little pieces were returned or that my first-born’s were too soiled, I had to send my mother-in-law to the mall for supplies.

5. Practical Baby Clothes Become the Norm. At least most of the time. “A baby needs to be comfortable and really doesn’t want to crawl around in a dress or a shirt and pants,” says Helen Tomalik, a Toronto mom of two. As for me, I’d still have my second in sleepers all day if I could.

6. Prepare for Even Less Me Time. Having two is great, but it means zero downtime. In our household, one eats, the other does not, one sleeps, the other is wide awake. The personal time I lost after becoming a first-time mom is in even shorter supply now.

7. Buy Into the Role of Mom. “This time around I won’t go through the shock of losing myself in parenting,” says Toronto-mom Michelle Kalman, who is expecting her second child. “I used to panic about my drastic lifestyle change, the lack of time for myself, the pressure to try to be both ‘me’ and ‘mom.’ This time I will just remember that I’m ‘mom,’ and that ‘me’ is still in there for an hour or two every week when I dash out for a pedicure or to meet a friend for coffee.”

8. Don’t Forget Your Partner. “I thought putting your kids first made you a good parent. But it’s not necessarily a benchmark to strive for,” says expectant mom Toni Brem Mullen of Toronto, who has two boys. “I was teaching them they were the centre of the universe and everyone else was less important, even Daddy. Love and embrace your partner, not just your kids, often.”

9. Treat the Second as an Individual. Our older son was ground zero, the petri dish of our parenting approach. And what the first adopts, you’ll be inclined to impose on the next. Recognizing this, I tried to treat Baby Two like a distinct person and not an extension of his older brother.

Read more: Preparing Your Child for the Arrival of a Sibling

10. Accept That Nature is Formidable. Toronto mom Celina Costa says her parenting style was identical for her kids, however, “they were and are completely different little people. That difference was there right from birth in terms of their sleeping and eating patterns, and milestones reached.”

11. Lose the Food Issues. After your first, you realize they won’t die if you give them non-organic applesauce. “You relax about food in general,” says Tomalik.

12. Be Consistent. When it comes to discipline, the old adage is true: start as you mean to go on. According to Tomalik: “You can’t excuse bad behaviour because they are little.”

13. Beware the Green Monster. Tales of budding sibling adoration from other second-time moms made me crazy with jealousy. I assumed it would be love at first sight for big brother and little sibling, when in fact my first-born’s initial reaction was, “I’m scared of him.” Brace yourself.

14. Keep it Simple. “You don’t rush to get them out for Halloween when they are infants and you don’t throw a massive first year birthday party because you realize that they have no idea what is going on, and why spend so much money?” says Tomalik. “Save it until they are older.”

15. Embrace Your Confidence. “I remember bringing my first child home from the hospital and doubting my ability to care for this little baby,” says Costa. “Even after the hormonal fog lifted, the feeling was always there. By the time I had  my second, I had living proof that I was competent and capable of raising a child.”

16. Capture the Moments. Every second child complains of blank baby book pages and a smattering of photos. I completely forgot to jot down my second’s immunizations, and I have to remind myself to take more pictures. Make a little time to do these things for your second.

17. Ask for Help. With two kids, it’s harder to detect post-partum depression. When I contacted my city’s public health office to ask about baby programs, I found a brief, welcome sounding board for my second-time woes on the other end of the line. You might know what you are getting into this time, but it’s still a lot to handle, so reach out.

18. Trust Your Instincts. “Steer clear of parenting books and the dreaded Google search,” says Kalman. “I was an insecure first-time mom. I felt I needed backup on all my decisions about parenting this new creature, especially when it came to sleep,” she says. “I felt guilty about co-sleeping on occasion. This time around I will let my instincts guide me.”

19. Enjoy This Time. You know it goes fast, so you enjoy the early stages more. Tomalik agrees: “You don’t worry so much if you sleep with them, hold them all the time and nurse them constantly because you realize babies just want to be held. You realize you can never spoil a baby with attention.”

20. And Finally, Know That it is True—You Have Enough Love. Mother after mother will tell you this: You don’t think you can love another as much as the first. Then you just do.  

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