Tuesday, May 24, 2016

On how we parent our second baby differently than our first

I use the word "parent" lightly to describe these early days with a newborn because the real parenting to me comes when you're working on teaching your little person how to be a little person- making good choices, speaking kindly, respecting others, loving Jesus- all the things that matter (in my opinion) a WHOLE lot more than how many hours they're sleeping at 12 weeks or how many ounces they're drinking before bed.

That being said, we've approached these early stages with Natalie much differently than we approached them with Ryan.

To break it down simply, I'd say there are three main reasons why we've parented each of them differently and three main things that we have done differently with each of them.

Why We've Approached Parenting Them Differently:
1- They have different personalities.
2- There was more time with one than there is with two.
3- The learning curve is entirely different with a second baby.

What We've Done Differently:
1- Scheduling
2- Staying Out of the Way
3- Looking at the big picture instead of the day-to-day

When Ryan was first born, Matt and I were completely over-the-moon that he was ours. Our journey to parenthood did not come without lots of prayer, patience, heartache, refining, and trusting in God's plan for our future family. So when Ryan was finally here and in our arms, all we wanted was to soak in the amazing blessing that he was. 

I read a number of different books before he was born, but ultimately went with my own approach (which I genuinely intend to sound less arrogant than it does) to mothering him in his first few months of life. I fed him when he seemed hungry, let him sleep when he seemed tired, let him nap anywhere and everywhere- including lots of naps snuggled up in my arms- and mostly just enjoyed that I got to be his mama. 

When people (my pediatrician included) told me that he could be sleeping longer, eating less often, and crying for longer stretches than I was comfortable allowing, I would sit back and evaluate whether what "worked" for everyone else was really what I was searching for in the first place for Ryan. And in those early days and months with him, my answer to myself whenever I asked that question was always "no."  I genuinely didn't mind feeding him when he felt like it or waking up with him at night or topping him off with pumped milk if he still seemed hungry after a feed.  

I distinctly remember admitting to myself one day that the reason why I wanted Ryan to sleep through the night was so that I could SAY he was... which, side note- can we stop for a minute and ask ourselves why that is the golden question for new moms?! I mean even our plumber asked me if Ryan was sleeping through the night when he came to fix our toilet. No lie.

Ryan was our first. The way I saw it, there was really no need for him to be on a schedule or for me to be dressed and ready to go places on a daily basis. I could stay in my pajamas, nap when he napped, and even get a thing or two done around the house while he played or slept. 

Those early days with just him were sweet ones. And even though they may not have felt this way at the time, they were simple too. One baby to feed, love, soothe and put to bed each night.

When Natalie joined our family in February of this year, I knew that she would need a stronger sense of routine in her little life. One, so that I knew how to plan our days around what was fair and best for her, and two, so I wouldn't forget to feed her. ;)

These three things rang true very early on after we were home with her:

1- She and Ryan have different personalities.
Ryan liked to be snuggled and swayed before naps. He was a cat-napper and a frequent eater, and he was sweet and happy baby.

Natalie is a long napper who is happy to spread out her feeds and content to stare at things around her before easing off into sleep. And she too is a sweet and happy baby. ;)

2- There was more time with one than there is with two.
When Ryan woke up, I was right there ready to feed him. When he cried, I was there right away to pick him up. When he was ready for a nap or needed to go down for the night, we spent as much time as he needed helping him fall asleep.

When Natalie wakes up, there is usually a small stretch of time before I can get to her. Sometimes she cries for a minute or two before I can pick her up or give her her paci back when it's fallen out. And when it's time for her to nap or go to bed, we're often putting Ryan down too, so the attention is split between the two of them.

3- The learning curve is entirely different with a second baby.
When Ryan cried, I felt an immediate pang in my heart and wanted to help him in any way I could. I felt like all crying meant that there was a need that needed to be met and it was my job to figure out what it was.

With Natalie, I've learned that some crying is just exercising her little lungs, or releasing some energy before bedtime, or getting herself comfortable to fall asleep. When she cries, I listen differently- is she hurting or just getting situated? Does she need me to intervene or would it be better for me to stay out of the way for a minute?

What We've Done Differently:

1- Scheduling
Natalie follows a pretty consistent routine everyday (I wrote about her current routine on her 3 month post- here). I wake her up to feed her at 3-3.5hr increments during the day, and I put her down for naps and bedtime around the same times each day.

2- Staying Out of the Way
As I mentioned above, I let her cry a little before I rush in to save the day. ;) Sometimes even a few minutes of crying lets her release a little energy and ease into sleep all on her own. 

3- Looking at the big picture instead of the day-to-day
I remember analyzing every little change in Ryan's daily routine or behavior. With Natalie, I understand that some days she may sleep more soundly or eat more easily or enjoy her wake time more or less than the day before. I look at her behavior on a marathon scale rather than a sprint and don't adjust what I'm doing the minute I see a change in her.

I don't believe that there is a "right" way to parent our babies, and really dislike it when people, doctors or authors try to make little humans seem like robots when they aren't. Not every baby is going to sleep through the night at 10lbs or 12 weeks- Ryan officially slept through the night at 11.5 months... and was over 10lbs at one month ;) -, nor is every baby going to transition from one stage to the next in exactly 72 hours. 

Rather than making other mamas feel like we're failing if our babies aren't keeping up with the "norm" of infancy, I think our job as moms is to encourage and support each other in any way we can- whether that's offering asked-for advice or just gifting a Starbucks card or bottle of wine to say, "You will survive, and your baby will not go to Kindergarten attached to your boob, sleeping in his carrier, eating every 2 hours at night, crying for hours on end... (insert scenario here)..."

When our babies are grown, I want us to look back on these early days and know that we made the most of our time with them and didn't let ourselves get too wrapped up in things that truthfully have no impact on what college they'll attend or what kind of character they'll have as an adult.

I'm just thankful that we've been entrusted with these little lives and hope we can savor the great moments and give ourselves grace and maybe a little extra coffee on the days that feel less savorable.



  1. Ahh!!! I love love love this post!! As a new mama I get the questions all the time... "How much is he eating, is he sleeping through the night, is he pooping regularly" like it's anyone's business but ours! I can see what you mean about the first baby. I flinch at every move and cry lol. It will surely be interesting to see when the next one comes !!

  2. Great post! Although maybe I had a little too much time between babies because I feel like a first time mom all over again (in some instances). And btw, he is NOT sleeping through the night! Can't wait to see y'all again, hopefully soon!