What I did differently as a second-time mum
Like Alanis said, you live, you learn
All-in-all we were pretty proud of ourselves and our baby prep our first time round. The kid had it pretty made. The things I DID change we more to do with ME, my health and perspective, and are very personal, but worth knowing about if you are expecting.
Absolutely insisted on no visitors until I was ready
I had said this for first baby and was invaded. With second baby, my suspicions had been replaced by experience and I put my foot RIGHT down. Those who minded didn't matter, and those who mattered didn't mind.
Naps were the bane of my life the first time round. My first daughter had - and still has - unquenchable FOMO and refused to nap unless coaxed to do so in her carrier or in the car or pram. I was fixated on getting her to sleep in her cot to give us some sort of hope for night time sleeping, but ultimately, things played out their own way regardless of my efforts.
Things had to change for baby 2. I had a lively toddler this time round and couldn’t afford to spend hours persuading the babe to sleep. I certainly wasn’t prepared to be nap trapped with a tiny terror on the loose. Sadly I had abdominal separation that meant I couldn't use the carrier like I had with baby 1, so I got a bassinet instead. We did try to have the first nap at home to give us a head start for the day, and then headed out about our business with baby in the pram. Unfortunately, baby 2 didn’t enjoy napping to movement (still doesn’t) like our first, so it didnt work out as well as it could have, but I would still do it over again the same way.
Focused on keeping myself healthy
I was so exhausted and focused on the baby the first time, I didn’t really notice that I wasn’t eating properly. My iron levels became quite low, which didn’t exactly help with the constant fatigue I was also feeling from lack of sleep and the fact that my world had completely changed. With baby 2, I prioritised my own nutrition. If it makes you feel better, tell yourself it’s better for baby, but honey, you deserve to be healthy for you too! I made sure to stock up on nuts this time - almonds are lactogenic, so helped with milk production too - made some energy balls for the freezer. I also made sure to keep boxes of low-sugar granola bars and iron-rich dried fruit like apricots and raisins that I could keep in our backpack so I always had something to raise my blood sugar and keep the iron levels ticking over.
Fancy the energy ball recipe? Get it here!
Pumped as soon as possible
We were fortunate that nursing worked out for us and I was able to breastfeed both kids until about a year. As a newbie I was a bit intimidated by the breast pump. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen, but it did take a few weeks to get over that anxiety. When I finally psyched myself up and started pumping, I ended up loving the freedom having a freezer stash gave me and as a second-time mum, got to it as soon as my milk supply was established.
Chilled out a bit about baby development (and trusted my instincts)
My first daughter was a ferocious little eater and gained twice what she was expected to per day for the first few weeks. I fed on demand and boy, did little girlfriend demand. Unsurprisingly, that ridiculous weight gain slowed in her second month to the point that at her 2 month checkup my new doctor told me (a sleep deprived, hormonal, nervous new mother who had JUST started sleeping the odd 4 hour block) that I’d have to wake her up every 2 hours to feed and basically implied that I wasn’t feeding her enough. I cried. And then I cried some more. And then I weighed her at every opportunity I had at the community-nurse-run parent / infant group I attended each week, and obsessed over her numbers.
Those nurses were my saviour. ‘Look at the baby, not the books’, they’d say. She was the picture of health and still well within the range of healthy babies, meeting all her milestones, bright and alert. While I appreciate the doctor was doing her job, the experience of the nurses was ultimately more helpful and supportive.
Baby number two was also a ferocious eater, and also gained in a similar way. This time I knew what to look for, and actively resisted the urge to weigh her every week. She was weighed at doctor appointments and that was it. She didn’t suffer, and I was a lot more relaxed.
Checked in on my mental health sooner
In BC, Canada, post partum mental health is a big deal with health care providers. At least, it was in my community, and I am so grateful for it. There was a point after having number 1 that I had to fill in a questionnaire, and my responses had been flagged. I’d found the test silly and unneccessary. One of the questions was ‘how many times have you cried this week?’. I complained that the options went from ‘once or twice’ to ‘several’, since I didn’t feel like I fit into either. The nurse asked how many times I thought i cried and when I answered it was probably once or twice a day, her gentle response was ‘I’d call that several….’ It was a bit of a wakeup. I sought help, and only after a few months, realised just how low I had been.
It did NOT take that long after baby 2. It didn’t help that six months into her life, the pandemic hit. And then I lost my job. This time, though, I was on the alert and able to seek help much sooner.
Learned to Let Go a Bit (and yes, it’s more easily said than done)
Ugh, how hippy-dippy, right? Messy environments reeeeally translate to messy brain for me. As a first-time mum, I was adamant that my house was not going to become one big baby zone - I mean, we’re the bosses, not this new, freeloading housemate. And not to say it did exactly, but…it kinda did to some extent. We contained the spread to a degree but the pressure I put on myself to keep the place presentable was… a lot. Second time round, I accepted a lot more help (I knew more people so that was a bonus) and altered my expectations. I still find a messy house stressful, but nowadays, as long as pest-attacting foods are put away, fire hazardous toys are out of doorways and everyone has at least one clean outfit for the next day, cleaning the bathroom can wait.*All of the above was from my own experience for your interest. I am not a healthcare provider, nor should any advice be treated as such. Always seek professional help if you are concerned. x Lisa