You’ve had a baby and you made it through the first time round. Becoming parents has brought a lot of joy to both of you and seem to have the hang of it, to the point where you’ve decided it’s the right time to become a parent for the second time. Or maybe you haven’t made a decision at all and this second pregnancy has just happened.
Either way, there are a few differences between having a first baby and having a second.
Let’s find out what things you should be aware of when becoming a dad for the second time.
#1: What changes when having another child?
A new arrival to the family means a new baby to fill you with joy. It’s another ‘happiest day’ for all the family and a home that is full of laughter. It means a new sibling for your baby, another child to grow with, play with, defend and probably fight a fair bit, as siblings do.
If you have siblings you might know how great it is to have one. If you’re an only child, you probably wanted to have a sibling and grew up wondering how it would be to have a brother or a sister. Now, your first child is going to experience it.
Of course, this new arrival will mean your wife will go through nine months of pregnancy. Being pregnant includes morning sickness for weeks, then giving birth and having a newborn again – someone to take care of. This comes with all the getting up at night because the room is filled with unstoppable cries, the nappy changes, the worries, and all the sleep-deprived periods.
When you have to take care of an older child, who still needs attention and probably a lot of comforts when her younger sibling is born, caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. You need to have extra time to divide your attention between both of them. But being prepared to share the caregiving and putting in the energy will make it worth it.
#2: Benefits of having a second baby
Having a new baby benefits everyone in the family.
The new baby benefits from your parenting experience and skills. As parents you’ve realized that you are more confident and can meet your baby’s needs without second-guessing yourself. Your new baby will possibly grow up with more independence, as you make more relaxed decisions about things, having gone through these choices with your older child. Having opportunities to live experiences on their own without a parent’s constant supervision helps with brain development and problem-solving skills. It is really a world-turning phase for all.
Older siblings always have someone who was raised in the same family as they were. The bond and understanding this brings to their life are priceless, and they grow with a companion to share secrets, hear all of their rants and worries, away from parents and friends. Having a sibling makes them less self-centered as it’s no longer just about them.
Usually, the older child is better at problem-solving, as she spends more time on her own while parents care for her younger brother or sister. Firstborns tend to reach milestones faster if they have a younger sibling for this same reason.
Research from The American Academy of Pediatrics shows firstborns tend to have a healthy BMI, partly because they move and play more but also because their snacks tend to be healthier.
The parents get extra love and extra work, but in time they also get more time for themselves (as a couple or alone) as their children grow. The time their kids spend together will grow as they do. When parents have free time or are on vacation, having two kids gives them a bit more self-time to enjoy as they please. We’re not suggesting leaving your kids unsupervised but it will be easier to watch them than have to be constantly engaged in play if you just have one child.
There’s a new person with her own personality who will add an extra vision of life to the family. Someone who will turn your house into home. You’ll be able to explore life through another of your kid’s eyes and that’s one of the greatest joys of parenthood. You will not walk alone in this world because of them.
#3:Is it harder to conceive a second child?
Conceiving for the second time can be harder or easier, depending on various factors.
It could be harder to find time to have the energy and enjoy sex with your partner. If your older child is still breastfeeding, your partner’s menstrual cycles might not be very regular yet and it might be difficult to know when ovulation happens.
Sometimes, though, conceiving a second baby can be very easy to achieve and a new pregnancy might surprise you when you weren’t consciously looking for it. Exclusive breastfeeding doesn’t fully protect a woman from a new pregnancy.
If your wife’s period hasn’t returned since she gave birth, bear in mind ovulation happens before a period, so there’s the possibility of an egg ready and waiting to be fertilized.
#4: How much harder is it to have a second one?
This is quite difficult to measure. In terms of physical involvement, it’s harder to raise two kids than one.
However, having another child won’t multiply your parenting tasks by two. If the age gap between your kids is small, those years of nappies, food preparation, and taking a long time to get ready to go out will overlap and pass faster than if their age gap were greater.
On the other hand, if your firstborn is older and doesn’t wear nappies any longer, she’ll be more independent, able to understand better, and also will be able to help much more with the care of her new brother or sister.
#5: Dad struggling with the second baby
Becoming a dad for the second time is a big deal and, at times, fathers struggle to cope with it all. The last time you became a dad your main role was to support your partner, get more involved in running the house, and help with the care of the little one.
As the mom was very likely the one who spent more time caring for the new baby, you probably found the situation easier to navigate the first time.
Now you’re entering fatherhood for the second time, there’s a big difference. On top of everything else welcoming a new baby involves, you now have another son or daughter who needs your attention and guidance.
When they become fathers, men’s needs aren’t always taken into account. Often it’s believed that most of the changes and responsibilities fall on the mother, which makes it more difficult for new dads to ask for help if they are struggling.
Make sure you talk to someone who can offer you the support you need. If that person is not supportive or the advice isn’t helpful, keep looking. Your healthcare provider will be able to help you find the support you need.
#6: How do fathers affect prenatal development?
Your involvement during your partner’s pregnancy is very valuable and important to your partner, your baby, and to you as a dad.
An unborn baby’s brain development can be highly improved by the father’s engagement during the pregnancy.
You can read Dad’s Role During Pregnancy to find out how important this involvement is for each member of your family.
#7: What is the best age gap between the first and second child?
There isn’t an easy answer to this question as each family is different. What works for some families might not work for yours at all.
There are advantages and disadvantages to leaving a short age gap between your kids, but the same also applies to leaving a longer gap between the first and the second pregnancy. The same applies if you’re planning to have a third child.
You can find out about these differences in the article When Is The Best Time To Have A Second Baby?
#8: Why is the second born more difficult
First-time parents are usually much more attentive to their first child’s every movement and need. They usually become more relaxed with the upbringing of their second child.
A second one tends to outdo her older brother or sister in inventions, pranks, and activities, and even in temperament. Although these are good things, other feelings and attitudes can arise from being born second, and these might cause much more challenging behavior.
Being compared with your older sibling and having her as a role model of good behavior and so on, or sometimes being a ‘daddy’s girl’ can lead to feelings of jealousy and frustration.
Let’s also bear in mind the people the firstborn child looks up to have mainly been adults; the second child has one extra, and much more interesting, role model present in the home.
If your child is showing challenging behaviors, the article How to transform your child’s challenging behavior might be worth a read.
#9: Can you love a second child as much as the first?
The moment you became a father you probably discovered a new level of love. Now it feels impossible to love anybody else as much as you love the kid who introduced you to fatherhood.
When I only had my daughter, I vividly remember a conversation I had with some relatives. We were talking about a tsunami story and how some parents could save just one of their children. Theirs wasn’t a conscious choice but in my head, obviously, the choice was clear. It would be my beautiful little girl, the only one we had so far.
I perfectly remember the response from my uncle, who has two daughters: ‘When you only have one kid, you can only imagine your life as it is. When you have another one, your love and your feelings for the new baby grow as much as they did with your first one. No parent can choose between their children, especially when it concerns the love you have for them, or their safety’.
I became a second-time mother shortly after that and I perfectly understood what he meant.
You might like to read our article Loving Two – How Can I Love Another Child As Much?