15 Differences In Raising Your First & Second Child


Children playing in inflatable pool

1. Celebrating 
The first child: When we were expecting our first child, people celebrated me as though no woman had ever had a baby before. I was showered with gifts and attention by family, friends, family friends and friends of family friends’ dogs. Upon arrival of the baby, visitors crowded the waiting room and lined up around the block. You have never seen so many homemade lasagnas in your life.
The next one: Umm…where did everybody go?

2. Documentation
Your first childPhoto documentation began before my pregnant belly was even visible and continued weekly (more like daily) throughout the first two years of our daughter’s life on the outside.
The next oneAny pictures that captured my second pregnancy were inadvertent until near the end, when we decided we had better take a few shots on purpose just to prove it happened.

Related: 7 Differences Between Your First and Second Pregnancies

3. Illness
The first child: The baby was sniffle free her whole first year of life.
The next oneDue to the infectiousness of her older sibling, now in preschool, the baby has had a runny nose since the week after her birth. She can see us coming with the snot sucker from across the room and it takes all three of us to hold her down to use it.

4. Time Management
The first child: There was no time to do anything but care for the baby. Outings were carefully timed so as not to anger the gods of Nap. I could not commit to any plans without a caveat regarding the likelihood of my cancelling them, because one day’s schedule could not predict the next.
The next oneI cannot conceive how I ever felt busy caring for only one child and though I continue to respect naps, it would be impossible for me to make the world stop spinning in order to always accommodate the baby at the exact moment she is ready. (By ‘the world’ I mean my preschooler, by ‘spinning’ I mean spinning.)

5. Nursing
The first child: I had great big hopes that my breasts would rebound post nursing.
The next oneAll hope is lost. But I’m still pulling for pelvic realignment.

6. Attentiveness
The first child: We rushed to respond to night time crying for the baby’s sake.
The next oneWe rush to respond to night time crying so that she won’t wake up her sister.

7. Cleanliness
The first childThe baby got a complete wardrobe change upon receiving the tiniest drop of spit up.
The next oneWipe slobber and spit up off with other parts of the clothes she is wearing, the clothes I am wearing, rub it off (or rather in) with my thumb, dangle her so she launches it onto the ground. In short, use whatever method of cleanup is most handy and carry on. Spit up and slobber are nothing compared to what her sister uses to dirty clothes. Exponential laundry increase is one of the great shocks of having a second child.

8. Development
The first childWe encouraged motor skill and ambulatory development. Praised all accomplishments.
The next oneHave strapped to the floor with duct tape knowing what difficulties baby mobility brings. I try every day but still cannot physically move in two opposing directions at once. Once the baby starts running around, I will have to decide which child to sacrifice in order to chase after the other.

9. Safety
The first childAny baby proofing done was to protect from the dangers of the house.
The next oneHow could anyone think a house is dangerous compared to a three year old? This baby climbs the stairs by herself on the way to her daily sibling self defense class.

Related: Three Year Olds Are The Same as Asshole Bosses

10. Closeness
The first childI wanted to hold her all the time, she was my first. Her sleeping on me was bliss and I had the leisure to doze at random with her at any point during the day.
The next oneI want to hold her all the time, she is my last. Her sleeping on me is rare because her sister does not recognize my right to be still.

11. Productivity
The first childOn the weekends the family ran errands together. It seemed we had all the time in the world and every trip was novel. There were two of us and one of her…nothing could impede our progress.
The next oneDivide and conquer. This took a few trips to figure out. Inevitably, one of us would have to make an emergent potty run into a store with the toddler, while the other sat in the parked car nursing the newborn. This left no one to accomplish the errand. (To ease your suspense, it was me in the car.) As I write this I realize that during the week, I run the errands by myself with both girls. Hey wait a minute, that’s not fair…

12. Organization
The first childThe house became increasingly scattered with baby gear and toys. I was excited when she grew out of all those clunky baby gadgets such as the activity mat, exersaucer and high chair, until I realized bigger kids have bigger stuff.
The next oneMinimal adult possessions remain. However many attractive receptacles I can find, they are not enough.

Related: 50 Lessons in Parenting Young Kids

13. Benefits
The first childHad the benefit of all my attention. Good thing because I had no idea what I was doing.
The next oneHas the benefit of my experience. Good thing because I am busy explaining to her sister why she doesn’t get all of the attention anymore.

14. Life Impact
The first childThe shock of parenthood was tremendous and the realization that I couldn’t turn back was scary like I swallowed a boulder and jumped off a bridge.
The next oneTimes two.

15. Lovability
The first childBrought the most powerful of all love into my life for the first time.
The next oneBrought the most powerful of all love into my life for the first time, again. (My apologies if the sentiment makes you throw up in your mouth, that is just the way it is.)


  1. 1

    Anne Kimball says

    Well hey, at least if we throw up in our mouths, it’s not on our clothes, right?

    Great post! And every word is truth….
    (Take it from me, I’ve got six)

  2. 4

    Tia says

    I (Thank you Jesus!) stumbled upon a book called “How to Have Your Second Child First” at the library at about 6 months pregnant with my first kid. I read all 101 pieces of advice in one sitting, and although I haven’t been able to remember every single bit (Thank you Mommy Brain…), I am eternally grateful to its authors.
    Your post today and that book should be at the top of every single “Must-Have” registry list.

  3. 6

    Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes says

    “Sibling self Defense class”… oh my stomach hurts from laughing!
    So very true!

    • 7

      Carisa Miller says

      Big sister has lately taken to holding the baby down to force her into her imaginary picnics and pretend nap times.

      • 8

        Sue says

        My 3 year old daughter was recently found sitting on her baby sister (about 7 months old). Her response “she wanted to give me a horsie ride!” like this was the most obvious thing in the world.
        They make me laugh every day.

  4. 10

    Dee says

    I cried and laughed reading this post – so true. This morning, at 5:30am, my #2 went into #1′s bed and took a car and smacked him on the head with it and when he woke up angry at her, she was like “Let’s PLAY!”

    • 11

      Carisa Miller says

      I’m so glad you liked it! At our house when the baby gets whacked, she whacks back. Big sister’s gonna get creamed when little sister grows up.

  5. 12

    Erin@MommyontheSpot says

    Awesome post! I needed to read this today. I feel total mom guilt about the whole attention thing. Thanks for posting!

    • 13

      Carisa Miller says

      I get bummed too when I realize I’m missing out on one to attend the other. It’s inevitable when they demand different things at different times. When they demand different things at the same time, I crawl into a corner to hold myself and rock back and forth.

  6. 14

    Amanda Martin says

    Oh yes. Nodded and agreed with every point. Except Point 14 should read:
    The next one: Times three. :)

    Brilliant. I’d say give to all new mums but a) they wouldn’t believe it and b) you’d put them off for life.

    My favourite ‘next child’ example came from my friend: her first child was two before he was allowed chocolate. By the time she had her third dhild (less than 4 years later) she said “I’d wean him on chocolate if it meant he would sleep through the night”. Amen.

  7. 16

    Jessica says

    Oh, wow. I’m ROFL over here!

    So much truth to every single word. I’m sharing with all my mommy friends. Especially the ones who have only one or are expecting. Great piece!

  8. 18

    Dee says

    This is a great post. I have a 6 month old daughter and plan to have another in a year or two – so this definitely puts things in perspective. :-)

    • 19

      Carisa Miller says

      My girls are 30 months apart and sometimes I think if I had known what was coming when the oldest turned three, I would have waited to have another. But even if it were a million times crazier it would still be worth it.

  9. 20

    DebbieLB says

    Awesome! Every single one is soooo true! But just wait until you add Baby #3! You are then outnumbered!!

  10. 30

    Annie says

    Third kid nobody even checks to see if you’ve given birth yet. You are treated as the mentally diseased.

      • 32

        Johnna says

        Wait until you are pregnant with number four…instead of happy friends and family…or nothing/crickets…you get lots of “are you crazy”s and “you know how this happens, right?”s…and “this is it, right?”s…it’s a bummer :/

        • 33

          marie m says

          Have 6 and you get asked if you know what causes it yet. I always reply with “Why yes I do… it is the lack of tv!” They always give me odd looks… lol

  11. 35

    Heather says

    Have them 18 years apart– & people never leave you alone. You’ll answer ” yes we planned it, no it’s not a second marriage, & no I’m not clinically diagnosed as crazy!

    • 36

      Carisa Miller says

      That sounds annoying. At least you had time to forget some of the unpleasantries of child bearing. : )

  12. 37

    Guerrilla Mom says

    Okay – this makes me feel better. I’m 8 months pregnant and already feel guilty for ignoring my fetus.

  13. 39

    Kisha says

    I seriously could have written that myself. My children are about 30 months apart and I’ve experienced every single one of the items on your list. Spot on.

    Mine are 6 and 3-1/2 now, and you just wait there is more to come. But I feel like in the end they will be glad to have each other. (In fact, they regularly team up on me.)

    • 40

      Carisa Miller says

      Our girls are 30 months apart as well.

      That’s why we went for two…so they could complain about me to each other.

  14. 41

    Sarah says

    Number 11… oh, number 11! My children are older, and yet we still end up in divide and conquer mode, with no one left to complete the actual errand or task. I daydream of them being in college so I can run to the grocery store without taking nearly two hours… You may think a toddler is the slowest creature on Earth… A teenager systematically tests that assumption in new and creative ways.

    • 42

      Mom22Tweens says

      So true re that last sentence. At least toddlers you can pick up and strap in a car seat kicking and screaming if they refuse to bend to your schedule. A tween girl will stomp and scream if you insist on leaving the house before her hair is perfected, and you can’t pick her up and strap her in the car, though I would if I could.

      And for a moment I read “Number 11… oh, number 11!” as… you have 11 kids.

      • 43

        Carisa Miller says

        I thought there were 11 kids too!

        I’ve done the grab, wrestle and buckle routine a few times. It sure ain’t pretty. Accomplishing errands with children of any age should be a competitive sport. Oh wait, it is. You vs your children in a race for the groceries.

  15. 46

    Denise says

    Mine are spaced by 8.5 years, so I don’t have to divide and conquer so much–but I felt bad for my oldest who went from the “only child pedestal” to the “you better fend for yourself” oldest child spot. Sometimes I wish I had them closer together so that now I’d have 2 independent boys and more time for myself. Other times I’m happy that they are spaced so far apart I get to thoroughly enjoy my 2nd kid’s childhood.

    • 47

      Carisa Miller says

      There might be as many arguments for or against a particular spacing of children as there are options for spacing them. : )

  16. 48

    Alvarose says

    All true but I have three. Number one was full term, he’s 12. Number two is 9 and number three is 5. They were preemies. So there is also letting #2 get away with murder rather than get after her little screaming self and take a chance on waking the napping baby. Also being so worn out that you let #3 sleep with you rather than having to get up and deal with her in the middle of the night. The girls wonder why there are so many pictures and videos of #1 and their baby books don’t exist. Who had time?

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