Like so many first-time moms, my first year postpartum was almost entirely focused on caring for my new baby, day and night. And while I enjoyed many aspects of motherhood with one child, when I became pregnant with my second, I knew there were things I not only had to do differently, but also truly looked forward to changing.
Here are 10 things I did with my first that I stopped with my second.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first, I rushed out and bought a pair of rainbow overalls with matching shirt and socks, imagining how adorable the baby would look. Fast forward to actually having it on the baby, I quickly realized that most often, the cuter the outfit, the more complicated it is to take off. When you’re changing up to ten diapers a day, it’s enough to make you swear off anything but sleepers for the rest of your time as a mom of babies. For baby No. 2, I nixed shirts, pants, socks and all other “cute baby outfits.” He currently spends 99.9% of his time in easy two-way zippered sleepers.
Just before having my first, I read that a bedtime routine that includes a bath helps promote sleep. And while a predictable routine does help to release melatonin, I took this recommendation to the next level and never let my first miss a bath. Truly, he was bathed every day from the day he was born until he missed his first bath at 22 months old due to our water line breaking. With my second, I recognize that having a bedtime routine is helpful, but it doesn’t always need to include a bath. With my two kids, I am much more flexible with bath time and frankly, it often simply depends on how tired I am.
In hopes of improving his sleep, I employed a strict naptime routine with my first. I followed an app and timer and made sure he always had at least two naps a day in his crib. And while naps are certainly linked to night sleep, I have completely let go of this rigidity with my second. Firstly, a strict nap schedule is nearly impossible with daycare pick and drop-off, and more importantly, being free of “nap jail” has been vital for my mental health by allowing me to go out for activities and spend time with friends. With this flexibility, my second has also adapted to sleeping anywhere and everywhere: the carrier, crib, stroller, train, boat and everything in between.
Sanitizing all baby items, including pacifiers, toys, and bottles, was on my daily to-do list with my first. I got so used to sanitizing everything that I even once accidentally melted a teething toy in the microwave. With my second, while I do my best to keep things clean, sanitizing every day for a baby who regularly finds and chews on our dog's toys has gone down a lot on my list of priorities.
Who needs "me time" when I love this little bundle of joy so much? Umm… turns out almost every parent out there. Early on, I didn’t feel the need for time away from the baby and happily brought him everywhere with me. Truthfully, I also didn’t feel comfortable leaving him with anyone else. In contrast, with my second, I recognize the importance of taking time away from my role as a mother to rediscover my identity outside of being a mom. I find I am a better mom to my kids when I have had time to recharge my batteries.
Any activity with my first revolved around figuring out if our destination had private nursing stations, as the stares from strangers really got to me. But this time around, I couldn’t care less about what strangers think when they see me breastfeeding in public and I breastfeed anywhere and everywhere. I once breastfeed at the zoo while watching the mother gorilla breastfeed her baby and I swear we momentarily made eye contact, like, “Look at us, we got this, girlfriend!”
I obsessively tracked my first baby's milestones. Rolling? Check. Sitting up unassisted? Check. Crawling? Nope. I spent hours, day and night, stressed about why my child was “behind.” The second time around, I know much better that milestones are not set timelines, but flexible guidelines. Frankly, I have forgotten what the milestones are this time around and rely on my doctor to remind me at our routine appointments. It’s a huge relief to be able to let go of something that is completely out of my control.
Having kids with friends the same age can be a huge blessing, but it can also open up a floodgate of constant comparison for many new moms. With my first, I found it challenging to pick him up from daycare and hear other kids talk up a storm while I would ask him how his day went and he would respond with, “poop face”. With my second, I strongly believe that comparison truly is the thief of joy and recognize that we’re raising kids, not robots, and each child will thrive in their own time.
On the subject of comparison, many first-time moms also find themselves comparing not only their children, but themselves as a parent. With my first, I often found myself comparing my parenting skills (or lack thereof, in my mind) to others. There were moms that just seemed more natural in their role, whereas I found myself as a bit more of the “Wednesday Adams” of moms, singing my baby to sleep to November Rain. Thankfully, with my second, while I am no June Cleaver or Carol Brady, I love and appreciate who I am as a mother and know that I am exactly who my boys need me to be.
While I love social media, being a mom blogger myself on Instagram (@mama.poule), with my first, I read social media pages and blogs as if they were peer-reviewed literature. I would scour different pages to learn the ins and outs of sleep, feeding, milestones, parenting and everything in between. And while social media offers a wealth of useful knowledge, it can also make you question everything you're doing and lead you to overthink things that truly are not worthwhile. With two kids, I am now more cautious and aware of what I read on social media, viewing it solely as a place for pleasure, and rely mostly on my gut when it comes to things with my baby.
I have learned many things since having my second child, but weaved into each of these 10 things I did differently is the greatest lesson I have learned so far: to have more faith and appreciation for myself as a mother. In letting go of societal expectations and pressure, strict schedules and routines, and comparison, I have found myself enjoying motherhood more than I could have ever imagined.