8 Things We Did Differently With Our Second Baby

How one mom learned to relax a little more—and save—with baby number two.
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profile picture of Diana Kelly Levey
By Diana Kelly Levey, Contributing Writer
Published April 17, 2023
Toddler looking at baby sibling with mother holding baby's hand

Ask any parent of more than one child, and they’ll probably admit that they did some things differently the second time around. Maybe they were a bit more relaxed about eating or sleeping. Or maybe they were much more open to accepting help. It’s not that we cared less—it’s that the fear that our baby was going to be permanently damaged if we didn’t rush to their side the moment they woke had dissipated.

Our second son was born 20 months after his big brother, so the firstborn baby blunders were pretty fresh in my mind. But, like most parents, I’d learned a lot from that life-changing experience and was ready to put it into action with baby number two. Here, some things we did differently this time, which made our lives a little easier. (For the record, I’m the middle child in my family, so I definitely get all of the “second baby” stereotypes—but I promise my youngest will still get new clothes, attention and plenty of pictures!)

I found out the sex during pregnancy.

The pregnancy experience with my second was different for a number of reasons, and this was a big one. With my first, I wanted to be surprised about the gender when I gave birth. While that was fun for me—and for our families—the second time around, I wanted to see if it felt different knowing what I was going to have.

When I found out that I was pregnant with another boy I was surprised because my pregnancy symptoms felt so different—I’d been sure it was a girl! But knowing ahead of time made it easy to keep the same clothes and let our oldest know he was going to have a baby brother.

Maybe it was in my head, but it seemed easier for me to bond with this baby during pregnancy since I knew more about what to expect after birth and I was able to visualize another little boy in our lives.

I only bought one pack of newborn diapers.

I was gifted a lot of different diapers for our firstborn at my baby shower. It was great to already have them on hand and to get to try different brands to learn which ones I liked the best. As I got closer to my due date with my first, I picked up extra packs of newborn diapers, afraid I would need more since I didn’t receive many as gifts. (Odd…it’s like the moms who’d gifted me diapers knew!) Turns out he wasn’t in them for long. With our second baby, I got one pack of newborn size diapers, but made sure I had more size 1 diapers on hand (8 to 14 pounds) since my health-care team said he was already tracking toward 9 pounds at the end of my pregnancy and he was a week late. When he was born at 8 lbs., 14 oz., and 20.5 inches, I was glad I didn’t spend extra money on newborn diapers. He only fit in them for a week.

I didn’t rush in when he woke up—as much.

I stole a tactic from my husband’s playbook. He would sit in his recliner 20 feet away from our napping baby and when he woke up crying, my husband would keep watching TV or scrolling through his phone for a few seconds—not even flinching! (Meanwhile, I could hear the baby crying from my office on another floor and would tense up, mentally preparing to stop the crying and care for him.) I was always tempted to rush in when I heard anything, as I did with our first, because I thought he was “done” sleeping. But waiting it out for five or so minutes (I know, an eternity in “listening to a baby cry” time) would often be rewarded by our son’s falling back asleep on his own. Or, sometimes one of us would pop the pacifier back in and walk out—letting him sleep more and giving us a longer break.

I didn’t stress over his naptimes.

While I tried to make sure we were home around the time my second child should be napping, if we needed to go on a car ride or take a stroller walk somewhere to occupy my older son—I took advantage. I didn’t want a cranky, tired infant, but my toddler had a ton of energy and tended to behave better when we went places outside of the home. This time around, I was okay with the baby napping in the stroller while we went to a nearby playground or snoozing in the car if we took a 30-minute drive to visit a friend. I still made sure we prioritized the sleep he needed, but some days it seemed better for everyone’s mental health if we left the house as a family.

I let myself nap and rest when visitors came.

With the first baby, I didn’t feel as comfortable leaving the house to “get away” or retreating to my bedroom to sleep when my in-laws were visiting from out of town or others offered to help. This time, I took advantage and slept or ran to the store when someone offered to watch the baby. With two children often not sleeping at the same time, I had to grab every moment of rest I could get. I’d put in earplugs, turn on a noise machine and truly let myself go off-duty—something I wasn’t able to do at night.

I bought more store brands.

I started my second on a combo of formula and breast milk at around 4 months and we bought Costco’s Kirkland brand of powder formula for less than half the cost of name brand varieties. I discovered this cost-saving formula toward the end of my firstborn’s first year, and since he adjusted well to it, I was hoping our second would do the same. With our first, I was more inclined to buy name-brand anything, from baby food to snacks. I remember buying “baby yogurt” (which cost more, of course) to introduce it to him. With my second, I just got regular yogurt, which cost less money and it was absolutely fine—he certainly didn’t know the difference. As a mom who watches about one-third of her groceries wind up on the floor or in a baby’s hair anyway, I was definitely less annoyed wiping up a less expensive brand!

I bought secondhand items.

My friends and family were very generous with my baby showers, and there wasn’t much I needed for our firstborn’s early months. But when I was pregnant with my second, I knew I wanted to get a tandem stroller. Since I planned on our second being our last baby, I didn’t want to fork over hundreds of dollars for a stroller that we’d only need for a short period of time. I used Facebook Marketplace to buy a used tandem stroller for less than a quarter of the regular price, a baby swing for less than half the price, and a baby seat for a fraction of the cost. Not only did I save tons of money, but it felt good when I was able to sell some of my used baby goods for a discount to other parents on the platform.

I was more realistic about what I could and couldn’t get done.

A former colleague reached out when I was about six weeks postpartum and asked if I would be interested in working on a project. He needed help ASAP and my usual, people-pleasing self would normally try to make it work. But I knew that I was exhausted and adjusting to two small humans to take care of, and I just wasn’t ready to take it on. I told him I could start in a month. I tried to better manage my energy and lower expectations when I returned to work this time so I wouldn’t be disappointed when a baby didn’t nap or a toddler was home sick from daycare and nothing got done that week.

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