Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Difference Between First Child and Third Child

The wedding invitations have slowed... we've only attended one each year in 2013 and 2014. Sigh. Witnessing the vows between husband and wife is beautiful!

Instead, as I and many of my friends turned 30 over the past 12 months, the baby boom has happened. Expect more in the next 2-3 months since last winter was quite chilly ;-)

The past month of conversations with friends preparing for their first child, or already in the thick of things with their first chubster have me reflecting back on the difference between the First and the Third. Plus, I just completed what will serve as a "registry" or "wish list" for friends and family who need gift ideas. There are only 15 items and many will be used by the whole family, too. No clothes. No toys. Gasp!

How Abigail, the First Child, started family life with us:

  1. 24 cloth infant prefold diapers and 217 newborn disposables
  2. 5 diaper covers
  3. 1 zippered wet bag
  4. 1 organic latex crib mattress
  5. Handed-down drop-side crib (yup, we check it often)
  6. 3 gender neutral sheets
  7. Audio only baby monitor
  8. Breastmilk
  9. 3 size newborn/0-3 month sleepers
  10. Handmade knitted cotton blanket from Mémé
  11. 3 48"x48" flannel swaddling blankets from Great-Grandma Hoppmann (we lived in a basement)
  12. Handed down 3 drawer dresser from Grandma and Grandpa
  13. 6 daily outfits, size 0-3 month
  14. 2 church type outfits, size 0-3 months
  15. DIY home printed high contrast mobile with black and white spirals, shapes, and smiling faces
  16. Bjorn reclined bouncer seat with no activity bar, no batteries
  17. Convertible car seat
  18. Stroller with attachable rain cover and cold weather muff

  • All the diapers fit into the top dresser drawer. Her diaper changing pad was a towel rag on top of the dresser until Mémé sewed a flat flannel quilted dresser topper. The elastic corners helped keep a wiggly baby from slipping off! The rag had been perfect for those first few blowouts...
  • All the daily and church outfits fit into the middle drawer.
  • All the blankets fit into the bottom drawer.
  • Abigail slept in her crib at the foot of our bed. She drank breast milk. She had clean dry diapers, and clean dry clothes. Most importantly, she had parents who loved, cared for, and talked, read, and sang to her.

NO bibs, burp cloths, bottles, breast pump, diaper bag, changing pad, video monitor, infant car seat, infant swing, wrap or baby carrier, bathtub, toys, teething rings, coordinated bumper/quilt/skirt, or gender-specific items were on the registry or in our possession. Some of those things were gifted to us by people who thought we needed them. Other items we decided were worth purchasing were found second hand because a majority are washable, reusable, and durable. Other items we borrowed to try out from some good friends.

The hardest thing to adjust to was that this child was entirely dependent on me for food, and both Nick and I for everything else. In other words, those nighttime feedings or figuring out how to shower when home alone edged into my sense of self in ways I hadn't foreseen. One saving grace was that breast feeding allowed me a free hand or two and I devoured books. All kinds of books! Breastfeeding, infant sleep, attachment parenting, infant development and activities, Bible, devotionals, magazines -- everything printed. I find electronic reading and the computer addicting at times, so I limited those to when Abigail napped. And I'm not a big television fan. Too much crap on TV; movies are usually better, and I prefer to watch with Nick because that's an interest of his. But give me books! A library card!

As a teacher who was used to interacting with students, colleagues, or my husband and our parents a majority of everyday, the quiet of a newborn made me so happy to see Nick at the end of the day. I often read out loud to Abigail, just to say something out loud to someone. Evening conversation occasionally made me sad because it felt like I missed out on wonderful relationships. Or the sleepy fog of recovering from childbirth and caring for a 0-3 month old made focusing and keeping the conversational ball going difficult.

We moved when Abigail was 6 months old, and I began tutoring students as well as preparing a group of 12 former students to travel to France. I started pumping and freezing since I'd be away from a 12.5 month old Abigail for 9 days. And I met with a family counselor once a month for 6 months. Those were months of solidifying who I was as a mother, and rebalancing what I do professionally with my family's needs.

How Evan, the Second Child, started life with us:

Much was the same as above. We had moved houses but he also slept in a crib at the foot of our bed. He drank breast milk.

The dresser was in Abigail's room, so we used 3 large baskets that fit under the crib: one for diapers, one for clothes, one for blankets. We changed him on the flannel quilted dresser topper on the floor, or on an extra cloth diaper on the floor.

What was an upgrade?

  1. 1 infant car seat. Abigail used the convertible car seat forward facing at age 2 when Evan was born. And I estimated that juggling hand holding with a toddler while holding an infant and crossing the parking lot would fray too many nerves. So, we bought an infant seat that strapped into our existing stroller.
  2. 1 stroller rider board, for Abigial to stand and ride. Voila, one seamless, safe parking lot and walk machine.
  3. 1 infant gym mat with bright colors for tummy time through the rolling, sitting, crawling transitions. Great second hand purchase for $10. We bought it when Abigail was 4 months old; wish it had been a bit sooner.
  4. 1 infant bathtub, purchased second hand for $5. Transitioned from newborn, to reclined, to sitting and then wasn't needed after 7 months of age when the kids moved to the regular bathtub.
  5. 5 newborn (under 10lbs) cloth diaper covers. Saved us a bundle on disposable diapers and I knew the ins and outs of cloth by the Second Child.
  6. 1 woven wrap, Didymos size 6 so Nick can wrap with it, too. Purchased second hand for $100 when Abigail was 7 months old and we navigated an airplane trip to Texas to visit my brother. I love the versatility of the wrap especially for the Second Child because I could wrap Evan in a cradle wrap and nurse him while chasing a 2 year old at the playground. Tummy and breast coverage? Check.
  7. 3 Breast feeding tank tops. Bras are ok, but I prefer to have the tummy bulge covered when hiking up my shirt or pulling a cardigan aside to breast feed. See number 6!
  8. Breast milk freezer storage bags. My mother-in-law had helped purchase a second hand double breast pump from a known friend when Abigail was 5 months old. Abigail never took a bottle (I had previously hand expressed milk), and I could have benefited from pumping the over supply in the early weeks. So, for Evan, I pumped once every morning after his first feeding (just 6oz), froze it for about 3 months, and had Nick introduce a bottle at 6 weeks. We kept up a 1-2 times a week bottle schedule on Nick's day off, while Abigail napped, and I went for Mommy Quiet Walks at the arboretum. That once a week bottle and freezer stash of milk helped 50% of the time when we needed an evening babysitter.
  9. A slew of simple and high contrast board books, gifted to Abigail. Noisy toys like these fabric bugs and rattles, gifted or purchased second hand. Jingle! Crinkle! Squeak! Lots to track or encourage reaching and grasping.
  10. 4 muslin swaddling blankets were gifted to us, and were perfect since our bedroom was no longer in a basement, but on the second floor and we often had the air conditioning off.
As a two year old big sister, Abigail was Evan's preferred entertainment. So was Rocky, my in-law's dog, since we lived with them. Evan had a lot going on around him and was very motivated to get going physically to get over to the action.

The Second Child is on the go more, and doesn't always get the luxury of a morning nap in the crib. But because big sister was only 2.5 by the time Evan's naps got onto a more regular schedule around 7-8 months, the afternoon was almost always at home with a nap in the crib. The First Child nap times were welcome breaks to do something for myself, to regain a sense of self. The Second Child nap times were a convenient way to get groceries with attention given to only one toddler! Or I would put him in the bouncy seat at 3-6 months, put the monitor close by, and take Abigail out in the back yard and take care of the vegetable garden for that short 1h morning nap window. I do remember welcoming a 3-4 naps a day schedule because it meant that usually Evan was awake at some point when Abigail was napping in the afternoon -- and those one-on-one times with Evan were precious.

At about 8-15 months, it was fairly simple to put Abigail on the same afternoon nap schedule as Evan when he transitioned to 2 naps a day. I'd put him to sleep first, nursing him while reading stories and singing. Then I'd lay down next to Abigail which always put her out; the child just needed help quieting and being still! If I hadn't fallen asleep with her, then this mama sewed, blogged, or read for some quiet time.

I remember better night time sleep for Evan newborn-8 months, because he slept in our bed after about 2am... and sleeping near mama helped him stretch to 3-5h between feedings. I could also fall asleep or doze more easily nursing him, and every minute counted with two kids at home.

Around 9 months, we began to suspect a food allergy in Evan. We thought he just didn't like the texture of cheesy omelets and simply never pushed foods he rejected. He was a great eater over all, and we figured that he'd eat what he needed. It turned out by 12 months that he did have an egg allergy. The greatest thing to change was how our family participates in group gatherings where food is almost always present. We also don't eat out much, and it has taken us a slow year and a half to find very safe, and somewhat safe restaurants.

How the Third Child will start life with us:

Since May I've been providing childcare to a toddler who is 1 year younger than Evan -- almost to the day! It's great in between practice for the Third Child, since a toddler can walk on his own, play independently for 5-10 minutes, and feed himself. Plus, Abigail and Evan seem to play better with an odd number and engage in fewer power struggles. They also have to practice compassion since this little boy doesn't say many words but still has opinions about with which toy he'd like to play. And I get a full night of sleep! This arrangement will continue until the Third Child arrives... at which point needs will greatly change.

The baby wearing wrap will get a good work out, I expect. I'll also begin homeschooling the kids when the Third Child is about 4-6 months old. Abigail no longer naps since 4 years, so there will be no naps for me... only quiet time routines that I've been working on with her. And there's the possibility that Evan may phase out of his afternoon nap around 3 years, just as baby 3 arrives. Yikes!

In preparation for baby needs, I'm going through toys, books, household things, pretty much everything in the apartment, and tagging many items for a garage sale in early October. We'll find out the gender of the Third Child, then sell the opposite gender clothes. Clothes are one of the easiest items to acquire cheaply second hand, when we foster or adopt in the future. And there is literally no. more. space in the kids' closet, and I don't tolerate boxes on the floor for long.

Store Marketing Isn't the Authority
Recent Facebook and in person conversations with friends have me remembering all the reading I did while breast feeding Abigail. The sharp divide between marketing from brands in stores (Buy this! It'll make your life easier! It'll make your child smarter! It's beautiful!), and what babies actually need (Research has shown that __ activity has __ benefits) has never been clearer to me. See our "wish list" ;-) All the basics have been in almost full time use since 4.5 years ago, our wish list are the only items we don't yet have and could benefit from.

Here are some really good links, that I just shared with a friend :-)

What has your First, Second, Third journey been like?
What are your must-have items? Leave a comment or link below!


  1. I love this, Jenny! It's really interesting to read what has been helpful to you guys. I love your wish list. I was nervous to tell people what things we *didn't* want but it's worth it to do when you don't have a whole lot of space for things you don't need (and want what you *do* get as gifts to be useful).

    The best item that we got by far was a K'Tan baby carrier for me to use with David. It wasn't on our registry, and it wasn't something we had even thought about. But as a newborn David was as happy as a clam in it and would take naps in it. It made for a very happy baby and a very portable one too. AMAZING and I will use it a lot for future babies :)

    One item that we really wanted but haven't ended up using was the baby monitor. For one, our monitor was very quiet and we couldn't hear it very well. For another, sound travels in our house and we never were so far away from our sleeping baby that we couldn't hear him when he woke up. And we didn't need it when he was sleeping in the same room as us. So, we just found ourselves not using it. Totally surprised me. I thought I would really rely on it. I might not even bother setting one up with the second kid.

  2. Molly, you should have reposted your FB share, too. Great article!

    The things we need (to know) as parents... now that would be a long list!