Cover design by

lesley feldman

Parents of two or more kids all say the same thing: they can’t believe
they felt so overwhelmed and exhausted with only one baby. But
they did—as all new parents do. The truth is parents with two or
more kids learn to become more efficient, more confident, and more
relaxed. Case in point:
f i r s t - t i m e p a r e n t : Gotta race home and sterilize this

dropped pacifier.

s e c o n d - t i m e p a r e n t : Whoops, the baby’s eating dirt again.
f i r s t - t i m e p a r e n t : The baby’s crying, we have to go . . .

how to have your second child first

Photo by Victoria Lahti

Colburn & Sorensen

Kerry Colburn & Rob Sorensen
are second-time parents who have
learned a lot from their two energetic
young daughters, Piper and Molly.
A former publishing executive, Kerry
is a freelance writer, editor, and consultant. Rob is an author and software
developer. They are the authors of
Mommy Lotto; Daddy Lotto; So, You
Want to Be Canadian; and The U.S.
of Eh? (all from Chronicle Books).
They currently work, parent, and drink
plenty of coffee in Seattle.

For the new parent, How to Have Your Second Child First
offers empathetic wisdom, smart advice, and clever tips
and timesavers from parents who have learned the ropes
through trial and error.

how to have
your second

child

first

100 Things That Are Good to Know. . .
the First Time Around

www.chroniclebooks.com

HowToHaveSecondChildFirst_CVR.indd 1

In this must-have resource for new
and expecting parents, Kerry Colburn
and Rob Sorensen draw from frank
conversations with scores of secondtime parents.
One hundred nuggets of practical advice
reveal how you can act like an experienced parent even when you’re not one,
with tell-it-like-it-is wisdom, such as:
Nursing is not always as easy as it looks.
It’s okay to think your baby is
funny-looking.
You can turn off the baby monitor.
You and your partner may feel like
you’re on separate planets.
You really can take a shower.
You don’t have to listen to kids’ music.
Embrace the power of saying “no.”

E xp

p a rer ienced
ent
s
sp i l l
s e c their
ret
s!

s e c o n d - t i m e p a r e n t : Crying? What crying?

Manufactured in
canada

$18.95 U.S.

Better than all the other advice books put together, here is everything experienced parents wish they had known . . . the first time
around.

No matter how hard it seems, you will
find your parental comfort zone.
Brimming with advice that doctors never tell
you, How to Have Your Second Child First is
an invaluable and comforting resource for
any new parent.

by Kerry Colburn & Rob Sorensen

11/18/09 10:56:58 PM

[ introduction ]
6
7

Having a baby changes everything. It opens the door
to new emotions, priorities, challenges, successes—and
utter mysteries. You enter a whole new life, after all, and it
will likely feel completely foreign the first few months.
After years of having a pretty good handle on how things
work in the world, you might suddenly feel a bit lost, overwhelmed, or unsure of yourself as a brand-new parent. You
will probably question every aspect of life with your new
little person—What should I buy for my baby? Who should
come visit and when is a good time? When can I take
a plane trip with my daughter? How long should I let my
son cry? How will I know the right thing to do?—and then
second-guess each decision once you make it. And, unfortunately, you’ll continually hear a wide range of contradictory advice, including from people whom you didn’t
even ask. When your stack of books, your mom, and even
strangers on the elevator all have varying opinions on any
given subject, who’s got the right answer?

HowToHaveSecondChildFirst_INT.indd 6-7

Relax. Any experienced parent will tell you that the first
year is filled with discoveries, and included in those is figuring out what works for you and your baby. It’s a constantly
evolving, sometimes perplexing, and ultimately rewarding
process. Along the way, try not to be so confounded by all
the information (Do this! Don’t do that! Don’t ever do that!)
that you can’t see straight. Whether you believe it right
now or not, you will come to trust yourself and your
instincts. You will get to know your baby and yourself as a
parent. Daily navigation of all the big and small parenting
choices gets you up to speed in a hurry, and, eventually,
all new parents must decide for themselves what feels
right for their own family. But for now, what can really help
is reassuring, empathetic, helpful advice from people who
have been there. Twice.
Second-time parents—as savvy and unflappable as they
seem when you see them at the park or the grocery store—

11/3/09 3:25:24 PM

[ introduction ]
6
7

Having a baby changes everything. It opens the door
to new emotions, priorities, challenges, successes—and
utter mysteries. You enter a whole new life, after all, and it
will likely feel completely foreign the first few months.
After years of having a pretty good handle on how things
work in the world, you might suddenly feel a bit lost, overwhelmed, or unsure of yourself as a brand-new parent. You
will probably question every aspect of life with your new
little person—What should I buy for my baby? Who should
come visit and when is a good time? When can I take
a plane trip with my daughter? How long should I let my
son cry? How will I know the right thing to do?—and then
second-guess each decision once you make it. And, unfortunately, you’ll continually hear a wide range of contradictory advice, including from people whom you didn’t
even ask. When your stack of books, your mom, and even
strangers on the elevator all have varying opinions on any
given subject, who’s got the right answer?

HowToHaveSecondChildFirst_INT.indd 6-7

Relax. Any experienced parent will tell you that the first
year is filled with discoveries, and included in those is figuring out what works for you and your baby. It’s a constantly
evolving, sometimes perplexing, and ultimately rewarding
process. Along the way, try not to be so confounded by all
the information (Do this! Don’t do that! Don’t ever do that!)
that you can’t see straight. Whether you believe it right
now or not, you will come to trust yourself and your
instincts. You will get to know your baby and yourself as a
parent. Daily navigation of all the big and small parenting
choices gets you up to speed in a hurry, and, eventually,
all new parents must decide for themselves what feels
right for their own family. But for now, what can really help
is reassuring, empathetic, helpful advice from people who
have been there. Twice.
Second-time parents—as savvy and unflappable as they
seem when you see them at the park or the grocery store—

11/3/09 3:25:24 PM

have all been sitting exactly where you are, not that long ago. They were
hovering over their first babies and sweating about everything, and they
clearly remember what it was like the (nerve-wracking) first time around.
Now, these second-timers do things a little differently. And, by following
their lead, so can you.
Case in Point:
f i r s t - t i m e p a r e n t : Gotta get home to sterilize this

dropped pacifier.

s e c o n d - t i m e p a r e n t : Whoops, the baby’s eating dirt again.
f i r s t - t i m e p a r e n t : The baby’s sleeping, everybody be quiet.
s e c o n d - t i m e p a r e n t : The baby’s sleeping, let’s have our

friends over!

f i r s t - t i m e p a r e n t : Oh, let’s see, I’d say it takes both of

us about an hour to get our baby off to bed.
s e c o n d - t i m e p a r e n t : Look, I can give my baby a sponge
bath and read my toddler a bedtime story simultaneously!
f i r s t - t i m e p a r e n t : The baby’s crying . . . we’d better leave.
s e c o n d - t i m e p a r e n t : Crying? What crying?

You see, once a second child comes along, not only are parents more
confident from all that invaluable experience, they simply have less
time, energy, and patience to spend doting, fussing, and perhaps even
obsessing over every little thing. They know babies are resilient, that
everything is a stage, and that things generally turn out okay. Add in the
fact that they’ve given up on any illusions they might’ve had about how
parenthood is “supposed” to be, and you get parents who approach
every single task differently. You might say they lighten up. They definitely cut some corners. And, out of necessity, they become very, very
efficient. They’ve learned that it’s okay to do all sorts of things that they
never would’ve considered the first time around.

HowToHaveSecondChildFirst_INT.indd 8-9

Second-timers have no choice but to set aside some of the worry, find
tricks to make things easier and faster, and factor in the needs of the whole
family (yes, including themselves!) rather than just those of the
baby. They’ve stopped sweating the small stuff, from funny noises in
the night to traveling with baby to leaving their newborn with a sitter.
No more compulsively looking things up in books, neurotically comparing notes with all the other parents, or feeling guilty over little mistakes
made—no, second-time parents have learned to relax and enjoy more,
stress less, and not hover.

8
9

Meanwhile, those wonderful second babies, with much less attention
showered upon them, turn out just fine—and are often described as more
adaptable, relaxed, and independent than their older siblings. Parents
often wonder aloud at how “good” their second babies seem in comparison to how they remember their first—more patient, calmer, less work—
but is it really the second child’s disposition, or their own attitude, that
has changed? Does number two really sleep better, or is it just that
instead of being endlessly rocked and checked on, he’s learned to soothe
himself because Mom was busy giving the first child a bath?
Let’s be honest. It isn’t possible to totally embrace the more laid-back,
everything’s-okay attitude of a second-time parent the first time around.
It’s one thing to intellectually understand that the world doesn’t end
with a skipped nap, that a little crying never killed anyone, and that
it really is okay to take a shower. But it’s another thing to really feel
it, believe it, and parent that way. Still, it helps to hear it straight from
second-time parents that you will get through the seemingly endless
ups and downs, that everything really will be fine.
And, as with any job, sometimes acting like you’re more experienced
than you actually are might make you start to feel more confident. We
hope this book helps inspire that confidence. Rather than telling you all
the things to worry about with your new baby and all the things not to
do, this book is here to remind you of what second-time parents have
learned you can do, what you should do. And really, you can do it.

11/3/09 3:25:25 PM

have all been sitting exactly where you are, not that long ago. They were
hovering over their first babies and sweating about everything, and they
clearly remember what it was like the (nerve-wracking) first time around.
Now, these second-timers do things a little differently. And, by following
their lead, so can you.
Case in Point:
f i r s t - t i m e p a r e n t : Gotta get home to sterilize this

dropped pacifier.

s e c o n d - t i m e p a r e n t : Whoops, the baby’s eating dirt again.
f i r s t - t i m e p a r e n t : The baby’s sleeping, everybody be quiet.
s e c o n d - t i m e p a r e n t : The baby’s sleeping, let’s have our

friends over!

f i r s t - t i m e p a r e n t : Oh, let’s see, I’d say it takes both of

us about an hour to get our baby off to bed.
s e c o n d - t i m e p a r e n t : Look, I can give my baby a sponge
bath and read my toddler a bedtime story simultaneously!
f i r s t - t i m e p a r e n t : The baby’s crying . . . we’d better leave.
s e c o n d - t i m e p a r e n t : Crying? What crying?

You see, once a second child comes along, not only are parents more
confident from all that invaluable experience, they simply have less
time, energy, and patience to spend doting, fussing, and perhaps even
obsessing over every little thing. They know babies are resilient, that
everything is a stage, and that things generally turn out okay. Add in the
fact that they’ve given up on any illusions they might’ve had about how
parenthood is “supposed” to be, and you get parents who approach
every single task differently. You might say they lighten up. They definitely cut some corners. And, out of necessity, they become very, very
efficient. They’ve learned that it’s okay to do all sorts of things that they
never would’ve considered the first time around.

HowToHaveSecondChildFirst_INT.indd 8-9

Second-timers have no choice but to set aside some of the worry, find
tricks to make things easier and faster, and factor in the needs of the whole
family (yes, including themselves!) rather than just those of the
baby. They’ve stopped sweating the small stuff, from funny noises in
the night to traveling with baby to leaving their newborn with a sitter.
No more compulsively looking things up in books, neurotically comparing notes with all the other parents, or feeling guilty over little mistakes
made—no, second-time parents have learned to relax and enjoy more,
stress less, and not hover.

8
9

Meanwhile, those wonderful second babies, with much less attention
showered upon them, turn out just fine—and are often described as more
adaptable, relaxed, and independent than their older siblings. Parents
often wonder aloud at how “good” their second babies seem in comparison to how they remember their first—more patient, calmer, less work—
but is it really the second child’s disposition, or their own attitude, that
has changed? Does number two really sleep better, or is it just that
instead of being endlessly rocked and checked on, he’s learned to soothe
himself because Mom was busy giving the first child a bath?
Let’s be honest. It isn’t possible to totally embrace the more laid-back,
everything’s-okay attitude of a second-time parent the first time around.
It’s one thing to intellectually understand that the world doesn’t end
with a skipped nap, that a little crying never killed anyone, and that
it really is okay to take a shower. But it’s another thing to really feel
it, believe it, and parent that way. Still, it helps to hear it straight from
second-time parents that you will get through the seemingly endless
ups and downs, that everything really will be fine.
And, as with any job, sometimes acting like you’re more experienced
than you actually are might make you start to feel more confident. We
hope this book helps inspire that confidence. Rather than telling you all
the things to worry about with your new baby and all the things not to
do, this book is here to remind you of what second-time parents have
learned you can do, what you should do. And really, you can do it.

11/3/09 3:25:25 PM

We don’t claim to be parenting experts, doctors, or psychologists. We
are simply regular parents—well, the kind who had their first at an age
north of thirty-five and who perhaps over-thought, over-researched, and
over-fussed just a bit with that one. Today, with two kids ages four and
two, we spend a lot of time talking to other second-time parents about
all the things we do now that we never would’ve thought to do then,
from changing a diaper in a restaurant booth to getting away overnight
to letting our new baby sleep in a porta-crib in a corner of the home
office without a mobile or “theme” wallpaper in sight. Rather than automatically thinking of all the things that could go wrong or all the things
the other books advise against, we now look at life with children with
the attitude “Well, what’s the worst that can happen?”
This mental shift can give you all sorts of freedom. You see, sometimes,
half the battle is just giving yourself permission to try something with
your baby that may or may not work out, whether that’s going out to dinner or trying to get a pedicure with her in tow. Second-time parents are
much less worried about making a scene or causing their baby any inconvenience. They have relaxed their expectations on every front. They
understand that life must go on, and baby is coming along for the ride.
We hope that by the time you finish our book, you’ll approach every new
baby challenge by asking yourself, What would a second-time parent do?
Here are one hundred things we wish we had known the first time
around. We hope they help you—and help relax you—on your journey as
a new parent.

{

au tho rs ’ not e:

We are fortunate to have had complicationfree deliveries and two healthy children, which means we
are parenting and writing from this perspective. Special-needs
babies have, well, special needs, and therefore some of
the suggestions may not be practical or advisable for your family.
Your individual baby’s health is of paramount importance.
Always consult your doctor with any questions.

HowToHaveSecondChildFirst_INT.indd 10-11

}
11/3/09 3:25:25 PM