Our two children were raised a bit differently: Jackson has been breastfed exclusively for almost six months, and will be for another six more. Avery was not so easy, and he had to switch to formula around three months old. We also did not discover cloth diapering until Jackson was three months old, and not at all with Avery, so he wore disposables until the day he turned two. My kids slept differently, started eating differently, and had very different temperaments. Avery cried constantly, wouldn’t sleep more than two hours (and took two years to start sleeping through the night!), and was always a very serious baby, not smiling often until he was about six months old. Jackson is easy peasy, always smiling (and smiling early, only a couple of weeks old), only cries when his immediate life needs aren’t met, and came home from the hospital sleeping five hours at a time (all night by 2-3 weeks old).
All of these differences can probably be attributed to basic personality differences, but not all of it. It’s possible that Avery is my high-strung, terrible sleeping, overly analytical little miniature; Jackson could be Big Daddy’s free-wheeling, optimistic, everyone-loves-him, Mr. Popular, little counterpart, but I like to think that we at least learned a thing or two between our first and second babies. Here’s what we did differently:
When Avery was a baby, I desperately wanted to be one of those cute mom-and-baby pairs on the packaging for baby carriers. They look so happy, right? The problem was, every last one of those companies was (shamelessly!) falsely advertising. I tried a lot of different carriers (although, to be fair, I did not try what I considered the out-of-my-price-range models like the Baby Björn and its compadres – I hadn’t discovered consignment stores yet) and none of them were right. What they called soft carriers or structured soft carriers – pretentious, I know – hurt my shoulders and pinched Avery’s little legs until we both wanted out of the damned thing.
I wasn’t interested in attachment parenting or babywearing, I just wanted something that would allow me to grocery shop or enjoy a family outing without the stroller always in front of me. Even though I wasn’t “one of them,” I realized that someone who wore their baby 24/7 probably had a pretty good idea about what kind of carrier wasn’t going to make me want to shoot myself in the foot and be discharged from mommyhood. I checked out the different types of carriers on Babywearing International and decided that a ring sling was right for me – mostly I just liked the excess flowy fabric, but whatever. I ended up buying a Maya ring sling from Amazon in Olive Green. They had tons of beautiful prints, but how do you pick a print that doesn’t clash with all your clothes? I went with green because I wear a lot of camo. (Again, I live in Georgia. Shut it.)
The Maya wrap has been really, really helpful. In the beginning I used it to get housecleaning done when Jackson was fussy, but over time I’ve learned how to help him not be fussy in the first place. I use this wrap now almost exclusively for grocery shopping. Think of it this way: you put the toddler in the child seat of the buggy, and the infant and carrier into the basket of the buggy … where do the groceries go? This is my solution.
Pacifiers. Pacifiers. Just the word kind of pisses some people off. I’m not sure what all the hubbub is about, and I definitely don’t want to get into that mess, but I will say that my first child did not use a pacifier. I was afraid of “nipple confusion” and didn’t give him a pacifier (or bottle) for three weeks when he was a newborn. Of course, after three weeks had gone by, he had no desire for one. He wouldn’t take it, period, end of story. I hear some children are just that way, and at least you have one less habit to break them from – but I really, really would have loved a paci-mute-button for that child. His nonstop crying drowned out the first half year of his life, and I would have given anything for him to keep a pacifier in his mouth for more than a second or two.
I decided before Jackson was even born that he was GOING to take a pacifier. Day 1. Right out of the womb. Nipples be damned. And he took it. He couldn’t hold it in his mouth very long – it seemed to take him several weeks before he could keep it in his mouth himself. But he took it. And there was silence. He slept well, he ate well (NIPPLE CONFUSION, MY FOOT!), and he is a well-adjusted, happy baby. We plan to take the paci away at six months, except for falling asleep (he spits it out as soon as he’s asleep), and then probably take it away for even sleeping after another month or two.
When Jackson was born, he entered into a world of hand-me-downs. Thankfully, when they are young, this kind of thing doesn’t matter. I don’t know how we’ll handle it when he’s older and doesn’t want his brother’s stinky old stuff, but for now … he has boxes and boxes of (neatly sized, organized, and labeled, of course) clothes that Avery outgrew. I bought zero new clothes for Jackson, but he still wound up with a couple used outfits from the consignment store if they were just too cute for me to pass up, and some brand new clothes from friends & family who just wanted to buy us stuff. But as Jackson grows and I pull out the next box of clothes, I have started to notice something – the clothes that have stood up the best to the beating that Avery gave them are consistently the same brand: Carters. I was always partial to Carters clothing because their stuff is the cutest, but little did I know that it was also the sturdiest. It seemed like all the other brands lost their shape in weird ways once washed. They all shrunk vertically, but not horizontally. So I had all these wide, boxy, uncute outfits that I took straight to the consignment store without bothering to have Jackson wear them. And now he has drawers that are full of 90% Carters!
Another thing that we did differently for our two children is their toys. Avery didn’t really have many toys at all – maybe a few rattles and a snuggle blanket (I don’t know what to call it, but it’s a tiny blanket with a bear head on it that rattles. A lovey? Security blanket?). He didn’t really play with toys at all, so we neglected to get him any until he got older. Even that little lovey that was so cute, Avery deigned to look at. (Jackson loves it.) Somehow the toys multiplied between the first and second child, and Jackson now has an entire hanging shoe organizer (yeah, you read that right) and a couple baskets, all full of toys, at his disposal. What we’ve found is that babies require a lot more variety than you might imagine. Jackson will pick a toy to be his favorite (right now it’s a Pooh with these little sliding honeybees) and he’ll be all over it for a couple days. A day or two later, he’ll pick a different toy to be his new favorite – often it’s the crinkle elephant. I imagine that had we given Avery the opportunity to like a bunch of toys, he’d have been more active and we’d have known it wasn’t a waste to have them in the first place.
The last thing, baby-gear-wise, that we bought for our second child was a Bumbo seat. $50 list price for a foam baby seat? I think not. We thought the idea was incredibly stupid and refused to buy one for Avery. But when Jackson got too big for Avery’s hand-me-down bouncer (or the bouncer’s “bounciness” wore out?) and his rear end was touching the ground when he sat in it, we decided to get one. We registered for one but were given the tray for it without the actual seat, and eventually we found the seat at a consignment store for $20. (Seriously, if you have kids, especially more than one, you better be shopping at consignment stores, flea markets, and yard sales. Shop THERE first, Amazon second, and baby specialty stores last. Trust me on this. The kids don’t use anything long enough to bother paying full-price, and the used stuff looks unused because babies are so gentle on them. But I digress.)
Jackson was a little iffy about the seat at first, but I imagine he was getting tired quickly because his neck muscles weren’t quite developed yet. As he got older, he sat in it longer, and now that his thighs barely fit in the leg holes, he loves the thing. It’s a good way for him to sit up and play with toys after he’s gotten bored of looking at the world from underneath his baby gym. And with the play tray on it, I find that I don’t even use my high chair anymore. I just sit on the floor in front of Jackson and feed him at his level. The Bumbo seat doesn’t have straps and cracks and crevices and is therefore much easier to clean, and it doubles as a toy of sorts to boot.
And although I didn’t learn this lesson between babies 1 and 2, I’ve learned after #2 that this is going to be my next child’s exercise toy:
I have found that 1) doorway jumpers (“Johnny Jumpers” to some) are difficult to install and then remove when you need to close that door, 2) my babies got bored in exersaucers and attempted jumping up and down, and 3) my babies got bored laying down underneath the baby gym. This toy solves all those problems. (I just have to convince Big Daddy that Jackson is still young enough to get use out of it.)
This thing bounces like the doorway jumper, but doesn’t need to be removed every time you need to close a door. It’s surrounded by toys like the exersaucer but doesn’t require them to sit still and doesn’t have to be lifted up and turned sideways in order to move from room to room. The bars above it allow for hanging toys (we love link toys!) just like the gym, but they don’t have to lay down underneath it. It seems very much like the best of all worlds.
Now I just need to find a used one, or convince Big Daddy that it’s a necessary purchase. You know, for reviewing purposes on my blog. 🙂