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Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s latest book, titled The Second Baby Book, adds to her collection of parenting books under the gentle parenting umbrella.
As the name suggests, this book is all about how to cope with pregnancy number two and create a happy home for your firstborn and your new arrival. We always planned to have 2 children – Jonah came in June 2016, and Cara in November last year.
I find Sarah’s books a huge source of guidance and reassurance. Especially since I’ve often found myself at odds with some current parenting styles.
Gentle parenting shifts away from authoritarian parenting and aims to be child led, respectful, and mindful. I’ve enjoyed Sarah’s other books including Gentle Parenting and The Gentle Eating Book. As a mum to four with a degree in psychology, she is so knowledgable but also relatable – she really understands.
I just wish The Second Baby Book had come sooner for us, as it was published after our second baby was born. The advice has rung so true, and I’ve really seen where we’ve made mistakes with Jonah that we maybe wouldn’t have made had I read this book sooner. We live and learn!
Who should read this book?
This book is perfect if you’re the parent of a toddler and planning a second baby, or pregnant with your second baby. Read it and follow the steps to help you prepare your firstborn and yourself for your new arrival.
The earlier in your pregnancy you are, the more time you’ll have to prepare.
The book covers how to prepare your firstborn for what’s to come, how to cope with the practicalities of life with two young children, and the feelings that parents go through. There is literally nothing I can think of that the book doesn’t cover.
I guarantee after reading it you’ll feel better prepared and have greater confidence!
So let’s take a look at The Second Baby Book.
The Second Baby Book
The introduction raises the biggest question I had during my pregnancy – how on earth will I cope with 2 children? Sometimes I didn’t feel able to cope with 1! But we grow with our family. Our hearts expand, but as Sarah says, our time does not. So it’s all about giving things time.
The introduction talks about how pregnancy is treated differently the second time around – fewer appointments, and less fuss in general. I can relate so much to this – Martin came to no appointments with me the second time around. For most, maternity appointments are more commonplace and I think as second time mums we have more confidence in our pregnancy. But it’s so nice to make the second pregnancy special too, and Sarah gives ideas for this in the book.
Chapter 1 – on deciding to have another baby
This chapter will give you all the information you need about age gaps, including what is best for the children, and what is best for mum. I love the mix of current research and anecdotes from other parents.
Ultimately it’s about personal choice and when you feel the time is right. As for our age gap – our biggest concern was my age. Sometimes I wish we’d left it longer to allow Jonah to be a baby a little longer. But I don’t regret our choice, as we really did thrash out the pros and cons.
Chapter 2 – conceiving the second time around
The topic of this chapter was very important to me – I wrote a blog post about how to prepare for a second pregnancy.
The advice in the book will help you prepare to conceive and give you some idea what to expect. Again, it would’ve been very helpful for me to read this earlier! It took us 1 cycle to conceive Jonah and 5 cycles with Cara, which is normal.
I was still breastfeeding Jonah when we started to try again, and I had a short luteal phase. I knew about it because we took ovulation tests. In the end, I got so frustrated I took maca and B12 to help regulate my hormones. I fell pregnant that month, but maybe it was down to chance.
With hindsight, I was overly worried. What we learned from The Second Baby Book was that my chances of conceiving naturally within a year at 38 were just 35%! But, what is important is that even with a short luteal phase, you can still conceive. And the book talks about how you can prepare to increase your chances, along with fertility awareness, charting, and when to seek help.
Chapter 3 – what to expect when you’re expecting again
This chapter asks some important yet hard to address questions, such as have we done the right thing?
It’s so nice to hear that a sense of grief at losing the 1-on-1 relationship with your firstborn is normal. I cried many a tear wondering how we’d cope and worrying whether Jonah would be okay.
The worst part was saying goodbye to our breastfeeding relationship because my milk supply went and I developed a nursing aversion. So this chapter is great to learn how to cope with all the feelings that come up during pregnancy.
Chapter 4 – preparing number 1 for number 2
I find this chapter really fascinating. I learned that because children aren’t able to think abstractly or hypothetically, they find it hard to visualise a new sibling during pregnancy. Nonetheless, life is easier through preparation. Sarah notes that being ready practically leads to feeling ready emotionally – I love this, it’s so true.
The chapter includes practical information like when to tell your firstborn about your pregnancy, and how to introduce your siblings. Our children’s introduction was very unmemorable. We’d planned to have Martin hold Cara, but it didn’t work out that way as I was feeding Cara at the time. Jonah came to the bed to see us, then turned right away – not the welcome we were hoping for!
A great piece of advice is that it’s very important not to make changes too late in case your firstborn attributes this to the arrival of the new sibling. We totally made this mistake. Although he self-weaned and was happy to be in his own bed by the time I was 6 months pregnant, we tried to start him at nursery a few weeks after Cara arrived – it didn’t go well.
I really like the myth-busting on breastfeeding both, and I wish I could’ve tandem fed. But Jonah has been fine since stopping breastfeeding, and doesn’t seem to mind me feeding Cara.
I really love the sweet ideas for making your firstborn feel special with a small gift. We never thought of this, but our closest friends (with 2 kids) bought him a hamper of goodies, some of which kept him entertained during the newborn days.
Chapter 5 – sorting, shopping & sharing
A chapter that helpfully covers the practicalities, with the aim of getting out of the house. Sarah makes an interesting point on how to avoid rivalries with toys. She advises not to give the firstborn’s favourite baby toys to the second-born. I had no idea! We have done this, but Jonah doesn’t seem to mind. However it’s in the back of my mind to be careful about it.
Chapter 6 – second births
Sarah makes a great point that you can still feel like an amateur for your second birth. I felt like this, since I had nagging doubts about my pushing stage – I prepared myself with hypnobirthing. Sarah states how important it is to learn from the first birth. I remember replaying Jonah’s birth over and over to try to remember at what point he became distressed, and how I could’ve avoided lying down and pushing. So getting it all clear in your mind to make peace with it is very healing.
It’s great to hear the Fear Tension and Pain cycle discussed – all pregnant ladies and their birth partners should know about this! The chapter covers so many useful areas, like making the birthplace comfortable, support during birth, and birth plans. I really enjoyed reading the positive second birth stories, they really help to boost confidence before birth.
Chapter 7 – childcare during labour and birth
This chapter helps you to prepare your firstborn for what will happen when you are in labour. This is a biggie for all soon to be second time parents. Sarah gives lots of options here. As for us, we had grandparents and my brother on hand. I gave birth to Cara at home – and it’s certainly true that my labour was stalling while my son was awake. I felt like Sarah – I was in “mother mode” with Jonah around.
Chapter 8 – the baby’s here and so is the guilt!
This is my favourite chapter – I’ve struggled so much with guilt, and this chapter has helped me come to terms with it and realise it’s so common and very normal. The mourning over the loss of Jonah’s babyhood was huge for me, along with weaning guilt. Massive kudos to Sarah for dedicating a chapter to this important phenomenon in becoming a second time mother.
Chapter 9 – beautiful chaos
I love the name of this chapter as it sums up the early days so well. Beautiful chaos talks about postnatal healing with a baby and a toddler. It covers how to avoid problematic behaviour by bonding with your toddler a little each day without the baby – something we really need to work on.
Also covered in this chapter is establishing breastfeeding, obviously very important, and how to handle when baby needs to nap – we’re still struggling with this. Jonah wants to wake Cara up!
I found the section on how to handle when both cry at once useful. You do what you have to do to keep everybody sane. When both cry together it’s absolutely heart-wrenching, but you have to make the call.
For the baby, crying in arms is better than crying alone, so Sarah explains if you tend to number 1 while holding crying number 2, it’s okay. And letting number 1 watch telly while tending to number 2 is also okay. As for us, it’s quite hard because Jonah is still napping and gets overtired some days. There have been times when they’ve both cried and I’ve just had to use the telly until I can get Cara down for her nap. Then it’s big cuddles for Jonah. Communication is key here, “I’ll be back to give you a big cuddle”.
Really good advice for getting out of the house with 2 children, and getting them both to bed. We’ve had the odd sole parent bedtime, so it was good to read Sarah’s advice on this.
Chapter 10 – different reactions and tricky behaviour
Such an important chapter – what to do if your firstborn isn’t happy. I didn’t stop to think that firstborn behaviours may be revealed up to 12 months after the second-born arrives. This is why the book is handy to me even though we’re now 5 months in.
One area we’ve been concerned over that’s mentioned in this chapter is over-attentiveness. We do struggle with this as Jonah tries to wake Cara up and is always pawing her. I was so glad to hear that this is a sign of love!
Chapter 11 – sibling rivalry & sibling love
This is a handy chapter if rivalry is a “problem”. I was so surprised to learn that sibling rivalry can be a good thing. It’s certainly hard for parents, but good for kids in that it boosts their skills! Time to step back and just mediate.
Chapter 12 – your feelings in the future
I love how Sarah finishes up by addressing the “mum guilt”. She includes a touching piece on gender disappointment, which I know I’d find helpful had we been disappointed.
Final thoughts on The Second Baby Book
Cara is 5 months old now, and I finally feel like we’re starting to find our groove. Having 2 young children is often physically and emotionally challenging, but it gets easier and it’s so rewarding. I feel like a calmer and better equipped mama because of the challenges of 2.
It’s so beautiful to watch their relationship develop as they grow together. I want to be the best version of myself I can be, and I feel this book has really helped by giving me clarity and guidance. It inspires positivity and helps parents to prepare in all the ways imaginable.
Thanks to this book I’ve learned so much and have lots of ideas to try, like making more 1-on-1 time for Jonah and I.
The Second Baby Book is essential reading if you already have a little one and are planning a second baby, or are currently pregnant with your second baby. Sarah has such a warm and understanding way of writing, I teared up at the end of the book because she really gets what it’s like to be a mum to 2.
You can learn more about Sarah Ockwell-Smith and her work at sarahockwell-smith.com.
The Second Baby Book
What’s your second baby story? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.