In the Parenthood

Advice for new parents, from those who have been there

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  June 17, 2010 10:24 AM

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There's an old joke about how your parenting style changes with each child. First-time parents are apt to sterilze the baby's toys each night and boil the binkie the instant it drops on the floor. Second-time parents wash the toys when they look a little grubby and rinse the pacifier with tap water. Parents with three or more kids? The toys get outgrown before they get cleaned and the paci gets wiped off on a clean corner of mom's shirt before being popped back into the baby's mouth. A little dirt helps build the immune system, right?

Kerry Colburn and Rob Sorensen's new book, "How to Have Your Second Child First: 100 Things That Are Good to Know... the First Time Around," is full of easy-to-read nuggets of wisdom and quotes from experienced moms and dads, as well as short "Second-Timer Tips" from parents who have been there, done that, laundered the spit-up covered T-shirt. It's the book I wish I had when my first baby was born.

Even though I had three stepkids by the time she came along, my first baby was, well, my first baby. Between my former life as a nanny and my experience as a stepmom, I had seen every developmental stage from toddler on up, but newborns were still new to me. I could really have used tips number 11 ("Don't fear the nighttime noises. New babies are the noisiest sleepers you can imagine."), number 24 ("Put 'Me Time' into maternity leave"), and number 61 ("It's okay for you and your baby to 'do nothing' all day").

Though the information is written in light-hearted, accessible language and presented in an easy-to-browse bullet-point format, it touches on some heavier stuff (how new fathers may feel left out at first, for example, and guilt about leaving your baby with a sitter) and offers suggestions on how to cope. New parents may not feel comfortable putting all of the advice into practice, but "How to Have Your Second Child First" has plenty of ideas that are worth considering. And there's not a single judgmental parenting drive-by in the bunch.

Seasoned parents, share your tips: What do you know now that you wish you had known the first time around?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at and follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat.

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3 comments so far...
  1. The world will not end if the baby winds up crying for a few minutes while you finish the task you are doing. In fact, the baby may fall asleep. That's not to say you should let the baby cry for extended periods or every time, but there's no need to rush in the bathroom or finishing a few bites of lunch if you know the baby is safe and the cry does not sound urgent. Corollary- sometimes, babies make little cries while they are still fast asleep, and if you go in to them you will actually wake them up and make things worse!

    Posted by akmom June 18, 10 07:27 AM
  1. No matter what you do, there will be someone looking over your shoulder telling you that she read in a book or saw on Dr. Phil that you are doing it completely wrong and the kid will be warped for life. And if you admit to Sanctimommy that you have not read the recent research correlating infant navel lint and high school AP History grades because you were busy, say, eating a meal or taking a shower, she'll tell you are selfish and shouldn't have had kids.

    Posted by di June 18, 10 11:28 AM
  1. Second time parent should know that pacifiers are not needed.
    The new generation of parents might want to consider revisiting the "playpen" I turned my son onto this with his second child he couldn't believe how safe the child could be while he got things done around the house. The 3rd child didn't continually haunt the 1st two while they were playing because she was safe in the playpen.

    Posted by Nana Spera June 18, 10 02:52 PM
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about the author

Lylah M. Alphonse
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

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