Can you really feel the same love and excitement for a second baby, as you did with your first? The overhwhelming adoration we feel for our first child is unlike anything else – and with first smiles, steps and conversations, we fall even deeper in love with each new milestone.
But are these feelings a one-off or do we have a surplus supply? It’s no wonder that when we’re planning or are pregnant with baby number two many of us have a secret fear that we’ll find it impossible to love our second child as much as our first but here, experts explain why it’s a common worry.
A common fear
As child and parenting psychologist Dirk Flower explains, it’s a common experience. ‘It’s a niggling worry for most people, but some fixate on it and become really anxious,’ he says. ‘It’s more that parents want to be equal in their feelings for all their children, and are scared that deep down they’ll favour their first.’
But there isn’t a limited supply of affection. ‘In basic terms, a mother’s love is the willingness to give yourself to your child to the detriment of yourself,’ says Flower. ‘You realise the dependency of your child on you, and that you’re the one she’s completely reliant on. To discover that is quite special.’
It’s okay to be different
‘When thinking about the love we’ll have for our children, let’s not confuse “equal” to “feeling the same”, says baby psychologist, Dr Richard Woolfson. ‘I experienced this myself when my second child was due,’ he says. ‘We shouldn’t expect our relationship with our second child to be the same as with our first. The whole point is that you do have a different love for your kids – you form a special relationship with each baby and the dynamics of each are very different.’
Not enough attention
The practicalities of having a new baby with an older sibling running about means the experience will be very different the second time around. ‘With two children to care for, you probably won’t have as much time to devote to the new baby as you did with the first,’ says Flower. ‘But cutting back on coffee mornings with new mums has nothing to do with lack of love – and it certainly won’t have any damaging effect.’
Neglecting your first-born
But even this second-time-around love can be a worry. Some parents fear that when they see their new baby, they’ll fall in love all over again and the older child will miss out.
But, Flower stresses that we should be reassured that whatever the outcome, the change in family dynamics is only temporary, and the love evens out in the end. ‘Often the older child’s relationship with dad becomes stronger, spreading the responsibility of two children between both parents.’
What if I don’t feel the same?
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If, after a few weeks, you don’t feel much attachment to your new baby and perhaps even feel resentful, talk to your health visitor or GP. It’s not uncommon for mums to take a while to bond with a new baby, but as Dirk Flower says, a mum who isn’t feeling any love may be suffering from the baby blues, fatigue, excessive stress or postnatal depression. While this may pass, the longer you delay seeking help, the longer you put off bonding with your baby.