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Ack! My Daughter Has a Severe Case of Second Baby Syndrome

By Meredith Carroll |

Baby girl

Wouldn't it be nice if her Second Baby Syndrome cleared up in the morning? A mother can only dream . . .

It’s cold and flu season, although fortunately my household has gone unscathed so far. However, my poor 3-month-old baby, Peony, has just been diagnosed with an acute case of Second Baby Syndrome.

While the symptoms can occasionally vary, they’re generally the same across the board: hand-me-down clothes and toys, little time alone with Mom and Dad, few special activities, lots of time spent in a swing or car seat, a thin (or nonexistent) baby book, and friends who are necessarily the younger siblings of the afflicted’s older brother or sister’s friends.

As a younger sibling myself, I always swore I’d never let my younger child fall ill to the same disease I suffered from for so many years. And yet at the tender age of just 3 months, Peony is already a victim.

When my older daughter, Petunia, was born 3 years ago, it was all about her, all the time. I spent hours each day tending to her needs or simply gazing lovingly at her while she was sleeping. Poor Peony, on the other hand, gets schlepped around in her car seat to Petunia’s activities on the days when she isn’t in preschool. And on days when her older sister is in school, Peony hangs around while I work. Sadly, there isn’t nearly as much time for goo-goo eyes.

Peony is also subjected to a wardrobe of all hand-me-downs. So was Petunia — my sister’s 3 kids are all older and she generously sends us their duds when they outgrow them — but now some of those clothes are being worn by the fifth person in nearly 12 years.

My sister’s baby book is the size of the Oxford English Dictionary. Mine is the size of a pamphlet on syphilis from the doctor’s office. I always swore I’d never do that to my younger child. Peony’s book is still blank. I have a stack of keepsakes sitting on top of it. There’s still time, but if our current schedule is any indication, I have a bad feeling about it.

(Go ahead and count how many pictures you took of your first child in the first three months, and then count how many you have of your second child in the same time period. Go ahead. I’ll wait. See? Not as many, right? Not a chance.)

When Petunia was an infant we started taking a Music Together class. I’ll do the same with Peony, but not until later in the spring due to scheduling conflicts (mine and Petunia’s). Peony only has 1 friend to date – and it’s her little friend Max, who is the younger brother of Eli, who is a friend of Petunia’s. I know if I didn’t have Petunia’s playdates and activities to keep up with Peony would have a better chance of being more social, but at the moment there aren’t enough hours in the day.

When Petunia was an infant my husband and I would take her into bed with us on weekend mornings and play with her for a few hours at a time. Stroking her, cuddling her, cooing at her, dangling toys in front of her. Peony doesn’t get that because we don’t have the time — and Petunia would never allow us alone time with the baby (the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head every time we try).

The irony, of course, is that it was Petunia who I felt sorry for before Peony was born. I felt sad for her that she was going to lose out on my undivided attention. But the reality has been that Petunia still needs all of that attention (and more!). And Peony goes with the flow. She’s no worse for the wear, but I feel terrible about it knowing how it could have been if she had come first.

Of course the Second Child Syndrome will likely heal itself over time to an extent, particularly when Peony is more mobile and vocal. But until then, I fear the disease will only worsen. And what mom can ever rest easy when her child is ill?

I’ve heard anecdotes about Second Baby Syndrome sufferers talking earlier and developing quicker in general compared to their older siblings. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, particularly when I feel like time is slipping by too quickly in the first place.

Please send Peony your well wishes. She won’t understand them now, but believe me, she’ll appreciate the sympathy when she’s older.

Has your younger child ever suffered from Second Baby Syndrome?

Image: Meredith Carroll

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About Meredith Carroll


Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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11 thoughts on “Ack! My Daughter Has a Severe Case of Second Baby Syndrome

  1. Ami says:

    If you honestly feel your youngest is getting shafted then do something about it. You’re the parent and therefore you should have the power, not your oldest child. I’m not saying go all cold turkey on your first born, but I doubt she will die if you miss out on an activity or two for her and actually spend some time with the youngest. Sure she’ll be jealous, but she’ll get through it and be better for it.
    I’m not trying to be overly harsh, but it’s obvious that you still harbor some resentment for how you were ignored. If you recognize that you’re doing the same to your kid, I suggest you start finding a way to fix it.
    And take some freaking pictures. I have three kids and I keep the camera close so that they ALL have pictures.

  2. Meagan says:

    Your baby doesn’t have one friend. She has no friends. Because she is 3 months old. :-)

    If it makes you feel any better, I currently have only one child and don’t even own a baby book. That’s what blogging is for.

  3. Meredith Carroll says:

    @Meagan – LOL. if I thought I could get away with printing out these pieces and pasting them in her book, believe me, I would!

  4. Julie says:

    I laughed through this article because I completely relate. My son has Second Baby Syndrome too, but he is the most laid back little guy. My daughter is all out demanding, precocious and wonderful all at the same time. It’s definitely a balance of one of me and two of them. Re: AMI, really, you are trying to not be “overly harsh” but you were so harsh. I think the article was intended to be “tongue in cheek” and I am pretty sure that your younger two did not get the same sort of attention that your oldest one did. I am the oldest with my siblings and do not have issues about having not gotten the same attention and I related to everything Meredith had to say. So you should think a bit before you start criticizing or psycho-analyzing her over a semi-sarcastic article.

  5. Bre says:

    Great comment Julie! I’m the oldest and still demand my parents’ time over my younger sister. I only have one little man right now, but I am honestly nervous about having another because of the second child syndrome. Although there is a girl in my son’s daycare class who is 2 days older than him but a lot further in physical development and her mom says it’s because she has an older sister, so that’s a positive right?

  6. Megan says:

    My daughter has a mild case of Second Baby Syndrome. I would have to say I have MIORE pictures of her as a baby than I do of her brother. I will confess, however, that this is mostly due to the fact that I have a digital camera now. When my 8 year old was a baby, digital cameras were still in their infancy(1MP was considered a REALLY good camera then) so we still used a film camera, and film and developing was really expensive. Now with the digital cameras, I take a ton of pictures and can just delete the ones that don’t turn out, instead of having wasted money on film. She is a very laid-back baby, and gets dragged to all of her brothers Cub Scout Meetings and parades, and she goes with me to take him to and from his dance class and various camps in the summer. In some ways though, I have more time with her than I did with her brother. I work closer to home now, and rarely have to be at work before 9 or after 5. When she was really little, I was even able to bring her to some work meetings with me. (Librarians are very flexible).

  7. Jessica says:

    I feel guilty all the time about the picture situation. There is probably one of my 10 month old for every 1000 of his big brother. Glad to know it’s not just me!

  8. Jessica says:

    I’ve felt the same way about my two boys 18 months and 3 months. Didn’t think I was alone, and I’m glad other parents are feelin the same way!

  9. chanel says:

    My 2nd has the disease. The oldest is such a hand fold, we focus on him. He goes with the flow. It is great that I can spend time with him before picking up the kindergarten. No solid afternoon nap for the 8month old. He is showing signs to talk like his older bro. This is a plus. He is a very happy baby considering

  10. alejandra says:

    I actually have more pictures of my second and give more attention to her too. One of my many faults. I feel its because I bonded right away with her and with my oldest she was 3 months before I truely enjoyed her. Plus my soon to be 4 year old is well into her independent additude stage.

  11. Heather says:

    I not only have a case of SECOND CHILD SYNDROME, but mine is added to a severe case of MIDDLE CHILD SYNDROME! (I’m the middle of 3 girls)! I know I am definitely going to get my pay back when we have a second child! :)

    I enjoyed this artice! To the first commenter: just chill out. This was meant to be funny. I’m sure the author could name a ton of things that were different for her BECAUSE she was the second child, and not the oldest. My older sister never lets me forget the stuff I got to do younger, that she had to wait for (wearing make up, staying up later, etc.)

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