A new study has confirmed what Jan Brady long suspected: Parents give their firstborn more attention and resources than their later-born kids. But we're not just talking about extra baby photo albums and hours of home videos. As the findings reveal, moms are more likely to nurse their first baby and take better care of themselves during their first pregnancy.
"Our main finding is that, on average, mothers are less likely to make certain investments in their later-born children before and soon after they are born," explained Kasey Buckles, a University of Notre Dame economist and lead author of the study. "For example, mothers are 15 percent less likely to breastfeed a second-born child than a first and are 21 percent less likely to breastfeed a fourth or higher-order child. They are also less likely to take prenatal vitamins and seek prenatal care for their later-born children."
The findings—which middle children are no doubt emailing to their parents as we speak—were based on the treasure trove of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 Child and Young Adult Survey. Buckles and her colleague, Shawna Kolka, focused on information about women's pre- and postnatal behaviors.
Though the researchers can't say definitively why parents give later-borns less, they have a few theories: We parents are strapped for time and money after baby number one is born, and we also tend to be more lax about things with our second (or third or fourth) baby.
And this makes perfect sense to me. I don't know about you, but I'm pouring everything I have into raising my one kiddo. And when I was pregnant, I dutifully took the prenatal vitamins and sweated through the prenatal yoga classes. After birth, I breastfed for a full year, made jar upon jar of homemade baby food...you get the idea. The thought of hitting the reset button and doing all of that all over again is too exhausting to consider. If experience has taught me anything, it's that I'd definitely take the good-enough parenting route the second time around. (Sorry, Jan.)
How about you—do you think you'd give later-born babies the same amount of attention and resources as your first?
Image of siblings courtesy of Shutterstock