Once you have your first child, thoughts gradually turn to siblings. If you’ve decided that you do want another child you may be wondering when is the best time to have another child? Is there a perfect age gap between kids?
The Perfect Age Gap Between Kids Is A Myth
For as much thought and worry as parents put into figuring out when to have another child, there really is no single best time to have another child. There are benefits and drawbacks to having children spaced closely together just as there are pros and cons of having kids spaced further apart. It all depends on your particular family dynamic and what you can handle or want for your family.
A Look At Sibling Spacing
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of closely spaced children versus those spaced further apart.
12 to 18 Month Age Gap Between Kids
In general, siblings that are closer in age demonstrate less sibling rivalry and the kids play together well, which many parents love. The reason for this is because the first child is still too young to have developed a strong sense of identity or jealousy. They welcome a playmate with open arms. Another reason parents consider under two years to be the best time to have another child is to condense all of the sacrifices and work that go into raising young children into one time period. When children are spaced close together one parent may decide to stay home with them until they are in school. This can save on childcare costs and if and when the parent does decide to re-enter the workforce he or she will have been out of it for less time, making it easier to transition into becoming a working parent.
The drawbacks to having kids close together are the intense needs of toddlers and babies and the toll on the mother’s body. When you have two young children you have two sets of diapers, two kids who may not sleep through the night, two kids to potty train. Everything is doubled, but then it’s over and done with. Additionally, the physical toll on the mother’s body may be hard to bear. Her body is just recovering from the previous birth and she may still be breastfeeding. You may be forced to wean your first child before you are ready.
A 2-Year Age Gap
Many obstetricians recommend waiting at least 18 months before conceiving again as best for the new baby’s health. The downside is, this puts you smack dab in the middle of the “Terrible Twos”. Sibling rivalry is strongest during these years and parents are often already struggling with a toddler who is developing a strong sense of identity and loves to use the word “No!” On the upside, a 2 year age gap works out pretty well as the kids get older. They are close enough in age to enjoy being with each other and playing together, but also have their own separate interests and identities.
3 Years And Older
A gap of 3 years or more greatly reduces the chances of sibling rivalry. By this time the older child is secure in him or herself and quite independent. In addition, the mother’s body is fully recovered from the challenges of pregnancy and birth of the first child. The larger age gap gives parents more one-on-one time with each child and provides an opportunity to get back into the workforce if you so choose. When children are spaced this far apart, however, they may not play as well together, especially during the first few years. You’ll also be starting from scratch with diapers and nighttime feedings, potty training and the like, just when it feels like you were finally finished with all of that.
Deciding When To Have Another Child
Just as deciding when to have your first child was a private and personal decision, so too is deciding when to have another. Be honest about your feelings and your capabilities and ask yourself the following questions to help guide your decision:
- How Do You Feel? How are both parents feeling with one child? Are you physically and emotionally capable of caring for a baby again?
- How Will It Affect Your Finances? Can you afford to have another child? If you need daycare, can you afford to pay for two children? Will one of you stay home from work? If so, for how long and can you make it on one income in the meantime?
- What Is Your Age? Sometimes, age dictates that we have children sooner than we’d have liked. If Mom is older than 35, her fertility is decreasing and the window for having another child is closing fast. If you’re in your 20’s or early 30’s you have more time to space out your children without worrying too much about fertility problems.
- Are You And Your Partner In Agreement? Does your spouse or partner want another child? It is extremely important to be on the same page. Both of you should be ready and welcoming of another child.
- What Milestones Are Coming Up For Your Older Child? Are you going to be in the throws of potty training, sending your child off to preschool or elementary school or expecting some other big life change (a move or a new job, perhaps?). Consider how a new baby will impact you as well as your first child. Will you have time to pay attention to both of them and yourself?
As you can see there are many factors that come into play when planning to have another child. The best time for you may not be the best time for your sister or friend or neighbor. Keep in mind what your family situation is like and how things are going right now, then use that as a guide to planning your next pregnancy.