As your little ones approach their first year, a peculiar social dynamic might begin to unfold among your circle of friends who also became parents around the same time. Some are already sharing plans to welcome a second child, while others are unsure, sparking discussions and eliciting both expert and parental opinions on when to have a second baby.
Some of us were astonished to learn that not all second-time pregnant parents are meticulously organized. Many parents wonder how their first kid will react to the news of a sibling. When, if ever, can we expect to get a full night’s rest?
The recommended time frame between pregnancies is between 18 and 24 months. If both parents are in good health, OB/GYN and director of minimally invasive gynecology at Detroit’s Hutzel Women’s Hospital Patrice Harold recommends waiting until the youngest kid is 18 months old.
According to studies, preterm birth, low birth weight, small size for gestational age, and NICU stays are all factors linked to shorter intervals than 18 months. According to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Pregnancy poses risks to the mother’s health.
However, Dr. Harold notes that longer gaps between pregnancies, defined as more than 59 months, are connected with elevated risk factors like preeclampsia.
Choosing when to have children isn’t easy, but the folks we asked said they wouldn’t trade their current circumstances for anything else. They also offer plenty of guidance on whether or not to have children in close proximity to one another. You could learn from their mistakes when considering the optimal time to start a family again.
Less Than 2 Years Apart
Having babies quickly can entail cramming a lot of “baby stuff” into a shorter period of time. You will remember every detail of tummy time and teething when baby number two (or three!) arrives. With a 16-month gap between her first and second child, Janerl Lampson of Bakersfield, California, explains, “I was already doing diapers, so the learning curve was not that big.”
Within a year, you might also have kids who are good at entertaining each other and who agree on what things and activities to do. Many parents say that when a new brother comes into the family, a child under the age of two is less likely to be jealous. Mom of two and resident of Brooklyn, “My girls are always with each other,” explains Dara Federman. Eliane desires to spend the rest of her life with her girlfriend, Leah.
This may also be the least expensive choice. Even though you may be worried about spending twice as much with two children in close succession, many organizations, including dancing studios, summer camps, and even some preschools, offer sibling discounts.
Susan Hayden of Seattle adds, “The first two years were extremely challenging.” It seemed like someone was always ill or up all night. Being in “crisis mode” all the time made me feel like I missed out on several of their milestones.
If you have a significant other, the early days may also put a strain on your relationship as you and your partner adjust to the new routine of diaper changes, laundry, and lack of sleep.
If your older child shows signs of envy, take action. Valerie Maholmes, Ph.D., CAS, explains that a child of 1 or 2 years old may not be able to describe his thoughts or comprehend why he is confused and furious. Make sure to show equal affection to both children. If your older child is in the room when you’re holding your newborn, you can tell them, “I’ll tell you about your older brother. He can do a lot of cool things.” Adele Faber, co-author of Siblings Without Rivalry, suggests providing concrete examples, such as block stacking or ball kicking.
And if you need a break from caring for your child as well as some extra attention, ask for help from your partner, parents, or a babysitter. Don’t rush anything. You’re going to need all your strength to keep everyone pleased, especially the kids.
2 to 4 Years Apart
The idea behind this near but not too tight spacing is to keep everyone’s sanity and provide parents with more quality time with each child. Jennifer Page, a mother of three from Tulsa, Oklahoma, says she was unprepared for how well the children’s ages varied from three to four years apart. It’s amusing to see how the kids act differently when it’s just the two of them compared to when we’re all together.
Meanwhile, being so young still means that siblings can bond through shared interests and that the older child can serve as a natural role model. Kelley Thompson of Flower Mound, Texas comments, “A.J. always amazes me with how far along he is compared to Kobe at the same age.” A.J. has a sibling to compete with. Thanks to Kobe’s guidance, he learns to walk at a younger age and displays greater dexterity on the soccer field. They’ve finally found a way to work together as a playgroup.
Assuming a traditional maternity leave followed by a full-time return to work, a 2- to 4-year age gap between children may be optimal. Thanks to the time apart, I was able to focus on being a mother and building my profession at the same time.
The transition from infant to toddler and back again can feel like an olfactory version of Groundhog Day. “Except for the time period of a few months,” Page, a mother of three, adds, “I have been changing diapers now for almost 10 years!” Your older child may finally outgrow their siesta right when you need a little respite in the afternoon.
When you have a new newborn and an active toddler, it might be difficult to ask for help with babysitting. Finding a babysitter for my older daughter when she was a toddler was a breeze. Those close to me would line up to help,” says Jeri Ann Hall, a mother of two from Memphis, Tennessee, whose children are spaced two years apart. No one outright refuses to help with a baby or toddler, but they also don’t exactly make it plain that they shouldn’t be our final resort.
Since your firstborn is used to always having you to themselves, they may act out in frustration whenever you are occupied with your newborn. Your responses can prevent sibling rivalry from developing. Saying “No” to your toddler all the time may promote jealousy since your child may perceive you as favoring the infant. Any signs of aggression should be met with swift punishment, but then the focus should be shifted to teaching the older child how to care for and appreciate their new brother.
Helping out with the newborn can also make your preschooler feel like a valued member of the family. Megan appreciated all of the baby supplies she received. When Macy was upset, we’d sing to her and give Megan “babysitting” tasks like dancing while Macy was in her bouncy chair.
Separated by at least 5 Years
The benefits of this separation are substantial. Even if your children aren’t very close, they still benefit from having a sibling, and they enjoy the advantages of being an only child and having a sibling. Meanwhile, you have greater leeway to devote your full attention to each child. “I feel like I’m really getting to know each of my children as unique people,” says Mary Ann Guman, a mother from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who had an eight-year gap between her firstborn and her second. A third-time parent from California named Lisa Laurente says, “Having a long time between my kids has helped me enjoy the time I spend with my youngest.”
You’ll probably feel more assured in your parenting abilities now that you’ve had so much more experience. “I’m not as frazzled as I was with my two older children,” Laurente claims. I approach parenting with more patience. Even your firstborn child might benefit. Laurente states that her elder children were capable of making significant contributions. They become more self-reliant and cooperative as a result.
Meanwhile, don’t discount the prospective friendship just yet. I was skeptical that a 4-year-old and 10-year-old would want to spend much time together, but Lachelle Nettles of Dripping Springs, Texas, says that her children, despite their age difference, play and fight like best friends. Your youngster will learn from a more mature role model than they would from a sibling of a similar age. The older sibling can serve as a role model and mentor to the younger one as they navigate childhood challenges together, including peer pressure, homework, and friendship groups.
You spend your days shuttling between Kid Nation, with its elementary school commitments, and evening Little League, and Planet Baby, with its insistence that you lug around a metric ton of equipment and, most likely, a grumpy infant. “It was quite an adjustment,” Laurente admits of going back to diapers and naps after a long time away. I underestimated the amount of energy it would take to keep a toddler occupied at a baseball game. That could imply less opportunities for things that are fun for both you and the baby.
There are monetary implications for this spacing. Your old stroller and car seat are likely antiquated, so you’ll have to get new ones.
Your older youngster may act positively bitter instead of jealous. Someone who has been an only child for a long time may find the birth of a new baby more challenging. You have nine months to prepare him, so utilize that time wisely by discussing the positive and negative aspects of the upcoming transition.
The new arrival will be the center of attention, so focus your attention solely on your former. “Abby loves to read her little sister’s bedtime stories,” adds Guman, “but we also let her have special rights, like staying up a little later at night.” She enjoys our company and usually stays around.
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