How far apart should I space my kids?
When deciding to have more children, the question of optimal spacing often takes front and center. Most parents want their children close enough in age to be good friends, but spaced far enough apart to where the baby of the family doesn’t get pushed off his perch before he is ready.
The answer to this question isn’t going to be the same for everyone. That is because everyone is different, parents and children, and that makes every situation unique! So, instead of giving a blanket answer on this, we are going to break this down into a list of considerations.
Risks of close pregnancies
First and foremost, we need to look at the recommendations laid out for us by the experts. It is recommended by professionals to wait a minimum of 18-24 months and a maximum of 5 years between a live birth and a subsequent pregnancy.
Getting pregnant too soon after giving birth increases the chance of low birth weight and placenta issues, among other problems. Waiting too long carries increased risks for the mother, such as high blood pressure and damage to certain organ systems.
Pregnancy over 35
Women over 35 have slightly different guidelines due to the increase in risk for infertility. Women over 35 can begin trying to conceive as early as 12 months after giving birth. Woohoo!!!….Let me personally warn you, though, that being over 35 sucks enough without having to chase after kids!
Can I afford to have another baby?
Some parents are put in a position to stay home, instead of earning income. Diapering, feeding, and clothing more than one kid isn’t cheap! And childcare can eat up a second income and then some! The first few years of a child’s life can cost several thousand dollars, excluding wages lost. The cost (and effort to care for) two seems like it would be double, but in reality, it’s exponential.
Now, if you are already home with one child and you want to add another kid to the mix, if you want to and can afford it, go for it!
Both kids will reach Elementary School age around the same time. That means you can return to being a two income family sooner than if you were to space your kids further apart. Might as well knock ’em all out at once, right?
Inversely, some parent have other legitimate reasons for waiting. One or both parents may be finishing up a degree or working toward a promotion; working towards a more stable financial situation. There may be other considerations, as well!
Ecological child spacing
One tidbit I read went like this: “….waiting [a minimum of] 24 months before trying to become pregnant will help avoid the short birth-to-pregnancy intervals associated with the highest risk of poor maternal, perinatal, neonatal, and infant health outcomes.”
There are many other resources on the internet that give natural term breastfeeding as a sign from nature on how pregnancies should be spaced.
While these findings are interesting, I had a difficult time subtantiating the claims. The general concesus is to wait a minimum of 18 months. Also, where these claims are made, there seems to be an emphasis on “ecological breastfeeding” as a form of birth control, which many women can’t do or do not care to do.
Also, breastfeeding is not effective birth control.
Statistics on the spacing of second pregnancies
I recently took a poll of 316 mothers, of varying educational and socioeconomic backgrounds, and found the bulk of the answers to be consistent with my own feelings on the issue.
Here is the breakdown of the numbers:
32% support a spacing of 3 or more years
36% say that anywhere between 18 months and 3 years is perfect
23% said 12-18 months is optimal
The remaining 9% were split evenly between having kids within 1 year of each other (Irish Twins) or waiting a full 5 years between children.
Optimal sibling spacing
From my own experience, I feel that 2-2.5 years is a great spacing for siblings.
My first was 26 months old when her brother was born. She adjusted beautifully and now, at 4, has no recollection of there ever being a time when it was just her. They are the best of friends!
Now, on the other hand, my 2nd and 3rd children were spaced just 19 months apart. While I had my reasons for planning it this way, I wouldn’t recommend this spacing to others. I feel that spacing kids just a bit further apart is easier on the whole family.
Will siblings grow up to be friends?
Now, this is just anecdotal, but I have 3 sisters, spaced very close together. We are all spaced about 20 months apart and we are all the best of friends.
However, I don’t attribute our emotional closeness only on our proximity in age. We shared bedrooms (either all of us or 2 to a room), shared toys, and chores; essentially, we spent a lot of time together. Our parents played a major role in our upbringing and how close we are as adults.
I’ve seen the opposite in other adult siblings close in age, though. That’s really too bad!
I believe parenting makes the difference. I’ve seen siblings with more than a decade between them grow up to be the best of friends!
So, I don’t think the spacing of siblings is the deciding factor in their relationships with each other, or with you.
So, there isn’t just one answer to this question. The answer is going to be specific to your situation!
How far apart are you and your siblings spaced? How do you plan on spacing your children?
I’m excited for feedback, as usual!
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