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Child Spacing: When Should I Have My Second Child

596899_sweet_sisters.jpg Our family cannot leave the house without at least two people wanting to know if my 4 year old and 2 year old are twins.  While my children are separated by 2 years and 3 months, because my oldest has Down syndrome, they are about the same size and are at about the same level in many developmental areas.  My youngest child learned how to walk six months after my firstborn learned how to walk and we have been in “twin mode” ever since.  It’s been exhausting and rewarding all at the same time! There is a constant pursuit among mothers of all races, religions, cultures, and backgrounds to find the magical interval between pregnancies.

Baby Bunching” seems to be a growing trend among mothers.  “Baby Bunching” is a term two mothers have coined to describe siblings who are less than two years apart.  Linda and Cara have a blog devoted to mothers of “twiblings.”   Their blog contains articles that address the experiences of parenting children who are very close in age.  While my children are a few months out of the spacing requirements of “official baby bunchers,”I can most certainly appreciate the challenges, rewards, and unique chaos that baby bunchers experience due to my children being developmentally very close to each other, even though their chronological age is over two years.

Some of the benefits of having children who are close developmentally I have found is you get the pregnancy and newborn stages over and behind you in one swoop.  Not that I didn’t enjoy my pregnancies, but there are some things I don’t want to do forever!  Another advantage to having “twiblings” is our children play with the same toys and have the same interests.  We never had to hide our older child’s choking hazard toys from our curious crawler.  In our house everyone still naps {or at least goes to their room for an hour for quiet time}.  My firstborn was so easy going, that the transition from one to two children was really easy.  Our first child adjusted so well to her new brother, and I believe that in part is because she was younger.  One of my favorite things about having children close in age is their love for each other.  It is becoming more difficult to distinguish who has the dominant role in their relationship and they have a two sided adoration for each other at a very young age.

Some of the challenges I have found in having children so close in age is the toddler stage is tough all the way around!  Both of my children are constantly going  in separate directions.  If nap time/quiet time gets skipped, I have TWO incredibly angry toddlers who I cannot yet bribe with McDonalds.  I have to do everything twice, many times each day…change two diapers, make sure two children make it safely up and down the stairs, clean up two messes of everything, work on potty training with two children at a time, etc… I pray to God imagine that the toddler stage is probably one of the hardest in baby bunching.  There are moments when I daydream about adopting a seven year old girl to help me with my little “twiblings!”  It may be an illusion, but it seems like my friends who have spaced their children a few years apart have an easier time doing simple things like grocery shop and go on trips to the park.  However, it may just be my cynacism that has evolved from having two toddlers.

What are some other opinions on child spacing?

  • Dr. Sears said it best when he said, “There is seldom the ideal time for a child. If we always waited for ‘the perfect time’ to have a child, we would probably have two instead of eight.”  He recommends spacing them two or three years apart if you have a baby who is a high needs baby in an effort to avoid parent burn out and to give parents more energy to devote to that more demanding child.  However, if you have an easy infant, spacing them very close in age typically works great, according to Dr. Sears!
  • The New England Journal of Medicine believes that spacing children 18-23 months has the healthiest outcomes for both mom and baby.  Low birthweight, prematurity, and small sized babies are higher risks in children spaced less than 18 months and more than 23 months apart.
  • Some argue that having children three years apart is the magical child spacing number.  They say that the older child is old enough to understand more about their new sibling’s arrival, yet they are close enough in age to grow up playing together.

While it’s fun to weigh pros and cons of different child spacing philosophies, I think this is such a personal decision for each family and what works for some families doesn’t always work for all families.  Also, there are outside factors parents should consider before choosing to have another child; most importantly, the health of their relationship with one another.

What do you think is the magic child spacing age difference?  What have you liked about the spacing between your children?  What has been challenging about their age differences?

9 Responses to Child Spacing: When Should I Have My Second Child

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Smalltowngirl
    January 12, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

    Mine first 2 are 3 years apart and that was (is!) the perfect age difference for us- the first was out of diapers when the 2nd was born….and they are best friends and LOVE to play together. I am pregnant with #3 and there will be a 7.5 and 4.5 year difference- I am a bit more worried about that with small toys/school activities/etc….We’ll see how it goes! At least now though I will have 2 very eager helpers who are both so excited to have another addition to the family!

  • Comment by Dawn
    January 13, 2009 @ 12:40 am

    Hubby & I were unintentional baby-bunchers. Eli & Luce are 17 mos apart. I agree, the married relationship needs to be STRONG to handle this kind of chaos. I think we were ok to begin with, and God certainly has done a lot of growing in our relationship as our kids get older. We have to be intentional about sharing the responsibilities, giving one another breaks/space, and investing in our relationship – all while changing two sets of diapers and coordinating their meals! It’s intense. But I love it. We’re ready to add to our chaos with another!

  • Comment by Amanda
    January 13, 2009 @ 10:41 am

    I just want the pregnancy part of my life over with. I want my body back and be able get in shape and move on. My children will be 22 months apart. I am looking forward to Annabelle having a playmate. She always does better when other children are around.

    As for our third, I have already told my husband that as soon I am done nursing number 2 and we can afford a nanny to help during the “dark ages” of morning sickness, then I want to have our last one and be done.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Trina
    January 13, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

    I am in a different situation. I have a 2 year old (on the 20th) with special needs and Daddy is away in Qatar (near Iraq) so I told me in no universe am I have a baby any time soon. I also know he will have go over again within the next 5 years. So until his tours are over with we are sticking with one child. So Brielle will be somewhere near 7 when we have another. But God might have other plans but that is ours :)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Trina
    January 13, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

    @Amanda…if I am San Antonio I will babysit anytime you need :)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Wanda
    January 13, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

    We are fans of the “one and done” spacing. She has tons of friends and very close family around her age, and we get to relax and enjoy time with just her. One on one (or sometimes two on one-even better when the parents out number the children) time just can’t be topped.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Heidi
    January 13, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

    McKenna, the difficulties you shared with having 2 kids close in age is why we chose to have our 2 kids over 3 years apart. Every family is different but in our family, the transition has been easy. My kids get along extremely well and my oldest enjoys helping out his sister because he adores her so much. IF we decide to have a 3rd child, then we will space them out just as much if not a little further apart since our girl is a strong-willed child!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Amy
    January 15, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

    We knew we didn’t want two in diapers at the same time, so we waited.
    Somehow we ended up putting a 5 year gap in between our two boys. We weren’t expecting that much time to pass, but we love it!
    Ben is such a big help with the baby. There was never any jealousy issues. And we were long done with potty-training. Woo hoo!
    The only issue? “Mom, when will Evan play with me?” We’ll get there soon…

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Lindsay
    June 22, 2009 @ 7:45 am

    Thank you so much for the topic and the thoughtful comments. My husband and I have a 14 week old boy, our first, and are trying to decide when to have another. I think that because our little guy is such a good baby we’re eager to go ahead and have another. However, I LOVE having so much one-on-one time with the little guy. Ideally, they’d be at least two years apart but I’m worried about having trouble getting pregnant as I get older (am 31 now). So many factors to consider but the joy of having our little man is contagious and we want three total. What to do, what to do?!

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