What is the best age gap between siblings? Learn more about the pros and cons of a short and a long age gap here.
What can you read in this article?
- Child spacing – what’s the ideal age gap between siblings
- Family planning – when to start trying to get pregnant again according to gynecologists
- Pros and Cons of each age gap
So you’re thinking of growing your family, but you don’t know how long you should wait. Should you wait a while so you can rest a little before taking care of another baby? Or should you have your kids back to back so your kids will be at similar stages as they grow up?
When I was a new mom, I realized just how difficult parenting and taking care of a child is. So much so that I remember saying that I want my next child to have a big age gap (like 10 years) from the first, so that my eldest child can help take care of her baby sibling. But two years later, we welcomed our second daughter, and three years after that, our little boy.
It’s not what we have initially planned, and it can be challenging taking care of three kids below the age of five at the same time, but I also couldn’t say we got the short end of the stick.
In fact, as tough it is to be raising back-to-back kids and having only a little rest in between (I breastfed all my children, been doing it for almost 9 years straight), my husband and I feel very lucky when we see our three kids playing together. Not only are they close in age, but they are really close to each other and love each other’s company.
When it comes to having more than one child, what is the best age gap between siblings?
There are different factors that you need to consider to know when is the ideal time to grow your family. But before that, let’s discuss one of the most important things that you need to know when thinking about having another baby – when is the best time for you to get pregnant again?
When should I get pregnant again?
When we think of birth spacing, the first thing that comes to mind is how close or far apart the kids’ ages are going to be from each other. But have you ever considered if the mother has already recovered from her past pregnancy and if her body has already healed from the stress?
According to Dr. Maureen Laranang, an OB-Gynecologist from the Makati Medical Center, when it comes to letting the mother’s body recover after pregnancy and avoiding health complications during pregnancy and at birth, the ideal age gap between siblings should be at least 2 years.
“Generally, birth spacing should be for at least 2 years. This is the time when you can give the time and effort to take care of your baby.
At the same time, it also avoids health complications for those who have diabetes, hypertension. This is the best time to heal, treat your body, and prepare for your next childbirth,” she explained in Filipino.
For women who first gave birth through cesarean section (CS), the interval should be bigger.
“For CS patients, the recommended interval based on studies is at least 18 months. A minimum of 18 months, and you need to make sure that your stitches and wound have completely healed,” said Dr. Laranang.
If you had a CS delivery in your previous birth but want to try a vaginal birth for the next, you need to wait for at least 18 months before you can be allowed to deliver vaginally. And if you’re a CS mom, the delivery that you had can also be a factor in how many children you should have.
“We recommend for CS moms to give birth only for a maximum of three times. It’s because the more scars you get in your uterus, the more it becomes thinner. So if you’re already in your fourth or fifth delivery, there’s a chance that your uterus might rupture,” said that gynecologist.
The risks for baby
Moreover, it’s not only the mom who’s being put at risk if the interval between pregnancies and deliveries is too short. According to a previous study, waiting for less than 12 months between pregnancies may increase the risk of illness, death, and spontaneous preterm delivery.
“Shorter interpregnancy intervals less than 18 months are associated with increased incidences of preterm births and low birth weight babies,” said Dr. Kecia Gaither, a double board-certified OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine and director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals
What is the best age gap between siblings?
One-third of couples conceive within 18 months after the birth of their first child, so the average age gap between siblings is between 24 to 29 months.
But while the doctors and experts recommend a gap of at least 18 months, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one is better than the other, as they all have their benefits and disadvantages. Below are some of the pros and cons of each age gap between siblings, from the shortest to the longest.
1-2 year age gap
- Research has found that kids younger than 2 years old have an easier time adjusting to new siblings, probably because they’re not as aware to get so insecure of new arrivals.
- Kids of similar ages will never want a playmate—they often have the same friends and play with the same toys.
- Raising two babies at once is so demanding that it unifies the family. Dads have no choice but to step in.
- Having kids close together gets the messy, noisy, and tiring infancy period over and done within one go.
- Increased risks during pregnancy and delivery to both the birth parent and baby.
- When your new baby arrives, your older child might still not yet be sleeping through the night, so you’ll have to adjust to two young children with different needs and sleep patterns.
- Closely-aged kids fight a lot.
- Paying for childcare for two young children at the same time may be hard on your budget, as well as the cost of baby items like diapers and formula milk increases.
- More stress on the parent responding to the needs of two or multiple young children at the same time.
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2-3 year age gap
- By the time your new baby arrives, your first child will have become more independent.
- Your body will have recovered from the stresses of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.
- It will be a while before you kids can really play together.
- Sibling rivalry could be an issue if your older child struggles with insecurity.
- Juggling the demands of a baby and a toddler can be taxing.
3+ year age gap
- This allows you to devote your attention to each child during their baby and preschooler years because by the time the new baby comes along, the older child will be in school.
- You’ll have more energy to enjoy the baby.
- A larger age gap lessens the chances of sibling rivalry and competition.
- The older child may look forward to being a big brother or sister, and can even help you take care of the baby.
- It can be difficult to meet the needs of kids at different developmental stages.
- It may be difficult to get pregnant again after a long interval.
- If you’ve already returned to work, you might have a hard time adjusting to being a mother of a baby again.
- If your peers’ children are all growing up, having a baby can impact your social life as well.
Aside from the increased risk of medical complications, you also have to consider the mother’s age, the health and capability of both parents to care for children as well as your financial, social, and educational status when talking about child spacing and family planning.
“Maternal age, the health of both mother and father, and financial, social, and educational issues are all factors to consider when having a second or third, or even the sixth child, as was our case,” he said.
Other than the increased risk of medical complications and extra stress that can happen with close pregnancies (fewer than 18 months apart), Hamilton said there is no perfect or “ideal spacing” answer that can be applied universally because every family is different.
Again, there’s really no one best age gap between siblings, as you need to decide on child spacing and family planning depending on your needs and lifestyle as a family. One of the challenges is learning to adapt to the challenges unique to your own family, no matter how small or big it is.