One PSP member asks…
“Thinking about when to time Baby #2.
Is it better to bang it out or wait? And what are the implications either way?
What is most economical? Sending two kids to daycare at once? Nanny? Or waiting until one is in Three For All, and sending the other to daycare?
From a daily life perspective? Is it easier to have kids 18M apart doing the same activities? Or is that just a pipe dream?
Please share your experiences and knowledge you wish you had beforehand!”
-Financially, there are pluses and minuses no matter how you space it out.
-Siblings can have a great relationship if they’re close in age, and that can also be true if they’re farther apart.
-The unexpected does have a way of happening, so work toward flexibility when it comes to your plan.
-Above all—it’s a super personal decision, and the bottom line is finding what feels right for your family.
Full responses from members:
“It's definitely more economical to not pay for daycare for two children at the same time. So yeah, if you spaced it out, it would help with monthly costs but on other hand it's all over sooner instead of dragged out. Having to change two diapers would be annoying, we really pushed to have our first potty trained before #2 arrived.
The big advantage to us of having kids that are two years apart is that they play together and entertain each other. This was especially key during lockdown. Having drop offs in same place is also really nice the sooner you get to that.”
“This is *such* a personal decision and there are so many factors at play, but I will tell you that for our family, a fairly large spacing was the only feasible option. My daughters are nearly four and a half years apart and it's been mostly ideal. Second pregnancy was easier with a 3 year old than a baby/toddler, postpartum/newborn phase was WAY easier with big sister a) in preschool b) able to get her own snacks c) able to verbalize her feelings d) totally potty trained e) totally sleeping through the night f) legit able to help by grabbing a diaper when needed/distracting baby etc etc etc.
They are still close enough in age to have some books and TV shows that both enjoy and can enjoy the same outings. They have also shared a room easily, though all of these things may be more functions of personality than age. And because they've always had different schedules, I've been able to spend one on one time with each of them.
In terms of expenses, I think it's just really really expensive to have babies. Maybe if you have two really close in age you'll save significantly on a nanny for two vs nanny for one for more years, but once you get into preschool/camp/activities, you're paying per kid regardless.
I know that age gap isn't possible for a lot of people and even if it is, it's not ideal for lots of people, but for our family it works really well, even now that they're 9 and 5.”
“Our pediatrician when we lived in CA always asked about our plans for additional children, which struck me as odd. And then she wrote a really well-considered blog post about it.
‘With all the time in the world I would suggest nursing until two, weaning at two, several months of a nutrient dense diet and then trying to conceive, so a birth interval is closer to 3-5 years.’
‘From my observation in my practice, a birth interval of AT LEAST 2 years seems to be optimal in terms of preserving the parents’ sanity and relationship. We know that it is better for the health of mother and baby.’
For more recent information, this Mayo Clinic article seems full of good advice.
‘To reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and other health problems, research suggests waiting 18 to 24 months but less than five years after a live birth before attempting your next pregnancy. Balancing concerns about infertility, women older than 35 might consider waiting 12 months before becoming pregnant again.’”
“I really think that there is no right or wrong answer to this question! It’s such a personal decision and it has to be the right answer for each family.
Our kids are exactly four years apart - their birthdays are in the same week. Before kids, I assumed we would have kids about two years apart, mainly because that was the case for me and my brother. But, I was *not* ready to be pregnant again when my oldest was 18-ish months old. So, we waited until I felt ready to go through pregnancy and childbirth again. I’m very glad that we waited - for my own mental health! It’s annoying to be back with diapers, to do potty training again, but it’s a pick and choose of “do you want to go straight through or do you want a break?” You have to do those things no matter what.
The four year age gap is also really wonderful. Our oldest was able to understand what was going on when her brother was born, and how that they are 6 and 2, she can even help out some. Our youngest has food allergies and his big sister is on high alert at all times for anything that could make him sick.
I was worried that they would be too far apart in age to be playmates, but they are the best of friends. They bicker, of course, but they are definitely each other’s favorite person.”
“I love spacing talk! I have 2 now so I have only ever done it one way, but I am a HUGE proponent of 3/3.5 years apart so the older is in free 3k/out of diapers/mainly off stroller. I have felt so good about their spacing that I’m now ready to have a third who would be just over 3 years behind 2. I found that I appreciated being able to communicate to my son about the baby, that he helped out, and now that he’s 5 and she’s 2 they are finally starting to talk to each other and play together. Up until about 14-15 months they were happy to coexist, then conflict started when she became more able to assert herself, and now there’s still plenty of conflict but lots more play. So you definitely don’t miss out on them playing together if you space. Both my husband and I work full time so I know I would have been overwhelmed with two under two but everyone is different! This is the only way I know :)”
“It turned out that I had my second three years after my first. Initially I wanted a smaller gap. I am SO grateful that I had time with my first child alone. I think I would have ideally liked a slightly smaller gap - like 2 1/2 years bur here’s why I feel an at least two year gap worked well for my family:
- individual time with baby 1
- more individual time with baby 2 as baby 1 was able to enter more programming and I felt I had had a really solid time just 1:1 with 1
- number 1 is needing less physical support - less carrying, able to walk, some language
- my first child entered a half day school at 2 years old. Before that he was home with me and various caregivers. Two kids at home full time would have felt hard to juggle and to bond with number 2. I think the three year gap allowed me to have real time 1:1 with first child and to feel good about childcare plans for him once baby 2 came along.
- being pregnant with a baby / toddler is hard but I found manageable when my son was 2 and had some ability for independent play, sleeping, etc.”
“There’s absolutely no single, correct answer that works across the board. So, you’ll need to try and be a bit of a psychic and imagine your family needs and preferences in the future.
My first two are a few days shy of 20m apart. I hated it, at first, but now I love, love, love it! They are now 2.3 and nearly 4. They are BEST FRIENDS and it’s so freaking adorable! Granted, they still bicker, but they love being together and doing activities as a team.
I’ve been feeling bad that my first got SO much 1:1 adult attn and enrichment. My second didn’t get nearly that. However, she got a sibling really close in age. Her observational skills and mimicry is astounding. She doesn’t miss a beat and copies everything her big brother does. It’s also reciprocal! She’s (younger) braver than him (older), so he’ll often copy her adventuring. He tempers her w his mind for caution.
Along came our third, in May, and our family is complete. She’s 26m younger than my second and I’m already really sad they aren’t closer in age, like my first two. I love the close peer connection the first two have. That being said, we’re only 8-9 wks into being a family of 5. Much will evolve. My 2nd (and, presumably, 3rd) got the precious 1:1 adult attn in Sept when school resumes.
Closer in age also cheaper w child care if you have a nanny. Once you have 2 or more children, it’s markedly more cost efficient than day care, and that’s w generous nanny compensation.
I was the gestational parent and wowza, it’s not easy on the body to have closely(ish)-spaced pregnancies. Def do prenatal pilates and strengthen your core and pelvic floor as much as possible (actually, I recommend this no matter the pregnancy spacing!).
It was initially hard to have a young toddler and a newborn, but when younger was around 6m-8m, it got much, much easier. I greatly struggled in the very beginning, but all that feels so distant, right now. Since the first two were close, we decided to keep our final also close-ish in age. We’re figuring we’ll push through the really hard young years all at once and sail into smoother waters sooner. I had my babes at 32, 34, and now 36. I cannot imagine doing this older than I am right now. It’s absolutely fine and doable— just not for me. My body isn’t built for it (my body needed to do this gestational work at age 19, TBH).
There are also the not-small variables of children’s personalities. I lucked out that my 2nd and 3rd were and are super chill babies. That’s a win! My oldest was anything BUT chill— another one of his type would have been so, so hard.
Whatever you do, there will be highs and lows. Nothing is a true ‘ideal.’”
“My kids are 6.5 years apart. Unintentionally. We were aiming for 3-3.5 years (the spacing between myself and my younger brother and my husband and his older brother) but my body had other plans. The 6.5 years in our experience is too large (just when we were really out of the ‘baby trenches,’ we were right back there with our second and our daughter is old enough to remember what a single child family felt like etc.). I guess the point I want to make, though, is you can have the optimal plan prepared but sometimes life throws you for a loop.”
“I don’t want to be a downer, but there is only so much you can plan for. So much depends on the baby’s health, the economy, etc. You could try to space your kids a certain way and have secondary infertility (like another responder, it also took me an unexpected longer amount of time to have a second baby). I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘best’ age gap for siblings. FWIW mine are just over 5 years apart and they are very good friends and play all day together. They might hate each other one day. Who knows (until then I’m all about the matching family pajamas).”
“Just echoing what others have said in regards to this being such a personal decision and how there’s no one right way. I have 2 kids that are exactly 3 yrs apart (ages 5 & 2) and it works well for our family although nothing is perfect.
After I had my first I was so overwhelmed and couldn’t imagine ever having more kids. As time passed though and I was further away from the newborn/infant stage I was able to reassess what I wanted. I really wanted to enjoy more 1 on 1 time with my son so we waited until I personally felt I could handle 2 but that the kids weren’t too far apart in age. I also knew I couldn’t handle 2 in diapers at once or pushing a double stroller around everywhere so that factored into our timing. We decided to try for a second when my eldest was a little over 2 yrs old.
Personally, I love that my eldest was potty trained and extremely communicative by the time my youngest was born. It made a lot of things easier. It also made it easier for my husband and I to divide and conquer when needed. The fact that he was in full day preschool too was immensely helpful in giving us both a break and allowing us to also give your younger daughter some one on one time like my eldest had with us.
There’s definitely challenges too. My older son remembered what it was like to be an only child at first and had to adjust. Now that my younger daughter is 2 y/o and super active and talkative she wants to play with him all the time, which can lead to them fighting, but I chalk it up to that just being how siblings are.
There’s honestly so much to consider and there’s always some unexpected monkey wrench that can get thrown your way (hello global pandemic!) but the best advice I can give is to do what feels right for you and your family and the rest will fall into place.”
“Chiming in to say that I got pregnant with #2 when my oldest was around 18 months old and it worked great for us.
Though I very distinctly remember my pediatrician saying ‘Oh, it would be better if they were three years apart - three years apart is my favorite’ when I was around 6 months pregnant with the 2nd. We still laugh about the timing of that advice.”
Further reading on PSP:
-All articles in our Siblings section