Is there an ‘ideal’ age gap between first and second children?
When would you recommend having our second child? Is there an ‘ideal’ age gap? Our first baby is now five months old.
There is no simple answer to this question as everyone’s personal situation will be different. Before deciding when to try to have your second baby you will need to think about the pros and cons of having a smaller gap against having a larger one. Some factors to consider are your age, whether you conceived easily with your first (not something that can be relied upon) and your personal circumstances as regards finances, housing, family support and work commitments. You may want to consider how you coped with your first birth and the first few months following delivery. Having a second baby is easier in some respects as, having been through the experience once, you will not find everything so new and bewildering. But all babies are demanding and having two children with different characters and needs can be hard to juggle initially.
You may also want to think through the practical concerns of how you will cope with two. A smaller gap (under two years) will entail two in nappies, with possibly your first not yet fully mobile and still sleeping in a cot. If your first child is in a routine you will need to think how you might settle your second baby around this; crucial times such as mornings, bath and bedtimes will need planning as a toddler will feel more secure if these stay roughly the same. At around 18 months a toddler is learning a great many new skills and giving adequate time to this, as well as dealing with a new baby, will be difficult for a time. (Gina has written a comprehensive routine for a baby and toddler on the site to help you cope in the first few hectic weeks, should this be the way you decide to go.) A closer age gap can, however, have advantages as children grow; being at a similar stage means routines, toys, holidays and outings can easily be geared to both children at once, but you may have less chance to pass toys, baby equipment or clothing down the line.
A larger age gap will mean your older child has achieved some degree of independence, which will make looking after a new baby easier and the older child may even be able to help with certain tasks. But, as an older child may be attending nursery or school, you will have to be up and ready by a certain time in the morning. Your older child may also have regular activities and play dates. This can help in keeping them occupied, but you will have to fit the feeding and nap times of the newborn around these extra activities.
Whatever gap you decide upon, or nature decides for you (as don’t assume that everything will go the same way as first time around) how you cope with two is a lot to do with your own approach to the situation. Many mothers are afraid that their first child will be jealous or that they will not feel the same overwhelming love for their second baby as they did for their first. These are issues you may need to address as they arise. A lot of older siblings will feel jealous at some time, whether around the time of the birth or months/ years later, but how you deal with this, and the many other issues that will arise, will affect things significantly. Whatever gap you aim for, remember there are pros and cons of any age combination and many mothers have coped and indeed grown to love an age gap which seemed far from “ideal” at the time. Good luck whatever you decide.