There are a lot of parents who put a great deal of thought into the spacing and timing of how and when they have their children. There are also just as many theories of what is the best age spread between children, and the exact amount of years between births, to provide the perfect environment for parent-child bonding. And then of course, there are the 78% of parents who despite careful planning – wind up with children due to unintended pregnancies.
Truth is, there are good reasons to have your children close together. However, before the benefits are unveiled, it is important to realize that the Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that mothers wait at least 18 months to have another baby. This is thought to be the perfect amount of time to allow the female body to recover from pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing and decreases the risk of miscarriage. For mothers having pregnancies very close together, for instance within the first 12 months, there is a heightened risk of miscarriage because the mother’s body is still lacking vital nutrients and is in other words, ‘bouncing back,’ from pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. Additionally, it is BEST, but not necessary to wait to get pregnant until you are done breastfeeding one child. However, with that being said it is important to realize that many women are able to lactate throughout pregnancy and have no problems nursing both a newborn and a baby.
One of the most often overlooked benefits to having children is one that isn’t realized for many years. As your children get older, life becomes easier and easier. Going out, taking vacations, starting a job and millions of other activities that take careful planning and articulate organization with younger children, are a breeze, as kids get older. For parents, this comes to fruition slowly. If you already have a child or several children that have become self-sufficient, it can be difficult to go back to the days of being tied down to a baby. It can feel like you are suddenly losing your freedom again. This is not just frustrating for parents, but can also be frustrating for the older siblings.
Having your children close together is also helpful financially. Not having to readjust to the expenses of diaper and formulas or baby food, which can cost up to a $100 per week, is nice in many ways. Plus, there is a good chance if you have your kids close in age that you already have nearly everything you need for your new baby. This means no need for running out to the baby super store and stocking up on bouncy seats crib sheets, infant toys and other ‘baby necessities.’ Not to mention the fact that you probably still have a crib in your home, and since the kiddos are close in age they can likely share a room whether they are the same sex or not.
On the flip side, planning for college and the expenses of things like having two (or more) teen drivers in the house all at once is a doubly difficult pill to swallow as they get older. (But you might get by with just one car!)
Many people also believe that having children close together ensures that the kids will have a better bond with one another. This is ‘mostly’ the case, however each and every sibling relationship is different. When kids are very little, having a sibling very close in age does mean that they have a built in playmate. They are less likely to get bored, and as they grow, might very well run in the same social circles. For siblings, going to school with one another and having the same friends, is a bit of a double-edged sword. But many kids who go to school with their siblings do experience higher levels of confidence and increased self esteem, likely because they always have a group to ‘fit in’ with. However, the built in play mate theory can make life easier at times but can also make things very difficult for parents who are trying to navigate sibling rivalry and be the mediator between arguments and spats.
Parenthood is busy. Trying to decide how far apart to have your children is a big decision and one that will work out differently for every family. Some families want to have 4 or 5 years with just one child before even thinking about another, hoping that it will be make the bonds between parent and child stronger. Others, have a 5-year plan of sort, and want to be able to return to some sort of career and job when the kids go back to school. If you have them all close together, your ‘parenting sentence’ so to speak will end much sooner than later. This equates to you being young enough to enjoy and make the most of some free time, and ensures that your child has a sibling to bond with as well.
Another benefit that will not be realized till the kids have flown the coop, is that your children, when born close together, will often transition through the same life phases together. This means that their children (and your grandchildren) could become friends and that your children will always have a best friend waiting in the wings who can understand what they are going through. You will find as you get older, that seeing your children get along, and becoming friends as well as siblings is a fantastic feeling.