The Ideal Time To
Try For Baby Number 2
If you’re a proud parent of one and you’re thinking of going back for a second child, there’s a good chance you’ve been doing a few maths equations recently. It may go something like this: “If we conceive in February, the baby will be born in November -- too close to Christmas. But if we wait for the baby to be born in the new year, there will be three years' gap between our kids, and that’s too long…”
The fact is, there is no “perfect” age gap between children. There are benefits and drawbacks for having kids close together just as there are pros and cons for leaving a longer period of time between babies. Perhaps that’s why, if you ask a mothers' group for their opinion on the ideal age gap between children, you’ll likely hear a few different opinions. A range of factors are at play -- from personal experiences and upbringing, to career and life stage -- which paves the way for a range of opinions.
For instance, the age of the parents can be a factor. Mums aged in their 30s have less time on their side than mothers in their 20s due to potentially decreasing fertility, so they may decide to have children closer together out of necessity.
It’s a consideration that clearly strikes a chord with parents, which is why experts have invested some time and energy into the issue. Warren Cann, a psychologist and the executive director of the Parenting Research Centre in Melbourne, says there is research suggesting an ideal gap.
The ideal age gap
“Studies have shown that waiting 18 to 23 months after the birth of your last child before conceiving is ideal,” he says. This means your first child will be around three to three-and-a-half years old when your second child is born.
The reasoning behind this age gap is health-related, Cann says.
“There can be health complications for both mother and baby where the interval between birth and conception is very short, and also when it is very long -- five years or more,” he explains.
“What we don’t know is whether or not that is because of the physical impact of having a baby, or if it is more caused by the social problems, like stress or poverty.”
The research behind this line of thinking is compelling: A Columbia University study (which looked at over 660,000 siblings born in California between 1992 and 2002 and was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association) found that mums who didn’t wait at least 18 months until after delivery to conceive again were more likely to have a premature or low birth-weight baby.
When a baby was conceived less than six months after parents welcome their first bundle of joy, these outcomes jumped as high as 40-60 per cent!
Meanwhile, Brisbane-based psychologist Larne Wellington says a two to three-year age gap is ideal, “based on the argument that it's important for a child to develop a secure attachment with the primary caregiver before introducing another child,” she tells Body and Soul.
Final thought: If you’re in the fortunate position to plan the age gap between your kids without fretting about fertility, then count your blessings and attempt to conceive based on your own personal situation. Regardless of what the research says, the best time to plan on adding to your family is when you feel you can cope with what you have now, plus the demands of a new baby -- and not a second earlier.