According to science, 12 to 18 months is the golden gap to shoot for when adding another to your brood. But life, as usual, often has other plans.
Recent research insists that the ideal waiting period between conceiving is around a year or so. This breathing space helps the body to recover from the previous birth and pregnancy, reducing risk of preemie births, low birth weights, and other complications.
The World Health Organisation concurs, setting the figure at 18 months.
Of course, Mother Nature doesn’t conform to official recommendation; you could fall pregnant again without planning to, or you could have multiples. If things go well health-wise, what does this overshooting of the ‘perfect gap’ mean for your children?
Here are a few real-life mums’ experiences to give you an idea:
One mum writes on the MadeForMums forum:
“The positives are that they will go through school together, they play nicely together. It’s always busy here. They have a great bedtime routine: we are probably more organised now there are 4 than when there were 3!
“Negatives? It can be exhausting when they argue, don’t want to be nice or all have an off day all on the same day – and compromising [with things like] birthday parties of friends when they’re on the same day.”
“The first few years were great,” she says. “They adored each other and entertained one another. However, the eldest went to school and the younger one never forgave him! Some days they get on great; other days, they’re monstrous together (8 and 9 now).”
One mum highlights the practical difficulties:
“A negative was having to adjust to the needs of 2 young children and it made me feel like I was pushing my eldest to one side,” she says.
“Also, having to explain to him that he has to be gentle because he didn’t know. Positives? There are many. Especially now the youngest is 10 months old and my eldest is starting to play more with him (as well as taking his toys off him.)”
Another mum also emphasises the logistical aspect, but again, has only enthusiasm:
“There are certain things I just couldn’t do with 2 babies on my own, and places where I always needed help. But they are nearly 2 and a half now, and life is so much easier. They have always played lovely together and entertained each other. And they are at the same stage and interested in the same things all the time. They are just amazing to watch. I’d do it all again: it has been perfect.”
Despite it being tough, this mum agrees that a ‘less than ideal’ gap has worked well for their family, too:
“There’s 2 years and 15 days between mine,” she says. “It was very hard in the first 2 years, until the youngest really started talking. But surprisingly not as hard as I expected now that they are teenagers. They really support each other and get on amazingly well now.”
The takeaway? Parenting more than one small human is never going to be smooth, but whatever the age gap, you work it out, and learn to manage (and love) the quirks of your unique set-up!