It’s the number one question on the mind of every mom thinking about having another child: When’s the best time to do it?
A recent study from the University of Notre Dame found that kids who are at least two years older than their siblings are smarter. And the Mayo Clinic cites some health risks for getting pregnant within 12 months of your last delivery -- there’s a higher risk of placental abruption during the pregnancy and a slightly higher risk of autism in second-born children.
But there are also benefits of having kids close together: they have ready-made playmates, you can get those challenging years of diapers and bottles over with sooner, and older moms who hear their biological clock ticking may want to have their kids in quick succession before they’re considered high-risk or their fertility becomes an issue.
While no one can make this important decision except for you, we asked real parents to weigh in on what worked best for them.
“We have three kids, ages 6 years, 3 years, and 18 months. With our second child, we wanted to make sure the first was fully potty-trained. And then number two was so easy to handle, we figured let's go ahead and have a third quickly. We also liked the idea of them being in the same school together, even if only for a few years, where they’ll play together and have similar interests and some of the same friends.” — Jeffrey Mousa, 34, Easley, South Carolina
“My two girls are three years apart almost to the day, and it has been pretty great. The older one was also thrilled to play the big sister role and they are close enough in age that I can see a friendship developing. Now when her sister isn't around, she says she is ‘lonely’ without her. There was definitely some anxiety surrounding the arrival of a sibling, but no negative emotions directed toward the baby, which I was kind of amazed by!” — Jennifer Marquez, 36, New York City
“I have 6-year-old and 4 1/2-year-old — 18 months apart! It took me forever to get pregnant with our first child, so we didn't wait long to start trying for the second. The first few years were really hard because I was so sleep-deprived (and it didn’t help that my daughter had undiagnosed sensory issues; I just thought she was a really difficult child!). But now, we are in a much better place. My kids enjoy similar activities and they are close friends. It makes me so happy to see them chase after each other in the park.” — Jennifer Dodge, 41, Mill Valley, California
“Our daughters are eight years apart, and like most things in life, it has its upsides and downsides. With our newest daughter (who’s now 3), my husband and I had to start everything over again. From diapers to potty training to preschool to temper tantrums to discovering a whole world, it’s been a challenge. But my 11-year-old daughter is a huge help with her sister. It’s nice to be able to leave the room to fold laundry or take a shower and know that my oldest daughter can keep an eye on the youngest.” — Jennifer Smeth, 34, Atlanta
How did you family plan?
Written by Colleen Oakley for The Stir. Colleen is a writer, novelist, and mom of two rambunctious toddlers in Atlanta, Georgia.