Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.
Dear Dr. Debbie,
My husband and I are having great fun so far as parents – despite frequently feeling exhausted much of the time (mostly me). And we are looking forward to adding a second child, and possibly more. Do you have a recommendation on spacing siblings?
One and Counting
Don’t miss last week’s post about girl scouts who don’t get along.
The demands of a baby are – as you’ve experienced – nearly all consuming. “Feed me.” “Hold me.” “Comfort me.” “Teach and entertain me.” “Enjoy me.” “Protect me.” “Take me to the pediatrician.”
The best spacing is to time the second baby for about when the first child is no longer a baby. Generally speaking, this is age three. This also is a nice pace for your body’s recovery and long-term nursing.
However, there are many, many factors to consider when planning for siblings. Parents’ time, for one. Long-range plans for your education and career should be considered. Some parents try to time their babies for semester breaks, non-busy work seasons, or even for retirement – which may come with a household move. Some families have children close together to minimize the time when one parent to stays home before the youngest is ready for school. Others plan a wider spacing to provide a longer break between sleepless periods and the other total demands of a child below school-age, or to break up periods of paying for expensive infant care.
Shorter spacing may be preferred by older mothers. Giving birth over age 35 increases risk for gestational diabetes for the mother and increases the chance for a multiple pregnancy, miscarriage, and birth defects.
Though today’s families have the benefit of science to help with family planning, the old fashioned “oops” method has had wonderful outcomes, too. There are many “unplanned” siblings that were welcome additions to their families. While it’s nice to be planful about families, parenting often challenges us with the unexpected. Good parents make the best of what Mother Nature plans for you while you were busy thinking it all out so carefully.
Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com