3 Things To Think About Before You Plan Another Baby
Almost the moment you have a baby people start asking you when you are having another one! Some people feel like they want another baby right away when their first baby is only six months old. Other people feel like it was so hard that they never, ever want to go through that again. The choice is all yours, but how do you make the right decision for you and for your family? It's complicated.
Interestingly 2.3 kids is no longer average. As women become better educated, more autonomous in decisions making and have better access to health care, we are choosing to have fewer babies. The average number of babies a woman has in Australia now is 1.8. So if you are in the ‘one and done’ club, you are not alone.
But if you are thinking of having another and you aren't sure if you are ready here are a few things you might like to think about.
What Did Our Ancestors Do?
I always find it fascinating to look at the bigger picture. Whilst American women today typically space their children by about 2.5 years, this certainly wasn't the norm for our ancestors, hunter-gatherer mothers typically spaced their children by about 3 or 4 years. This doesn’t mean this is the right choice for you, or even relevant to the world you live in, but it can give you some insight into your biology and your baby's biology.
This larger age gap allowed for longer breastfeeding and made sure that the older child could walk before the mother’s arms were full with another baby. A longer age gap would improve everyone’s chances of survival, mum, baby and older child.
If you are still being woken up often at night, it's probably your baby's survival instinct! Your baby is trying to keep you breastfeeding, and therefore less fertile for longer!
It is thought the age gap between children started reducing when we moved into agricultural societies because we had a more reliable source of nutrition for infants so could wean earlier, and our more sedentary lifestyle meant we didn't have to worry about carrying all of our children about so much.
Today shorter age gaps between children are safe and it doesn’t impact the families survival rates as directly and immediately as it used to. But if everyone else in your mum’s group is having their babies close together and you don't feel ready yet, don't worry, many of your ancestors weren't ready yet either.
Mum’s The Word
It's nice to know that any age gap between your children is safe for your baby. A Telethon Institute study of over 40,000 Western Australian mothers found that a short or long interval between pregnancies did not affect the risk of preterm birth or low birth weight.
However, co-author of the study Fiona Stanley explains "The World Health Organisation recommends mothers wait two years between the birth of one child and starting to try for the next... there may be some situations where it is important to allow a sufficient time to recover between pregnancies."
If you are physically birthing your baby then you'll need to consider your own health. Maybe you have experienced some challenges during pregnancy, birth or your mental health, that you feel you need time to heal from. Maybe you just aren't feeling strong and confident yet. Maybe you need to do some rejuvenation or exercise or catch up on sleep. Take your time and listen to your body.
You also need to consider your age and your career. Having a baby has a huge impact on all areas of your life and this is ultimately your choice.
Are The Kids Alright?
The third thing you can consider is your older babies, not just at the time you conceive, but at the time when your new baby is born. Nine months can make a big difference in the life of a toddler, and having a threenager and a newborn to care for at the same time could very well be one of the hardest things you ever do in your life!
Some psychologists suggest that an age gap of two to four years is going to cause the most sibling rivalry and jealousy, and if you want to avoid this then have a shorter age gap - maybe 18 months - or even a longer age gap - maybe four years. However, I have personally experienced both a two year and a four year age gap and all my kids fight like cats and dogs!
The personality of your older child is going to be a big factor in your decisions too. Some people might have older children with disabilities or health problems, or who are just generally high-needs and demand a more generous parenting style. They might have older children who still don’t sleep very well, even if they’re three or four years old, and you’re still not getting much sleep. You might not be ready because your older child isn't ready yet.
What Do Mums Have To Say?
I asked a bunch of mums about their experiences and surprise! They all felt differently about the subject:
“Mine are 15 months apart through choice, and my daughter can’t remember a time when her little brother wasn’t born. So we’ve never had any jealousy. But, a lot depends on character too. If her brother had been born first, there’d be a 15 year age gap between them!”
“I knew my limits, and I knew I’d struggle with two babies.”
“The best thing about the smaller age gap is that they play well together. They have similar interests and they help with the baby. Having babies closer together means I got nappies and sleepless nights all out of the way at once.”
“The hardest thing is the sleep and the independence I got used to as a mother, and now that’s all gone. But that’s really the only con. Having an older one is much easier because they understand and they need permanent supervision.”
One And Done
As women become more educated, wealthy and have access to better family planning services our birth rate is steadily declining. Whilst many people still make jokes about 2.7 children actually the birth rate in Australia is only around 1.8 these days. If it weren't for immigration our population would have been declining since the 1970's. Many more women are choosing to have none or one child and it's great that we are all better supported in our choices these days.
Having less babies is actually one of the very best things for the planet in terms of climate change, so if you are feeling like one is enough for you, then go for it There are financial and career benefits of having fewer children, and some women experience difficult pregnancies or births that they would rather not have to go through again. Some women are older and simply run out of time, or experience infertility challenges at any age.
Whatever you choose (or whatever the universe throws your way) you will get unsolicited advice! Do what works for you and enjoy your unique family.
If You Want To Make God Laugh, Tell Him Your Plans
Fifty per cent of pregnancies are unplanned so it's possible you'll find yourself having another baby without planning it at all. On the other hand, 10-20% of parents find they can’t conceive within a year.
It's your body and your choice, but it also involves some kind of surrender and trust in the Universe too! Whatever happens, build your village and ask for help, and you'll be a great mum, and your kids will be just fine.