When Is The Right Time To Have A Second Child?

This is a question that has plagued me since my son was just a few weeks old. Prior to having him I always pictured that I would have hoards of children, 5 seemed to be the magic number and I could imagine a house busy and bustling, filled with love and chatter.

When I was pregnant I told people that we would be trying again as soon as possible, I wanted my son to have a sibling close in age, a best friend for life. Our plans to home educate meant I was concerned about him being lonely without several close siblings, a little troop of them all together.

What I hadn’t bargained for was the fact that I may not be able to get pregnant again right away. I exclusively breastfed until we started baby led weaning, and have continued to breastfeed to this day, with milk still making up the majority of his calorie intake most days. This meant that my cycles didn’t return until he was nearly 18 months old. And during that time, a funny thing happened. I stopped worrying so much about trying to create the perfect timing, the perfect child spacing and just focused on the child I already had. I enjoyed our special bond, I loved the fact that I could continue to breastfeed, co sleep, baby wear without him having to share me yet. I loved being able to head out on an adventure together, just the two of us. I felt as if this early one on one time between us, was creating a connection and strength to our relationship that would see us through any tough times in the future.

When my periods eventually returned, I suddenly realised I wasn’t ready to have another baby yet. We had been using the method of letting nature take its course, and had decided that baby number two would come when the time was right, but now I actively was trying to avoid pregnancy.

This new development got me worrying.

What about my son, wont he be lonely? Am I being selfish? If we wait too long the gap will be too big and they wont play together!”

Wait a minute.

The gap between me and my first brother is that “perfect” accepted by society 2 years (almost!). When he was born I was consumed with jealousy and according to my mum, I couldn’t even be left in the room with him, for fear I would hurt him. Over the years I stopped trying to kill him, but even now we are not especially close.

I began to wonder if the reason I was not feeling the baby magic was because I knew what was in store for me the second time round. The first time, having worked with children and babies for years, I thought I knew it all. I was mainly focused on the cute little baby-grows and an image of the three of us peacefully walking along the beach, baby in a sling as Mama and Daddy chatted and held hands. The reality was a colicky baby screaming in the sling and Mama and Daddy shouting to be heard over the noise, and feeling far too stressed to enjoy any sort of conversation anyway.

I researched, and read and asked questions incessantly to everyone I met about the ages of their children – Did they feel it was the right gap, did they wish they had waited longer? Yes, I am that annoying person who looses sight of the boundaries of polite conversation! And what I found was that there is no right answer. Some people were happy with their one year gap, others were happy with their one and only child. Some wished they had waited a year or two longer than they did, others felt glad to have the baby stage over and done with.

Before I had my son, my every thought was consumed with the dream of him. I spent my free time watching home birth videos, researching cloth nappies and slings, reading adoption blogs, parenting blogs. I watched every single episode of One born every minute. Everywhere we went I imagined how it would be to go there with a baby. I was single minded and verging on desperation, and that was how we knew it was time to start trying.

Right now I don’t feel that way. I enjoy holding squishy newborns, but happily pass them back to their mothers when they start fussing, freeing up my hands to hold and drink a hot cup of tea whilst my toddler plays independently. Having a baby is a huge, massive and life altering commitment. It is not something I want to go in to without absolute certainty that it is what both myself and my husband want.

Having another baby for the sake of having a permanent playmate for my son, would benefit no one. He needs a Mother who is happy and present. A Mother who has the energy to parent him through the emotions of the toddler stage, and the time to stop and listen to him. He needs this more than he needs a sibling right now. That is not to say that those mothers who have babies close in age are wrong or that they are short-changing their children. Not at all. My point is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to child spacing. Just what’s right for you.

I hope that one day I feel overcome with broodiness again and my dreams are filled with tiny babies and rounded bumps. I hope that my son will one day have a sibling. The spark of longing could arrive next week, next month or maybe it will be a few years away. But I wont have a baby just because society expects it. Right now we are happy. The three of us are enjoying our little family unit and trusting that when the time is right, we will just know.


What are the age gaps between your children? Did you make a conscious decision to space your babies or did you leave it up to nature? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

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7 thoughts on “When Is The Right Time To Have A Second Child?”

  1. I’m going through this right now. My daughter just turned two and I’m getting all the ‘time for another?’ questions from everyone. A part of me really longs to have another baby. But my daughter is a high-needs child and really needs my full attention all the time. I can’t begin to imagine how I could manage her energy whilst pregnant, never mind with a new baby! So for the moment it’ll have to wait, no matter how much my hormones might be getting on at me. Ha ha.

  2. Wow I could have written a lot of this myself. I have a 9 month old and am very unsure of when or if I want #2. I used to think I wanted them close in age and I have 4 siblings myself and have never imagined having an only child. But I’m enjoying our time together and feel very busy with just one!

  3. I feel very similar. Wanted to have a herd and now seriously considering having an only because I now know what a massive commitment having a baby is really like. I also had a hard time recovering from birth and not sure I am willing to go through it again until I am at least totally overwhelmed by broodiness. 🙂 While I respect and slightly envy mothers who can make it work with a herd of kids similar in age…it is just not me. It would destroy me. I would “cope” of course, somehow I will, but I want more out of life than just coping! My mother in law had 7 (SEVEN) close in age and jokes that she doesn’t remember 10 years of her life due to all the sleep deprivation. I don’t think this is funny at all!

  4. I always thought I would have two, but once my son turned 1 we came to the realization that we might not actual want more. Now he’s 3 and we are still thinking one is enough. It’s really hard to say out loud to friends & family. They always try to sway us to have another. Thanks for sharing your point of view! It’s nice to hear a fellow mom’s perspective. 🙂

  5. Our daughter was 3 years, 2 months when baby #2 came around. Originally I had wanted them closer together because 2 years apart is what everyone tells you right? Well life didn’t work that way and we had difficulty getting pregnant with baby #2 and had a miscarriage along the way. With that said, I LOVE the age gap now. My second is now 5 months old and the gap is just perfect for our family.

  6. Psychiatrist Elliott Barker is the Director of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. This is what he has to say on the question of spacing:

    “A three- or four-year spacing between children (the natural spacing of totally committed breastfeeding) tends to reap enormous emotional benefits to individual children. This allows children a position that will not be usurped by a younger sibling before they are capable of understanding it or before they are able to get by with less immediate attention to their needs.”

    Excerpted from “The Critical Importance of Mothering” at http://www.naturalchild.org/elliott_barker/mothering.html .

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