Gone are the days when people had six or seven children a year apart. With the desire for most parents to give their children the very best, smaller families are now the norm. Nevertheless, even with two or three children, most mothers will tell you that having them, especially at short intervals, can be overwhelming mentally and physically.
What exactly is the ideal amount of time to wait between children and what are the factors to be considered?
1. Your Health
When babies are born ‘back to back’, there isn’t enough time for the mother’s body and mind to recover, especially where there have been post-partum issues. However, what many do not realise is that mothers who wait too long for the next pregnancy are more likely to have preeclampsia or eclampsia. It’s advised that if one has had high risk pregnancies in the past (c-sections, high blood pressure), it may be wise to wait at least two years before trying to conceive again.
2. Baby’s Health
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on the ideal waiting period for the physical health of the infant suggests that parents should wait 18 to 23 months after a full-term birth before conceiving again. Where the interval between pregnancies is a few months, the incidence of having a low weight baby increases, and where it is up to 10 years, the likelihood of having a pre-term or low weight baby is also quite high.
3. Your Career
A lady who has put her career on hold may decide to have her kids close to each other so that they can grow together, get a little independent and she can return to work. Alternatively, a stay-at-home mum may be in no hurry to go through the child bearing years.
4. Your Support System
It’s often said that it takes ‘a village to raise a child’ and having a sound support system of family and friends could influence our decision on how to space our children. For instance, in the old days, it was common for ‘grandma’ to live with her children, so young mothers could have children one after the other knowing that ‘grandma’ would help raise them. Nowadays, most ‘grandmas’ are so busy with their own lives and may not have as much time to help with the grandchildren. Also, securing reliable domestic help is hard. If you’re lucky to secure reliable hands to help or have a mum that is willing to stay with you, it may influence your decision on how to space your children.
5. Your Capability
The only person who knows when you are ready is you, not your mother, in-laws or your employers. When deciding to become pregnant again, a mother should access her overall physical stamina. Only a mother knows whether her body is well and strong enough to care for two or more young children at the same time.
If the interval is very close, it may feel like having twins, but if there is a range, for instance, 3 years, it will provide an opportunity for the mother to catch her breath. Personally, I enjoyed having two children under the age of two, they played with each other and it was easy taking care of them both as they had similar needs. On the other hand, now that my youngest is five, I would have to readjust if I had a baby now. Though it was tough at first, now that they are older, I am enjoying the benefits.
6. Your Finances
Raising children is not easy and the attached costs of providing for your bundle of joy can be alarming. We have heard of many fathers abandoning their spouses on learning of the delivery of multiples. As a parent, you are responsible for your child’s well being and it’s easier and more affordable to raise children when they have been adequately spaced.
7. Your Age
In the first sleep-deprived weeks after the arrival of a new baby, planning the next bundle of joy is the furthest thing on a mother’s mind. Whereas, when age isn’t on your side, the pain of labour and the cries of a new baby fade, and it may just be time to start creating another miracle. In other cases, a woman in her twenties may decide to have babies at short intervals and spring back, while a woman who is in her late thirties may want to space things a little.
The way a woman feels about child spacing before she becomes a mother is not necessarily the way she will feel once the baby actually arrives. And no matter how carefully a mother plans the spacing of her children, Mother Nature may have other plans in store. Nursing mothers are frequently unable to conceive for the first six months of nursing, and some women don’t ovulate while breast feeding.
At the end of the day, every circumstance is unique and the decision of when to have each child is one to be agreed on by the parents involved in close consultation with their health professional
Ps: Written by me but first published in Motherhood and Style