When to try for baby number 2

Dear Mr. Dad, We have a 6-month old baby and my wife already wants to start trying for another one. Is that really a good idea?

A: As you might have guessed, there’s no right answer. Many people say that having two children close together makes life easier, while others say it makes an already-stressful situation even more stressful. Of course, that’s all in the eye (or nursery) of the beholder.

Before going any further, there’s a very important question that needs answering: Is your wife physically ready to have another baby? If your first was born by cesarean section, she has a significantly higher risk of uterine rupture during the second pregnancy. But c-section or not, her body may not have fully recovered from the first birth. The only way to be sure is to talk it over with her OB.

Okay, assuming the doctor has given you the green light, let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side…

  • They literally grow up together. When there’s a small gap between the kids (yours could be as little as 15 months), it’s almost like having twins. When the kids are more than five years apart, it’s kind of like raising two only children.
  • Your diaper changing, burping, soothing, rocking, and feeding skills won’t get rusty.
  • Anecdotally, children close in age (say 18 months or less) seem to have less sibling rivalry—and are closer emotionally—than kids separated by a bigger gap.
  • They’ll always have a companion. A lot of parents with close-together kids say that this is one of the biggest plusses, because when the kids are entertaining each other, there’s less pressure on you to do so. In addition, the younger child will constantly be trying to imitate the older one, which means (a) it’ll take less effort on your part to teach them, and (b) the younger one will learn just about everything much faster than the first did.
  • As they grow older, they can be each other’s greatest ally. They’ll help each other adjust to new situations (like first days at school), and they may even be able to play on the same sports teams.
  • It could be cheaper. You’ll be able to get double duty out of clothes and toys.
  • You won’t have to babyproof the house twice. It’ll already be done when number two arrives.
  • It might be a little better for your career. If you or your wife were planning to take some extended time off work to be with your children, having two close together reduces the time you’ll be out of the workforce.

There are, of course, some disadvantages:

  • The first few years are going to be grueling for both you and your wife. Those sleepless nights and lack of time to yourself (not to mention the back pain) will be extended for another couple of years. If the kids were spaced further apart, you’d (possibly) get a break in between.
  • You’ll be changing a ton of diapers.
  • It’ll be hard to carve out undivided, quality time to spend separately with each child.
  • The kids may resent being treated as a single unit (which frequently happens) and the lack of individual identify.
  • Having an infant can be tough on a marriage. Having two at the same time isn’t going to help.

One thing I strongly recommend is that you and your wife spend some serious time discussing these issues and how the spacing decision will affect you as a couple and as individuals. It’s not a decision to take lightly, so set aside some time to go over your options.