As my daughter heads towards 19 months, my fertility in full swing, my age continuing to rise, I am thinking a lot about when to have our next child. In all honesty, I also feel a little spirit knocking on the door a bit, so am thoughtfully weighing how long I'd like to ask him/her to wait politely before inhabiting my womb. If that sounds weird, well okay, I'm weird. But it is what's so for me.
When will it be the right time to get pregnant again? What age is best to handle receiving a younger sibling in the family? I happen to also have a handful of friends who also have first babies aging into toddlerland, so I imagine talking through this will be helpful for a few of us. Here goes...
My Considerations for Baby Spacing
I'd love to use natural baby spacing (aka ecological breastfeeding)
I've read and love the book Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing: How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies. It inspired me in all sorts of parenting directions. However, even though our problematic nursing gave way to a breastfeeding miracle, and I follow just about all the breastfeeding ammenorea guidelines, my fertility returned earlier than most report from using this system. I rely only on timing and my own good cycle awareness for birth control. I realize this may lead to a surprise. I'm willing to be surprised, but would like to follow the "natural path" that may have been afforded us had we not had nursing issues. I've seen that women who seem to get the full benefit of nursing ammenorea tend to get pregnant about every 2.5 - 3 years. So, by that measure, if I was following this model I'd likely be ripe for baby two in 3 - 9 months.
- I want my body to "recover" before the next pregnancy. Though I think my uterus is in all likelihoods in great shape again and ready to healthily nurture a new life, I'm still a bit tired and more squishy around the edges than I'd like to be before getting pregnant again. Full-term nursing my co-sleeping toddler accounts for some of the tiredness (not a complaint, as obviously I think it's worth it), but I'm also simply getting used to the new demands of being a mother. I haven't yet figured out how to take really good care of myself while raising an attached, close-to-me child of less-than two years. I'd like to get a little better hang of that before opening up to the next life. Also, I'd like to be good and strong for my next pregnancy and birth. FYI, Mayo Clinic says that giving birth less than 18 months apart increases the risk of birth complications like placenta abruption.
- I want to give my daughter all she needs before her little brother or sister arrives. This ranges from attention to breastmilk. Though I know tandem nursing is fine, good on many accounts, and gets a lot of great publicity in the gentle parenting arena within which I dwell, I'm not sold. I've seen moms pulled to their wits ends by tandem nursing two co-sleeping night-nursers 13 or so months apart, and it's not got me convinced. And what happens with the colostrum? I'm not set against it, but I'm leaning towards nursing one at a time right now if my child-led weaning can accommodate that. From what I've read, spacing children a little further apart can help reduce sibling rivalry and child stress.
- I gotta give a nod to the studies. Some say that it is best for a toddler to be at least two years old before their younger sibling is born, that it makes them smarter and in some accounts, more secure. That certainly is how nature seems to have intended it (see #1 above). I buy it. I see my girl and can't imagine having another baby right now. She really needs me a lot, and I need her, too. Our bond is strong and though a new baby would be welcomed with love and joy, I would worry more for my first if another baby came right now. I'm happy that we've already made it to 19 months so that even if I did get pregnant now, she'd be over two years old before the birth.
- I don't want to be an old mother. Did I mention I'm tired? I love the idea of having three children. I'm about to turn 37 though. If it's another year until I birth the second, then three years until the third, I'll be 41 when my oldest arrives (barring any surprises after that, not that I'm too fixed on three or anything, but still...). This means I'll be 60 when my oldest is college-aged. 60. Needless to say, I don't really want to elongate my baby spacing any further than I need to whilst giving all these factors full consideration. I'm not hoping for twins, either, thank you kindly, sweetly, with sugar on top.
- No double diaper duty please. My daughter is showing strong signs of leaving diapers. It's early, so I'm expecting some ups and downs before she's truly out of them. I'm sort of (really, very) over diapers, though. I'd love to not only NOT be changing the diapers of two babies, but also to have a little break from diapering before starting back up again. We use cloth, so it's a little extra work that I'd like a little siesta from.
- I want to share with my daughter. While my first-born will share in the life of her newborn sibling at whatever age she is when she or he arrives, I like to think that being 3 or more will help us communicate about what's happening. I'd like her to be old enough to be able to express her feelings about things and to some extent, to feel responsible for her actions where the baby is concerned. I think waiting a little longer for a second child will help me prepare her for the arrival more than if she were only 18 months or two years. I also think a three year old is more capable of playing at helping out with a baby, so that she can feel more a part of things than if she were younger, too.
I think The Alpha Parent did a great job looking at the pros and cons of different spacing options, with lots of helpful links to sources. I'm a bit sold on the 3 - 3.5 years between births. We'll see how it all shakes out, though.
Have pros and cons to share about child spacing? Feel strongly about natural spacing (or not)? I'd love to hear more thoughts on the matter directly from mothers in the Bobasphere.