23 October 2009

What is the ideal age gap between siblings?

‘You’ll have your hands full!’, laughed my mother in law. We’d just told her that I was pregnant again and the baby was due on Presley’s first birthday. Laughter and incredulity were common reactions to our pregnancy announcement.

What did the other parents know that we didn’t? Why did most families leave a gap of two to three years between babies? I guess we hadn’t thought it through.

Presley was such a ‘good’ baby that we thought having another would be a doddle. Also, I was in my late thirties and we didn’t know how long it would take for me to get pregnant (erm, one month)!

I thought, mistakenly, that one year olds walked and talked fluently. When Cash arrived, three days before Presley’s birthday, we found ourselves with two babies to look after. Two babies with different needs, in different routines, both demanding attention. I was rushed off my feet and constantly tired.

With the wonderful gift of hindsight I suppose it would have been easier if Presley was potty trained, communicating well, eating at the table, walking along the road safely, before Cash arrived.

I found it difficult to take them to baby classes (these are mostly age specific) and impossible to take them swimming alone. Our local Surestart Children’s Centre doesn’t allow pushchairs, so I struggled to get them both inside. I would describe my role as that of baby juggler!

There are some positives though. Cash wears Presley’s hand-me-down clothes. They are the right season too. Also having two so close together means they will play together. I still live in hope of them playing happily together. At the moment Presley builds a tower and Cash knocks it over. They have quite mastered the concept of sharing. Presley thinks all the toys are his and Cash wants to play with whatever Presley is playing with.

On the face of it the cons of having a one year age gap outweigh the pros, but I have two adorable sons and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Advice, hints and tips:

  • Do as much as you can before the new baby arrives. You won’t have time to blow your nose, let alone decorate the downstairs loo once he/she arrives!
  • Encourage your partner to establish a bedtime routine for the older child that is continued after the new baby arrives.
  • Shop online.
  • Stock up on loo roll, washing powder, nappies and wipes.
  • Cook and freeze meals for all the family in advance of the new baby’s arrival.
  • Have a few ready-meals/jars and the pizza delivery menu handy.
  • Routine is important so you know what happens next.
  • Be flexible. This may sound contradictory but everything you try to do will take that little bit longer!
  • If both babies are crying deal with the older child first as their issue can usually be resolved quicker.
  • Accept all offers of help. Family and friends can either take the older child out, or hold the baby while you spend time with the older sibling. Better still they can do the housework while you relax with your babies.
  • Keep your changing bag packed at all times so that it’s one less thing to worry about when you’re trying to leave the house.
  • Put the baby down in a carry cot on table out of the way of grabbing hands.
  • Rotate toys so your older child has regular ‘new’ toys to keep them occupied.
  • Try to get both babies to sleep at the same time so you can rest (do NOT do the housework)!

First published on Parentdish UK



  1. What can I say, I have 15 months between my two boys and it is a great age gap FOR US. I believe each to their own and althoug the first three months went by in a sleepy haze, I dont regret a single moment of it. when people asked if MiniMad was planned, I never answered directly and just sai "this baby is wanted". I took both swimming weekly (yes I am a glutton for punishment)

    I would also like to add to your advice hints and tips

    Get clothes out for everyone the night before
    Go to lots of toddler groups, there are always mums who will take a newborn off you, so that you can spend quality time with your eldest.
    Meal plan - I had two months of food in the freezer!!

  2. Great post. If I'm honest I absolutely loved my four years + gaps between babies no 3 and 4 and then 4 and 5. But then it means there were 13 years between 1st and fifth. Love it though, in hindsight would have left bigger gaps between them all. But then I love baby hood soooo much and could do it forever. ;0)

  3. Some great tips! I think my age gap with toddler and baby girl is just right for me! 4 days short of 2 yrs between them. If I were to have another though I'd wait til baby girl was potty trained as the cost of 2 in nappies!! Nightmare! But like you say I wouldn't change it for anything!

  4. There's 4 years between me & my sister and I think that's what I'll aim for. Sam is 15 months old now and I couldn't imagine having a new born to look after as well. I just could not do it. Once Sam is at school and I'll be able to spend the days with the new baby I think we'll start trying again.
    I just don't have your stamina I'm afraid!

  5. I am sure they, and you, will appreciate the small age gap more as they get older. I am sure they will soon start to play together, they are maybe still a bit young for playing well with anyone!

    We have a 2 1/2 year age gap and I wouldn't want it to be any more and might prefer it to be smaller. My two girls play well together for a period of time but do still have their own things they like to do eg. DD1 is 6 and likes beads whilst DD2 is 3 and loves playdoh and paint but they now play happily alongside each other.

    I think each age has its own pros and cons and sometimes it is best not to think about it too much, just enjoy!

  6. You do not know how much you have helped me hun...I keep thinking I want another already but then my logical side tells me wait until Baby Belle is 2 or 3. So thanks soooo much xxx

  7. I read some time ago that about 2 years was the ideal age gap, after that there can be issues of jealousy. I don't know how you do it, you must be exhausted, but just think what great friends they will grow up to be.

  8. There's 11 months between me and my sister and it was great, people thought we were twins and we were that close, that is, until we grew up . . . . . !!!!

  9. 20 months between mine & I thought I had it bad!! Lol. Great tips, we do most of this stuff. What i've found is this: people with bigger age gaps between their children think you're mad, but people with actual experience of the small gap think it's great :-)

  10. That seems like a nightmare! I tried to have mine about two years apart. It ended up being three and a half. I'm glad the older one was potty trained, in school, and able to walk the stairs by the time I got pregnant. I honestly would have gone crazy otherwise. Or crazier. You should be given a sainthood.

  11. You're my hero! If I'd had a choice I would have done what you did and get it all out of the way at once.

    I was told to wait 2 years as I had a very emergency screwed up c-section. By the end of the 2 years DD was still waking up 5-6 times a night and as we had no local family or friends for support there was no way I was having another baby. I think DH was disappointed but he had never done the night thing at all because he was the one 'out at work' and I was exhausted and said I'd have another baby when she slept through.

    But that ended up being 5 and I've never managed to get pg again. Now she's nearly 7 that kind of age gap seems just too big?

  12. The Mad House, living up to your mad name taking them swimming!! Well done you, I'm in awe. Love the additional tips. We do the first one, but I forgot to mention it. I wish I'd done the second. You are so organised making all that food. We did a bit of cooking and freezing and lived off pasta salad in between!

    Chic Mama, thanks. You know I feel like we've all missed out on the whole babyhood thing, but I only met Andy when I was 36 so we had to get a move on!

    Laura, yes two years sounds manageable! I agree about the potty training. I'm dreading starting this with Presley. I can see the potty being used and Cash picking it up to play with it!

    Not Such a Yummy Mummy, I don't have my stamina!! My boys are technically in the same school year so I'll never have any time alone with Cash. I can see the appeal of having a new baby when the older one is at school though.

    Lynn, there are some games they play together and I'm hoping they'll find more as they get older. You're right though, we should enjoy what we've got.

    Carly, as I said to you on Twitter, I don't want to put you off having another baby!! I'm broody all the time, even though it's still hard work looking after my two live wires! It would seem that 2-3 years is a good gap to aim for :-)

    Rosie, that's what keeps me going! It is exhausting, but I'm sure they'll play well together soon.

    Gloria, 11 months, wow! People have asked if my boys are twins. They'll be in the same year at school so I expect lots of twin questions then too!

    All Grown Up, I suppose the thing is we don't know any different. You just get on with it. I used to think one baby was hard work. Now I realise I had it easy!

    Mwa, hmm, Saint Sandy does have a ring to it!! Life's not that bad, but I agree with you about the potty training. I'm sooo not looking forward to going through that!

  13. Liz, I don't know about being a hero. The boys are pretty good sleepers so I know we're lucky with that. Also we moved 300 miles to live close to Andy's family. We couldn't have managed the small age gap without his Mum looking after Presley when I had antenatal appointments (twice a week from 28 weeks)! You poor thing having to wait 5 years before your daughter slept through. I'm sure your 7 year old would love a real baby to play with?! x

  14. I think it will be great when they are older being so close, and both boys too, you will be able to have them both at the same activities and sports. The easiness of the first definately dictates how ready you are for a second IMO. I'm impressed you managed to have them so close together, mine are 24 months apart, I didn't even get my periods back until my oldest was 1 year old, and got pregnant pretty soon after, I guess the old "breastfeeding as contraception" method is somewhat effective for some of us!

  15. Geeky Mummy, I live in hope that they will be great buddies and play together. I wasn't the only one in my NCT group to get pregnant straightaway, my friend has two daughters born 11 months apart!

  16. There is 17 months between my girls and i really love it.
    We agreed as soon as she was born that we would just leave it chance , i would of been happy to get pregnant straight away but my periods did not return till 7 months pp then got pregnant straight away.

    In some ways my age gap seems smaller, when dd2 was born dd1 was not yet walking/talking and still fed and woke all night long. Its only in the last few months the age diffrence between them has got "bigger" as the elder grows in confidence.
    Come January they will be in nursery together which will be awesome for both.

    They are great friends though and this is the best , they play together so well . They keep coming up with games and get involved for hours in there fantasy world . Sure they fight but i know they would be lost without each other. (BTW they are now 4 and almost 3)

    Adding the 3rd was my problem , he was born 22 months after my 2nd and was always a difficult baby . I wish there was a bigger age gap there

  17. Laura, it's lovely to hear that your girls play together. I had a glimpse of that this morning as the boys sat together and played with the same toy without tears! If I was younger we wouldn't have been in such a hurry to conceive again, but I'm glad we did.

  18. I've got a 22 month gap (to the day) between my boys and while it is incredibly hard at times it is really rewarding when you see them starting to really love each other and play together, today Ciaran was trying to catch hold of Ben's hand and Ben thought it was hilarious to keep moving it around for Ciaran to grab at.

    I like having them close together but I am DEFINATELY having a bigger gap between Ciaran and number 3. I'd love to do that maternity leave / early baby days with the kids in school out of my hair.

  19. World of a Mummy, I know what you mean about number three and having them all to yourself during the day. I'll be too old to do that :-( x


Blog Widget by LinkWithin