Is There an "Ideal" Age Gap Between Kids?

Child age gapChild age gapWhen I told my OBGYN that I was pregnant with my second just 18 months after the first, he audibly winced. "Psychologists and other experts typically recommend a three-year age gap between kids," he explained when I looked at him questioningly.

I soon found that this concept of three years being the ideal spacing was well-known in the baby-having world. Friends and relatives would often bring up concerns about my children's well-being (despite the fact that it was OBVIOUSLY a little late to address timing). What gives with all the unwarranted opinions? I decided to do a little digging.

Related: Was having babies close together a mistake?

It turns out, studies are inconclusive on the "best" interval between children. While three to four years is generally viewed as enough time for the older child to understand the toll of pregnancy and let mom have some much-needed downtime, a Canadian study has shown that aggression peaks in children at age three, leading some to the conclusion that younger siblings may be subject to increased sibling abuse with a three-year gap.

Maternal health and age also play a big role in child spacing. Older moms or parents with fertility concerns are often driven to have children back-to-back lest they miss their chance altogether, while working moms may not have the energy level to juggle multiple children and a job at once. Concern over the health of the second child is also an issue: a California study has shown that when children are spaced closer than one year apart, their odds of being diagnosed with autism are much higher, possibly due to decreased nutrient levels in the mother's body.

Children born with a large age gap in between are subject to less competition and jealousy, but parents have a harder time coming up with engaging family outings and fostering sibling bonds. My sister and I are a noticeable six years apart and had very little in common growing up-although we've enjoyed exploring our relationship as adults.

For my family, the 18-month age gap works out well. My two little guys are the best of friends, with the toddler getting excited over all of the baby's "firsts" and helping him along through life. I'll admit I'm running on fumes some days, but it works for us and I think that every mom and dad should find whatever age gap is "ideal" for them.

-By Chelsea Day

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