My son is almost one! Along with all the emotions that go along with my baby getting quantifiably older, a pretty unexpected one is emerging: uncertainty. I am plagued with uncertainty because Sol’s turning one means that soon (hopefully) my cycles will return and we will think about trying to conceive again. Originally we had planned to start trying again right away, but I have all these questions floating around in my head that are making me lean towards waiting awhile. We always planned to be attachment parents, and we always planned to have our children pretty close together (around 2 years spacing). But having been an attachment parent for a year has made me think twice about such a close spacing. Will I be doing my firstborn an injustice by having another baby so soon?
At this point, we would like our family to include 3 or 4 children. This hope is, of course, assuming a lot. We had an easy time getting pregnant with our first, but are trying not to take that for granted. For discussion’s sake let us assume that we are able to conceive fairly easily for all future pregnancies. There are still a lot of pros and cons to consider, some of them compounded by our AP choices.
We practice ecological/on cue breastfeeding. This means I am still up once or twice a night to nurse my son. Right now, this is doable for us. He cosleeps with us, and while I do wake up to nurse, it is pretty easy for the both of us to get back to sleep quickly. What will this be like when I am pregnant? I remember how exhausted I was for the first part of my first pregnancy. How will I deal with that exhaustion and continued night waking? What if my milk supply plummets or changes? Will Solomon stop breastfeeding because of my pregnancy sooner than if I had not been pregnant? I know a lot of women who breastfeed through pregnancy, but I need to consider how I will feel about him weaning when I am pregnant, because it is a definite possibility. What if my cycles don’t come back for a while but we are hoping for a closer spacing of children? Am I willing to night-wean Solomon in an effort to get my cycle back?
We cosleep. How will cosleeping work when I am humongous? When the new baby is born? Will we transition Solomon to his own sleeping space because of the new baby? Should we wait until he is more ready to sleep on his own to consider a second?
We practice positive/gentle discipline. Will I be able to stay relaxed and use a calm tone of voice with Solomon when I have a crying infant who needs me RIGHTNOW! and he has just dumped his yogurt all over me and the couch and the floor? I know quite a few moms who have 2 or 3 closely spaced kids, and it seems that they either yell and lose their temper more often, or they have more patience than I do. Will a bigger spacing between kids mean a happier mommy who doesn’t lose her cool?
We respond sensitively. Right now I feel very in tune with my son. I don’t feel like I am compromising on anything. We have a very trusting and attached relationship. I also feel like the next year or two of development is going to be challenging, and I am going to need a close, aware bond of communication with him. Would it be easier to wait until he is 3 or 4, has learned to use the potty, can talk, can walk to the car instead of being carried, etc. before having Baby #2?
As you can see (if you were patient enough to read through my incessant anxiety) I am starting to consider the benefits of a larger spacing between kids. But I also see benefits of a closer spacing. What do you think? How far apart are your kids? What pros and cons do you see in your parenting ability/style due to you kids ages? What spacing would you prefer/ do you plan to try for?
I am seeing that the timing of a second child is a much bigger decision than I had once thought. A second (or third, or fourth) is going to affect the older siblings. It is going to affect my parenting. It is certainly going to affect the new baby. Maybe I just need to make out a giant pro vs. con list and make some charts…
Alissa writes at A New History where she blogs about the challenge of authentic living with her husband, Levi and her one year old son, Solomon.
34 thoughts on “Child Spacing and Attachment Parenting”
I could have written most of this myself. My son just turned two, and we are now trying for a second child. It has been more difficult to conceive, which I didn’t anticipate. My son also just self-weaned at 25 months, which gave me a bit more confidence about being pregnant. We are nearing the point of our children being three years apart, and honestly, I think it’s a good age difference. But, we’ll see.. still a lot of variables at this point. I’m not even pregnant yet!
Ten weeks ago, we were surprised by the presence of a second line on a pregnancy test, and have had many of these issues thrown into our laps. We had planned on 4 years between kids. It’s going to be a 28 month gap.
I’m happy to be pregnant, but it’s definitely affecting my son, who will be two in September, and that can be hard. My milk has effectively vanished, and while he’s still nursing, I’ve felt something of a rift develop between us. He’s sad that the milk is gone, and I am, too. I’m lucky that nursing him isn’t as painful as it was in the first trimester (I’m fourteen weeks), and I’m planning on tandem nursing. I’m not comfortable making the decision to wean him – I was always planning on child-led weaning, and don’t feel like I have a right to make that choice based solely on my own action of getting pregnant! I also think nursing will be an important tool when the new baby is here to make sure that DS still feels included and special.
There are a myriad of plus sides to having children close together, which I’m sure lots of parents will point out. Recently, I read that developmentally kids have an easier time with adjusting to a new sibling when they are under 4 – that long-term resentment is less. And there’s all the lovely parts of having two kids who can be real contemporaries through their whole lives.
Wrestling with these issues, though, of how to parent two children in the style that you find important, is difficult! Basically, I hear ya. I hope that some of the more experienced Mommies have some tangible pro’s and con’s to help you with making this big decision!
DH and I were just discussing this yesterday. We were talking about extended breastfeeding and how, at 13 months, DD is showing no signs of slowing down. Getting pregnant isn’t easy for us so, most likely, I will need fertility treatments to conceive any future children (we did IVF to have DD). There’s a huge chance that the medications I would take wouldn’t be compatible with breastfeeding so she would need to have weaned by the time we do treatments. I told DH that I didn’t want the wish/hope for other children to be to the detriment of the child that we DO have right now. Our timeline is that we’ll look at TTC #2 beginning in January but, if DD is still showing no signs of weaning (and I suspect that she won’t be), we’ll push the date further out.
I’ve had similar thoughts, actually… I am so enjoying this first kid that I’m not in as much of a rush to have another as I thought I’d be. I’m still breastfeeding at 17 mo and yes, he wakes up twice a night!- and I just don’t feel it’s quite time for another baby. Of course, I’d be thrilled to be pregnant, but I am feeling really good about having kids, say, 3 years apart.
Also, I work, so financially, having an extra year to put more money away for a second daycare bill… doesn’t hurt.
I’m also feeling so good about having time to exercise (with baby in the jogger, and playing soccer with him afterwards) and all the enjoyable routines we’re in, and spending time dancing and playing with him…
I have 3 little ones, 5, 2, and 7mos. I wish there was more space in their ages to allow for me to have had a sense of foundation in the attachment they have with me. The youngest two are way too close together! One is in my room in his toddler bed and the baby bed shares with a side car crib to my bed. I think we make it work as best as we can but I’ll never know for certain if having them so close together was a terrible idea. My middle son seems well attached to both his Daddy and myself but I still wonder as we go through the 2 and 3 yr old marks if he will need me more than I will be able to realize when i am still so busy with his sister. Between the first and second child I waited till i was longing for an infant to hold again. Then I waited a little longer! I still wonder for my highest needs oldest son if it was a litle early for him.
I guess we will always wonder. Good mothers doubt themselves and constantly improve and adapt to their children. I have what I have now and will have to foster the best relationships I can while they are in their tender years. If I had it to do again Id give them about 4 years each! =D I really enjoy having the one on one, baby -mommy relationship though.
I have five children. Having children close together is a wonderful blessing, especially for attachment parents. My oldest did wean himself at 15 months when I became pregnant with my second. Either the milk disappeared or he just didn’t like the taste, but we were still able to cosleep and cuddle and such. We got a king size bed so that we’d have more room. The oldest slept by Daddy while the youngest by mom. We put up a bed rail, so we wouldn’t have to worry about little ones falling out of bed. Warning though: we were unable to get pregnant with our third until the second was securely weaned for several months. Then, we were able to transition one and two into a bed together. We now have three and four in a bed together while number five is in a bed with us. We have a crib mattress by our bed where little kids can come and sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night. We just pretty much decided to trust God’s timing with the spacing. If you get pregnant, you and your baby will figure out how to work through the pregnancy and how to welcome the new one into your family. Don’t underestimate the positive power of siblings in your child’s life.
My two kids are about 3 1/2 years apart, and for us it was the right decision! By the time my daughter was born, my son was potty trained, sleeping through the night in his own room, could get his own simple snacks and drinks, and was able to delay gratification. (As in, “I know you’re hungry, and I’ll make you lunch as soon as I’m done nursing the baby.”) He could entertain himself for relatively long periods of time.
The kids are now 8 and 5, and are very close! They like sleeping together, playing together, and supporting each other.
However, I have a friend whose three kids are all one year apart (she’s A.P., too) and for her, THAT was the right decision! She enjoys how close in age they are, and her kids are just as supportive of each other as mine are, and they are just as close! (She tri-andem nursed.)
It’s such a personal decision. Don’t make your entire decision on any responses you may get. You know yourself best; how close in ages would your kids be for you to be your best self?
Closer spacing will probably benefit your children more, they will have a closer relationship and will likely play together more. Further spacing will probably benefit you more because an older child is less needy. My oldest was 2yrs and 4 mos when my second was born.
I did wean my oldest when I was pregnant because it was so painful to nurse, he was 18 months. He wasn’t ready to give up the bed time nursing, that was a difficult transition, but we got through it. After a difficult week, he would cry at bed time, but I was always with him offering hugs and cuddles, he was fine and went to sleep easily. We’ve always cuddled him to sleep since then. He stopped napping when the baby arrived because I wasn’t nursing him and I couldn’t take him for a drive in the car anymore. But for the most part, 18 months was longer than I had planned to nurse and I felt that it was a good time to stop. I just couldn’t handle tandem nursing and the pain.
We didn’t stop co-sleeping, but just moved him into the middle between my husband and I when the baby was born. I would often sleep with one around each of them. Uncomfortable at times, but doable. Now that my oldest is 4 and my youngest is almost 2, our king size bed is a bit crowded. We try to encourage the oldest to sleep in his own bed, but if he needs someone at night, my husband will go and sleep in his full size bed with him.
I waited to potty train until after the baby came to make sure he was older and ready and that he wouldn’t regress when the baby arrived.
Having more than one child is ALWAYS more challenging than having one, regardless of the age. If you wait until your oldest is four, you might have other issues to deal with. But if AP parenting is important to you then you will find a way to make it work. When my second was an infant, the challenge was tending to the baby and asking my oldest to be patient and wait. Now, the greatest challenge is when the two of them are fighting over toys. They are very close and loving and play together quietly for hours.
I felt that my oldest was the perfect age, 2.5, to welcome a brother. He was old enough to understand the basics and to attend the birth and to help out a little bit. He’s matured while his brother has gotten older and he is learning important social skills before he starts school. If he were older, I wonder if he might have felt MORE displaced. At 2.5 he was young enough to just accept things, but not too young to still be a baby himself.
As always, there is no right answer. Things will happen when they are supposed to happen and we have no control over when we get pregnant. We had trouble getting pregnant with our first, so we started trying for a second at the very earliest that we were comfortable with. Of course, we got pregnant immediately. 2.5 yrs is perfect for us.
5 weeks ago we were surprised with the blessing of a second baby. We knew we wanted to have a second baby soon but this is a little sooner than we expected. Althouugh we are trilled about given our son a baby brother/sister I feel a little guilty about the spacing being too short. The gap will be 21 months.
I have all the fears that you do. I have planned (and still am) to let me son self wean, but what if he chooses to wean sooner b/c I am pregnant and milk supply/ taste changes? I wanted to nurse him AT LEAST 2 yrs. What if he weans earlier? Is not fair to him 🙁 We also co sleep and I still wake up 2 -3 times during the night. How is that going to change once baby 2 is here? Tandem nursing is a possibility now for me, but to tell you the truth I don’t know if I will be able to make it. I feel scared and sad. Support from moms like me is what it will get me through I hope!
Sorry I am not much of a help since I have the same feelings you have. I can tell you though that I am not as near as tired as I was with my first son (12 weeks now) and that my son is showing NO sings of self wean any time soon. On the contrary he is nursing like a new born lately! Seems like he wants to nurse every 5 minutes. I rest with him while he naps and I try to spend every precious moment with him.
Good luck on your decision!
Our kids are two years and two weeks apart and I am not going to lie those first few months were really tough on me and a lot of guilt of taking away mommy time from my son plagued me throughout a much more complicated pregnancy that I didn’t plan or expect.
That being said I think that I would do it all over again because of the close ness I see in their relationship.
And I agree it’s a very personal decision and one that can’t be made on a sheet of pros and cons I think you will know when you are ready.
Also bearing in mind that at least in my opinion it is more the personality of the siblings than age spacing that determines closeness and new studies have suggested that siblings teach compassion and bounderies way better because they have a peer .
Just all things to consider but it sounds like you want a little more time with your son so enjoy him and snuggle and when you feel like your ovaries twitch very time you see another little one then you will know it might be time to start charting and making plans for another.
My (spirited) daughter just turned 3 at the end of march and I have a son who is turning 8 months this month and I find the spacing to be just perfect. She decided to pee pee on the potty while I was pregnant, I was grateful for that. I like that she is mature enough to understand that a baby was in my tummy, I showed her the video of our natural delivery with her brother. She was facinated and accepting. She loves to help out and while at times it can be a little hairy in our house, much like the scenario you described, it is also more amazing than ever and I cant imagine my life without him. I think no matter how far apart they are in age, they will adjust and so will you. Everyone’s story is unique. All the best with your family planning!
Mine are a little under 27 months apart, my second was a surprise pregnancy that happened about 6 months before we had planned on conceiving again. The first few months were exhausting, but ultimately I’m very happy with the spacing. They are close enough that we got all the “baby” stuff out of the way at once, they can share certain activities and sometimes friends.
There are upsides and downsides to any spacing. My brother and I are about 2 years apart and we fought a lot as kids, but we’re close now. My husband and his brothers are all 4 years apart, so only one in college at a time, but they are close too. With mine, since they were close, I was able to enforce naps and our days were very unstructured, but between mealtime and sleeping, I often felt tied to the house. A friend of mine had her first 2 close together and said the same thing, but her third came along 3 years later and was out in freezing cold weather at 2 weeks old because she had to take the older kids to school.
You mentioned that you worried about your son feeling neglected, and I had worried about that too. But I found that it was actually the baby who didn;t always get my attention because my 2 year old was very needy. She slept a lot, and some days I felt like if I didn’t have to feed her, I wouldn’t have had the chance to pick her up. Using a sling helped me to multi-task as much as possible.
I also didn’t think 2 in diapers was a big deal. My son was old enough that he didn’t need to be changed as often, and he potty trained completely about a year after the baby was born. When I was exhausted and busy, it was a lot easier to just throw diapers into the bag and not worry about extra clothes and making sure I knew where the nearest bathroom was.
My daughter and I are very attached. My husband and I wanted 2 year spacing as well. We co-sleep and breastfeed on demand. We found that when she was 14 months old we were expecting again. I lost my milk in the second trimester, my daughter didn’t mind, at least it never seemed to bother her; she continued to nurse no problem. Co sleeping wasn’t too bad during pregnancy, except for the rolling over to nurse her in the night.
The new baby girl is 6 weeks old now. It has been a major adjustment for my first daughter. She would hit the baby when she would nurse. She was 22 months when baby was born. I feel really torn on what to do, b/c I feel she needs me still so much, but yet the baby NEEDS me. I tendto get frustrated and yell, b/c I don’t know what to do, and there is a lot of pressure with them both needing me at the same time. DD1 still nurses to get to sleep.
I love my girls with all my heart, but I have noticed b/c I don’t want DD1 to get anymore jealous, I’m not as connected with DD2 b/c I don’t want DD1 to feel left out or replaced. If I could do it all over I would have spaced them out a little farther. Pro: They will be close in age and with hope great friends in the long run, I just hope having DD2 so soon doesn’t ruin what I have created the last two years for DD1. I hope that helped you, the decision is yours and will take a lot of discussion. Good luck!
I understand your concerns. I went through all this too when my daughter was about that age. Just like you we had wanted to space about two years apart and just like you we wanted four kids.
But my period stayed out – due to the on cue feeding – until 20 months post paretum. My daughter is now 26 months… still no baby. I understand why, and I think nature really does know best when it comes to childspacing. If I would have to decide, I think indeed that 3 or 4 years between kids is great. But for now, I am not the one who decide.
Johanna – I am just now appreciating how much more complicated this situation could be. It sounds like you may not even have the option of nursing into a pregnancy or tandem nursing! That would make this decision an even bigger one. It sounds like you are really trying to do the best thing for your daughter before worrying about #2 and I really admire that.
Cheri – Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I had never considered alternate ways for closely spaced kids to stay attached. I love your solutions with having kids sleep together, and having an extra mattress by your bed for any night-wakers. You make me feel more relaxed about the idea of a closer spacing.
Keep the thoughts coming you guys! It really helps me to read about your ideas and experiences.
to me attachment parenting is about forming a strong attachment in the first year or two, and helping facilitate your child forming strong attachments with other adulats after that. My two girls are 19mos apart, it was NOT planned that way. The pregnancy was really hard, emotional. I had planned to nurse my first to at least two years of age… She weaned 2 weeks before her sister arrived. I wasn’t prepared for the changed pregnancy brought to our breastfeeding relationship. In all honesty, it was heartbreaking. She was a c/s and our first 2 months were riddled with nursing issues and health complications: I had a lot of my identity as a mother and our attachment built on nursing. And when it became painful and unpleasant after my milk dried up and it caused a lot of unexpected big feelings for me. I’m glad we pushed through and I allowed her to nurse as much as I could, and she slowly lost interest (especially after the colostrum came in, she didn’t seem to enjoy that). All that said my second babies arrival (HBAC) has changed me as a mother and as a person, in ways I never dreamed. I am SO thankful now and couldn’t imagine my life without both my precious girls. It has changed my relationship with my older, really my seconds first 6mos I didn’t have very much time for my big baby. But through out my pregnancy she seemed to instinctively understand the changes coming and latched on and connected strongly more and more with her Daddy. They have a special closeness that I know was what got us all through the last (almost) 2 years. Having more than one child forever changes things with your first, it’s not a bad thing it doesn’t change that they will always be the one who made you “mommie”. I will say there have been some ugly days. But honestly, those happen if you have one child or 10 once you head into toddlerhood it gets a bit crazy. Your ideals will be challenged and strechted: it’s part of being a Mom. I can’t count how many times I’ve lost it, and regretted my attitude..But that doesn’t matter, it’s striving for connection…It’s apologizing and trying again…over and over and over again. One, two, or more children: you are always a Mom, and it’s always a lot of work. A humbling experience.
My daughter is 35 months. Like you, I am uncertain. At this point, if we try for #2, they will be four years apart. I know myself; there was no way I would feel I was doing a good job being a mom if I had a 2-year-old and a newborn. I was so incredibly exhausted as it was! Sleep has not been easy for us. Add some health issues and I was a wreck! One thing I feel very happy about is I feel that I have had the opportunity to completely dedicate myself to my daughter. We nap together often. We spend lots of time together. She is still breastfeeding. In September she will begin preschool at a Montessori school. I have a feeling that, at that point, my husband and I will be able to make a decision. My best wishes to you and your family!
We’ve had the same thoughts and early on decided on a larger spacing between kids, to give the older one the benefit of a “full” baby experience. But, he’s 3 now and still breastfeeding all day and at night — and I don’t know what will happen if/when we become pregnant, but at this point I’m starting to become willing to risk a disruption in that relationship. It’s hard, no matter when you think about weaning, and I know many people would laugh that I’m worried about this with a 3-year-old, but nursing truly is so important to him. I was soooo sore during my pregnancy with him that I’m not sure I’ll be able to bear nursing through pregnancy, even if my milk doesn’t dry up.
The good news is, I’ve seen plenty of different spacings that work out really well for each family, even attachment parents. So keep wrestling with your decision, and then follow your heart.
we are definatly longer spacing. i felt the way you did; i see moms with kids that are close and their hands are FULL. and my son is very hands on, very attached, very active and talking all the time. sometimes its all i can do to go to the bathroom in peace and quiet. it hasnt really happened yet. if i cant get some alone time, how on earth will i deal with a baby?
i think farther spacing is best for my children also because we have a very very small local school. its about 300 kids total K-12th grade. kids too close (like my sister and me) have to share activities like band, choir, sports teams and share friends. this creates a lot of conflict because siblings typically DONT want to spend time together, so the sibling that ends up with all the friends is usually going to feel “better” than the other… this is just my experience with my sister though, and my husbands with his brother. in the same school. 😛
however, my brother is 11 years younger and we get along great. we dont have to share much of anything, so its not like we are fighting over things like me and my sister did. i was there for him when he was in elementary to walk him to class and be there for him otherwise, but not in a way where we had to be in the same band, or the same sports team (yes i know boys and girls wouldnt be anway, but im just saying…)
so besides the exhaustion of being all day with my son and his talking and activity, and not getting alone time, and the experience with my school, i know longer spacing is better.
just keep listening day by day. dont try to plan too far in advance; dont say “we will start trying to get pregnant by ____ date”. just let it go. it will happen when it happens, or it wont until it does. 😛
My children are 20 months apart and we got our 2nd one only after 1 period. I didn’t want to ponder much about it because like you I could see the pros and cons of both sides and I knew that worrying about them will not help me come to a decision.
But I can tell you how it is like after 1 year (baby is now 13 months). The hardest are definitely the first few weeks.
All 4 of us still cosleep. even thru pregnancy.
We still nurse the children on demand. Toddler nursed till the night before I delivered, stopped 1 day while I was in hospital and then continued till now.
We also still do gentle discipline. we won’t want any other way. Sometimes things does get messy (ala yoghurt and 2 crying children) but we set our priorities: Safety above all else.
And when it is practical, either or both children will be in a sling/carrier
And we are still AP parents. The toddler is also an AP sister for lack of a better description, she is always with her brother and understands his need acutely. She is normally the 1st one to respond when he is in need. When baby can see his sister, he has no stranger anxiety. Her presence seems to be all he needed to feel reassured.
The decision is yours to make. However it turns out to be, I think the journey will be an interesting one. Good Luck.
As soon as I read this it felt so familiar 🙂 my son is 1and a half and I am 4 months pregnant…..Greg still breastfeeds to sleep or when he needs comfort or is sick and it hasnt changed my miolk supply being pregnant. He doesnt seem to realise anything is different in me and since I know he wont quite understand it I havent said anything to him. I am actually taking it a day at a time. My main concern was to be able and get out of the hospital asap after birth to continue with our routine as undisturbed so that our 1st born doesnt feel much the effect of a new baby. I am positive and strive on postive parenting and although I still have a lot of anxiety like you on baby 2 I felt ready for it and so I think we did well.
My kids are 3 1/2 years apart. It’s not what I planned, but it’s how it worked out. It turns out that breastfeeding REALLY suppresses my fertility, so it wasn’t that easy for me to get pregnant while nursing.
I will say that, in spite of the fact I didn’t plan it this way, I really enjoy the spacing. My daughter was fairly independent by the time my son was born. She was toilet-trained, including at night. She was weaned and sleeping in her own bed. It made it easier for me, and I think it made it easier for her. Although it was hard for me to go back to a newborn at that point, initially.
Mine are 20 months apart. There is a name for kids less than 2 years apart. It’s called baby bunching, google it, the blog is great and will tell you how it really is. It’s not easy in any way. I love this AP blog but I always think after I read a post, it’s so hard to be AP with 2 little ones.
Babywaering was fine for about 6 months, my babes are heavy and I just can’t do it all day. Definately can’t wear both kids, and could not wear first one while pregnant. So I wasn’t much of a babywearer.
Breastfeeding my first was great, when I gave up night feeds at 10 months I got pregnant after first period, after trying for 3 years to make the first one! Second baby still nursing at 18 months.
Cosleeping? Yes we were till #2 arrived and #1 and Dad moved into the other bedroom, where they still are 18 months later.
Gentle discipline, I sure try not to scream and yell but with only two hands it’s so difficult. But getting easier at this age, they are now 3 and 18 months.
Yes there is lots of guilt, at first, can you be enough for both of them, will the first feel pushed out etc. But you can be enough, there is enough love, and time and energy. Eventually.
The first year of two babies was the worst. My second child was difficult and colicy. My first was so young and needy and demanding. It was a scramble to keep us all going and I was often brought to tears, overwhelmed, exhausted.
My friends with two 20 months apart are not AP. Their kids CIT, crib sleep in separate rooms, take bottles etc. And it seams much easier for them.
But I persevere knowing my kids are happy, healthy, love each other, secure. They always have a friend, know how to share, like the same things, almost have the same schedules and nap times, eat the same stuff etc. I am still spreading myself thin to keep it all together but it’s so great. So glad I got all the ‘babyness’ over in one quick go. Two toddlers is so much easier now.
You guys, seriously, thank you! I am loving the feedback and stories and ideas.
I guess the general attitude I am coming away with is this: My anxiety and doubt about adding to our family right now are just signs that we’re not ready. I worry that I need a little more time with my son before he becomes a big brother, so what? I’ll take a little more time. Just like when we first decided to try to get pregnant, I’ll know when I know. I know I will still stress about this, and weigh pros and cons, but you insightful mamas have reminded me of two things: #1: Whatever happens, we’ll make it work. And #2: I can listen to my instincts.
I often think about this same issue. I have an 11 month old and have felt that she would benefit from my attention for a few years before adding a second child to the mix. However, I have a question about AP and spacing. Since much of AP derives from what is “natural” and takes into account non-western and non-modernized approaches to parenting (eg, The Continuum concept etc), shouldn’t spacing be irrelevant? The models upon which AP is based are societies in which contraception wasn’t used and women had many babies in quick succession. The reality is that they would have to divide their attention or rely on close family or tribe networks. So it seems to me that the “true” AP or natural parenting approach (and I deliberately use “true” because I think AP sometimes picks and chooses what it wants from “nature”) is to have children fairly close. I’m an AP parent myself, but have often wondered about the tendency to space children quite far apart so that there is no perceived threat to their attachment.
My sons are two years and two days apart. I breastfeed my first all through pregnancy even though it was so painful I would cry. He still nurses now and I’m glad that I persevered to give him the opportunity to self wean – whenever that will be! The beginning was challenging no doubt, at 2 my son needed lots of time and attention, but it kind of worked out because a newborn sleeps so much, whilst I sat nursing baby I could do all kinds of little things with my son to entertain him – read books, draw, blow bubbles, (so many bubbles!) puppet shows, etc…I kept at bag of tricks and new things to show him purchased from a discount store ($2 shop) next to my rocking chair, for breastfeeding times, when he needed me the most. Finding easy ways to tandem nurse is tricky, and we didn’t do it much, but like anything, gets easy as they get older and baby gets stronger. The times when both would cry were the hardest and I felt I wasn’t meeting any ones needs no matter how hard I tried! But these moments pass, AP is so helpful because it creates calm in the chaos, routines, expectations don’t matter, you just follow your heart and intuition, and do what is working for your family. We still co-sleep, and breastfeed ALL night (well it feels that way) my now four old only asks for a little nurse every couple of days.
Don’t think that a 3 or 4 year gap will mean that the first child is well toilet trained before baby 2 comes along, my son just finally completed training the other day, at 4 and 2 months – it was a long road, and I learned that they will not do things until they are ready to, no matter what! So, I agree that you won’t disservice your first having baby 2, as 1st is the one demanding all the attention, they are the ones going through new stages, learning new things all the time, it’s always new for the parents. I think that baby 2 is the one that gets the harder time, (if you’d even call it that) compared with 1, they have to wait longer at times, they cry more as they get older cos number 1 is mean to them, no matter how much you hover over them this still happens, I find it heartbreaking how many times I have soothed number two, crying after having a toy taken, being pushed etc. when number 1 never experienced this harsher reality! But watching them play together is divine, they are so close, number 2 adores his brother and instead of imitating mum and dad like the firstborn, imitates his brother – so sweet! Maybe this closeness is personality, but is also from the AP experience – maybe cos number 1 never remembers a time his baby brother wasn’t around. We didn’t chose that 2 year gap, it chose us – I got my period back only 6 weeks after giving birth the first time despite full time breastfeeding of course – but at the time of conception I was so ready for another baby- the second time it took 18 months to return and I didn’t feel ready at all for another one during that time. So let nature and your body decide, you will know when the right time is and it will work out beautifully no matter what!
Fiona- This is such an interesting perspective on the issue! While I think that a lot of AP philosophy is based on what is “natural” a lot of it is also based on intellect and informed choice. There is no perfect society out there, nor was there ever one. I have never heard of a tribe or ancient people who followed all of AP’s principles. So a lot of (at least my) natural parenting is based on information, research, intuition, and choice, not just what happens naturally without interference.
Another key point here that you already brought up but I want to expand upon is the family/tribe network. You are right that in societies where contraception isn’t used women probably had their babies closer together. But these women also had great support networks of family and a closely knit community around them. “It takes a village” and all that. But at least for me, modern life just doesn’t have a network or support group like that. I live more than a thousand miles from most of my family. So I think that the choice I made to move across the country is going to impact when I choose to have another baby, because we are basically on our own.
Also, I just want to clarify that I am in no way suggesting that having closely spaced children is a negative thing. I think Attachment Parenting is totally possible with closer-in-age kids and that there are tons of positives that go along with closer spacings. In reading over the general tone of my post and some comments I just wanted to make that very clear.
I have two children who are nine months apart. The first was adopted as a newborn and the second was a (very welcome) surprise pregnancy. I was standing in line at Target with a 3 week old baby, buying a pregnancy test. A very surreal experience, especially with our history of infertility.
I will say that one child is much, much easier and much more mellow (my husband and I sometimes each take a child for the day so that they get some alone time and we get a break). If I were to choose spacing for my own family, I’d want a minimum of 3 years between the children. But that is for myself (we’re trying to decide about having another) and every family is different in what would be ideal for them. I have a friend whose children are 20 months apart and she deals with it so smoothly and easily. (She does not have 2 toddlers, though, just one baby, one toddler. I *feel* for parents of multiples! Double toddler duty has not been as enjoyable as one would think!)
Anyway – good luck as you make choices about building your family!
“Breastfeeding Older Children” by Ann Sinnott has a priceless chapter (actually, the whole book is amazing) about the relationship between sustained breastfeeding and our ancestors’ natural child spacing. Wonderful book. Hunter gatherers were generally not having children in quick succession, and would usually have at most 3 or 4 children. The move towards a more agrarian lifestyle brought about an increase in the number of children a woman would bear in her lifetime, for varying reasons, including earlier weaning and the need for a larger labour force to tend the crops and animals.
I have a 13 month old, and we are hoping for maybe 6 kids, so we kind of feel the clock ticking even though I’m not even 25! Lol. Anyway, I figure if God blesses me with another baby soon, he’ll also bless me with the energy and patience to parent 2 kids well. It may not be easy but I know with God’s help and of course the support of Hubby and our extended family & friends I can gracefully and cheerfully handle whatever life throws at me!
Oh man, have I thought about this issue a LOT. I had fertility issue before conceiving my first, so I wanted to start trying again soonish, expecting it to take years, possibly. I started gently spacing my daughter’s very frequent nursing during the day at 15 months, and had my first period within two weeks. And then, shockingly, conceived twins that first cycle. OMG!
I then got pretty sick and tired that first tri, and felt SO AWFUL about what I had done — my daughter was still so young, so needy and clingy, and I felt like I was unable to mother her the way I wanted. Some of that was valid, but some was just the emotional issues from being pregnant and tired, for sure. It was rough, but it was also just a blip, in the longer term.
I did have to start gradually making changes, though. First nightweaning, then moving her to her own bed and room (while still cosleeping with her for quite awhile– gradually less as she grew used to it). Daddy took on more and more of her care, though I was still home with her all day. I weaned her completely about 25 weeks into my pregnancy — I knew I could not nurse 3 after they were born! We also started her in daycare a few mornings a week, to give me a break (we were also moving, so I had to pack!). That was HARD, but each step, taken over the span of 9 months or so, really helped. Making changes in baby steps, over the course of weeks and months, allowed Emma (and me!) to adjust pretty well.
My oldest was two when my twins were born. 3 under 3 is definitely a challenge! I was lucky that Emma loved babies and enjoyed helping out, and also was pretty good at playing independently.
The tribe thing is HUGE. Our culture is just not designed to support new mothers with young children. I was SO THANKFUL that I had one grandparent or another living with us for the first 2.5 months of my twins life. I literally could not have done it (breastfeeding, anyway) without that. I do feel like now (at home alone during the day with 3 under 5) I am not the best parent I could be, in terms of staying calm and gentle/positive discipline, because I am overwhelmed with need and toddler antics.
So yeah, wider spacing would probably have been better, espcecially with twins! But then, at age 2 my daughter really adjusted to the “new normal” super, super fast — she soon could not remember life without her sisters, so we had very little jealousy issues. Now at 2 and 4 they all play really well together, and I see that only getting better and better. There are pros and cons to all different spacings, and I know folks who swear by each of them. No matter what happens, you will make it work the best you can! Some phases are challenging, but kids grow and change so fast, it will not last forever!
I have 5 kids 17, 15, 11, 8, 19/12 and a 2/52 babe. There have been significant adjustments for all children and myself. For me the hardest is the differing age groups and my change in parenting throughout the years. This is in large due to the other parents influence and affect on my parenting decisions and style. The youngest two are from a new partner and this has made my choices much easier and I am supported and my children are much better off for this.
I tandem fed my oldest two for six months(23 month age gap). Both weaned at the same time due to my milk supply depleting due to external stressors I believes and my youngest at the time not enjoying physical contact, since being diagnosed with Aspergers.
I fed my next two for 2 1/2yrs each. My youngest are tandem fed and I have had no problems with milk supply in fact my little one drinks so much she has excessive wind from guzzling. My 19 month old has gotten angry at her sister but for reasons unrelated to feeding and is accepting of sharing and in fact is the gentlest and most responsive to her sibling when the are tandem feeding. I co-sleep with the baby but only occasionally with the toddler as she experienced respiratory problems and required monitoring as she had aponeoic episodes until recently.
My eldest two children have a extremely close and protective bond and very rarely have issues.
I fortunately fall pregnant easily and maintain supply for a long time even when finishing weaning. I suffered some nipple discomfort whilst pregnant, increased morning sickness and increased intensity of braxton hick contractions whilst feeding. But it is all worth it for the the rewards for the babes and myself.
My daughters are 7 and almost 2.
The transition was very easy for my oldest daughter, and she has never really been jealous of her baby sister. She is very loving and kind toward her, which has made parenting much easier. Now that the little one is almost two, they play together for hours every day (oldest one is homeschooled) and truly enjoy each other.
In baby’s early months, my oldest daughter could entertain herself or watch a movie unsupervised while I took a nap with the baby or otherwise met the baby’s many needs. I really needed those naps, let me tell ya!
Because of the spacing, I was able to replenish my body completely from what it lost by breastfeeding, nursing, and years of disturbed sleep from nighttime parenting. I’ve also read recently that the WHO recommends 3-4 years between babies because this has been shown to improve infant and maternal mortality rates.
I also LOVED the first 5 years of my oldest DD’s life, where it was just the two of us. We because very close and will always have a special bond because of that time. Life was simple, peaceful, and free. Now it’s a bit more busy 😉
Child spacing is a personal choice, and sometimes it just “happens”. For us, large spacing has been a tremendous blessing and I am happy for how it’s turned out.
This is a tough one – 2 months ago I would have said no way but now I am excited for the potential of another little one sooner rather than later. It’s as if it just hits you one day. So different for everyone. For every situation.