The discussion about family planning — when to start a family, how many children to have, and how many years in between children there should be — is a common topic of discussion among couples who are beginning their journey into parenthood.
Many couples factor in finances and time away from work, but does child spacing matter to your health? Should you space out your pregnancies differently than you’d planned for in order to ensure long-term health?
There are many factors that go into planning your family. Let’s talk about some common topics that couples discuss.
Finances are often a top priority when it comes to having children. Having children close together can mean that you can share car seats before they expire, hand down clothes before they’re too out of date, and you only need to plan to be out of work for a few years.
But close spacing can also be hard for working parents as well since management doesn’t like for people to be out of the workplace for back-to-back pregnancies. Close spacing can also be hard for those who don’t have good insurance.
How will your home life be when you have kids? Would you prefer to have all of your children close together to get the baby stage of diapers and bibs over with ASAP? Or would you prefer to have children spaced out so that your youngest is more independent when the new baby arrives to lessen the burden of demands on you all at once?
There is no evidence showing that the bond between children is stronger whether they are born close together or further apart. What matters most here is that parents foster a family vibe that is close-knit and caring.
How does child spacing matter to your health? Generally speaking, most professionals will advocate for mothers to take a bit of a break between children so that she can give her body a rest, especially if the mother has needed a c-section. But what does that even mean?
Pregnancy and Birth
When a woman becomes pregnant, her body goes through a vast amount of changes in a very short amount of time. Her blood volume will double in the time she is pregnant and she will have grown an entire human being inside her body.
The birthing process is also physically taxing on a woman’s body. Lots of energy, in the form of nutrients and hormones, are used during the process. The birthing process alone can take up to 1-2 years to recover from.
The World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies until at least the age of two. This is so that their baby gets the most benefit from all the amazing things inside her breast milk while they’re little and need it most! Many women now are choosing to breastfeed their babies and children longer than this, which is fantastic!
Breastfeeding is an amazing thing! A woman’s breasts make breast milk from her blood. The nutrients that are found in breast milk are pulled from the mother’s bloodstream. If the mother’s blood is deficient her body will begin to pull nutrients from her own body in order to keep the balance in her milk. Her body will sacrifice her own health in order to make sure her breast milk is well balanced for her baby.
The process of making breast milk can be hard on a mother’s body, especially after going through the process of growing and birthing a baby. Which is why it is so important for mothers to eat well and supplement where needed during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
What is Optimal Child Spacing?
So what is the magical number of years a mother should go between births? The short answer is that there is no magical number. The answer will depend on these factors:
- Age of the mother.
- Nutritional status of the mother.
- Health status of the mother.
- Number of children desired.
- Resources available to the mother.
For women who are in good health and have excellent nutrient stores, closer spacing of 2-3 years between births is generally okay. This will give the mother time to recover from the first birth before the next baby arrives. Although, it will not allow the mother’s body to recover from breastfeeding since most babies will still be breastfeeding at this point.
A spacing of 3-4 years will be even more beneficial because the mother will often be finished breastfeeding the first baby before the second one arrives. This will give her body an even greater rest between the process of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Some people think 3 years is the sweet spot when it comes to child spacing. It gives the mother’s body time to rest but still allows the children to be close enough in age to be playmates.
Leaving 5+ years between children would be the most beneficial for the health of the mother since it would give more than adequate time for the woman’s body to recover. But spacing of 5+ years isn’t always realistic for couples when planning their families. Many women now are waiting until they are older than 28 to start a family, so spacing children 5 or more years apart would mean that they would be carrying children later into life if they wanted more than 2 children. Pregnancies of mother’s of mature age pose their own risks and tax a woman’s body differently than a younger mom. So special care to eat and supplement well is very important in these situations for the long-term health of the mother.