If you’ve already got a child and are thinking of growing your family further, we’re sure you’ve probably googled: “what’s the best age gap between siblings?” We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about every age and stage. Whilst there might not be a perfect ‘best’ age gap, there are certainly pros and cons of each to consider. That’s right, we cover the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of sibling age gaps…
What is the best age gap? 1 year age gap pros and cons
If you know you definitely intend to expand your family quickly from the get go, then getting off to a flying start can make complete sense. You’re both firmly still in the ‘baby’ stage with your first born so maintaining the rhythm of sleep deprivation, naps (or lack thereof), nappy changes and crawling watch can be a great help. There’s a lot to be said for embracing the infamous #twoundertwo lifestyle. Your eldest is less likely to be bothered by the huge change, being just too little to understand what it all really means. As they grow they’re likely to enjoy similar activities at similar ages – double soft play, anyone?!
However, when it comes to your health there are some important biological aspects that you should consider when thinking about whether just a year or so is the best age gap between siblings.
Going through two pregnancies and two births in such quick succession is tough on your body. Research says that ideally, you should give your body 18 months – 2 years between giving birth and getting pregnant again, particularly if you’ve had a c-section.
Your body may not have had the time it needs to recover and your mental health may still be adjusting from the life changing moment that was welcoming your first born into the family. Finally, there’s no shying away from the fact that the first 6 months especially are likely to be EXHAUSTING with your eldest blossoming into an attention sapping toddler and your youngest also starting to be on the move!
What is the best age gap? 2 year age gap pros and cons
A lot of families who hope to have two or more children aim for a two year age gap as the best age gap between siblings.
They’re close enough in age to play together but it’s slightly less of a shock to the system than tackling two under two (at least in theory)!
Your body is ready, your eldest is more independent and probably walking and talking but those newborn days aren’t so much of a distant memory to feel like it’s all been forgotten.
Unfortunately, with greater independence comes a longer period of time when your eldest has had their parents all to themselves. This may cause some intense sibling rivalry. Advocates for two under two as the best age gap say that newborn days and the terrible twos don’t mix and maybe they have a point. Your eldest may actively resent your new baby as well as sharing their time. If you’re aiming for this gap you may also need to prepare for some extra acting out, boundary pushing and possibly regressions when their sibling arrives on the scene.
What is the best age gap? 3 year age gap pros and cons
There’s a lot that stacks up to say that three years is the best age gap between siblings and that it’s in fact one of the easiest gaps for parents to manage. Your three year old is generally better at entertaining themselves, is likely potty trained or on the way to being (meaning only one set of nappies to deal with on a daily basis), and may well be in some form of consistent childcare for much of the day (thank goodness for preschool).
On paper a three year age gap sounds pretty near to perfect however, don’t be fooled, as any parents of a three year old will tell you life is still pretty hectic. A three year old may no longer nap, is still very needy and is likely to have and display intense feelings.
This can mean sibling jealousy can still be a problem. Your eldest may understand why they’re getting less attention but isn’t yet equipped to cope with those feelings. Much to a lot of parents’ surprise, sharing isn’t a concept that children can truly act on until closer to 3.5-4 years. Lashing out at either the parents or sibling can be common.
What is the best age gap? 4 year age gap or longer pros and cons
Having a larger age gap, either through choice or circumstance, can be the best age gap between siblings – you may even get some help! Your eldest may well want to be really involved in the day to day care of their new sibling and can be protective and loving as they grow. You’ll have the time and space to indulge in those newborn days whilst your eldest is at school and feel comfortable in knowing you’ve dedicated quality time to both of them in their tiny baby stage (pesky mum-guilt be gone!)
That being said, an older sibling who has spent years being the ‘only child’ may need more time to adjust to having a sibling and the possibility for jealousy, at least initially, is quite high. It’s not only their toys and time they’ll need to share but also their routines.
The biggest challenge may be that the new baby will have to go with the eldest child’s flow. You’re enjoying that nap? Tough, it’s school run time! However, lots of second time mums actually find this an easier way to find a new normality more quickly.
Lastly, it’s important to consider the future. How many children do you envisage yourself having overall? How do you feel about your own age, relationship or career in conjunction with that? What was your fertility journey like the first time round? Ultimately, there is no best age gap, just what feels right for your family and sometimes we simply can’t control these things but it has a way of working out.