Age Gaps: What is the ideal age gap between siblings?

Age Gaps: What is the Ideal Age Gap between Siblings?

Whether you are on your first or fourth child, you have probably thought about the ideal age gap between siblings. Is there a such thing as too close or too far apart? Can you plan for the ‘perfect’ age gap?

Although we don’t consider ourselves experts on what the best age gap is between kids, between our own families and our daycare families we have some thoughts to share. We also asked the parents in our Facebook group to weigh in with their experiences too.

Let us start off by saying, the temperament of your first born child, or the youngest if you have more than one child already, will play a huge role in your decision on whether or not you will want a smaller or larger age gap between children. A busy or challenging child, or one with special needs may have you feeling you should wait a while longer before having another child and an easy going child may have you feeling like it’s time for another one! You will probably want to follow your own instincts on that one. Of course, planning for a particular age gap implies that you have full control of when pregnancy happens for you! So keep in mind, that although you may have an idea of what the perfect age gap might be, you may have to just go with the flow of nature 🙂

From Elisa of Restful Parenting: My children are 4 years apart and I thought it would be the perfect age gap as daughter would be in school full time when baby was really young. It is so great for certain things for sure but I also found that because daughter was the one and only for 4 years, she had a difficult time adjusting to sharing our attention! She did have a rough start (when baby came in the summer and when she started school) but when I look at the two of them now and see how close they are, it melts my heart! I have fertility issues so I never really planned for a specific age gap because I knew that I would be happy to get pregnant regardless of when. My sister and I are two years apart and very close but for various reasons I didn’t want to have my kids that close in age. That said, once I was ready for another child, I didn’t plan around an age gap because I knew  it was going to be out of my control.

Pros and Cons of Age Gaps

We had a discussion in our Facebook group about age gaps, and several group members shared their experiences with their own children as well as their own siblings.  We thought we would share the pros and cons that were mentioned to provide some different perspectives you may want to consider if you are planning for a specific age gap:

Pros of small age gaps between siblings (3 years or less):
  • You get the baby stage and the sleep deprivation stage done and over with
  • The siblings can become close friends, sharing the same interests and friends too
  • Having a laid back first born makes a small age gap more manageable
  • Younger kids won’t really remember life before baby arrives and jealousy will be minimal
  • Hand me downs are a bonus- clothes, toys, cribs, etc. will still be in style, good shape, etc.
  • Younger kids can be helpful too- grabbing diapers or blankets when needed (just make sure they are not being helpful giving baby things they shouldn’t!)
Cons of small age gaps between siblings:
  • You will be very busy! Possibly having two children in diapers and/or toilet teaching one while taking care of an infant too
  • It may require more effort to get quality time with each child
  • You may feel like you need more help from your partner or grandparents
  • Routines will be very important to keeping sane- especially for bedtimes
  • If you are a stay at home mom, you may wish to put the older child in nursery school or daycare a few days a week to give yourself a break and/or give the child the chance to do things like crafts and park outings you may find difficult in the early days with a newborn
  • If you work outside the home, you may have just returned to work from maternity leave- make sure you will have worked the minimum number of needed hours before you need to go on maternity leave again
  • If the age gap is really small, your body may not have fully recovered from pregnancy yet

Pros of large age gaps between siblings (3+ years difference):
  • The older sibling can be quite helpful with the baby
  • Older children will often ‘adore’ the youngest
  • The older sibling may be more independent allowing you to tend to baby
  • You can enjoy lots of quality time with the first born before siblings come along
  • You may have more quality time with baby while older sibling is at school or in their own activities
  • An older child will understand how to be gentle with a baby and may be better at sharing
  • Your body will have had enough time to recover between pregnancies
Cons of large age gaps between siblings:
  • Having an unpredictable baby while trying to get an older child to activities and school on time can sometimes be challenging
  • If you did not keep your baby items, you may find yourself needing to buy baby stuff all over again
  • Siblings with very large age gaps may not be ‘friend’s until adulthood as their interests may be very different and not all older children enjoy playing with a younger child
  • An older sibling who has spent years being the ‘only child’ may need more time to adjust to having a sibling and may become jealous
  • Older children who are asked to help too much or babysit when they want to make their own plans can build some resentment

What about age gaps between the oldest and youngest child when you have more than two? We had a few commenters mention that although their youngest and oldest had a larger age gap, each child in between were all close in age so the kids tended to ‘pair up’ like ‘Irish twins’ and the older children tended to be quite helpful with the younger children. Definitely busy homes, but getting everyone to work together is a great way to raise a big family.

Conclusion: There is no perfect age gap!

It is safe to say that all families are different and the only ‘perfect’ or ideal age gap is whatever works for you and your family! The whole family will adjust as needed to having a new member of the family and relationships can be strong no matter what age gap there may be. As mentioned, temperament of your children will also play a role in your decision. The biggest conclusion we could draw from all the answers we received from our Facebook group was that no matter the age gap between kids, none of the parents who commented would change the age gap if they could do it all again!

Some tips to help you and your family adjust to having a new baby, no matter the age gap:
  • Stay in routine as much as possible
  • Make the effort to spend quality time with the older sibling(s) even if it’s just 5-10 minutes a day
  • Ask for help if you need it

To read more about preparing your child for a new sibling, read our blog post here.

What are your thoughts and experiences? Do you have little ones close together or far apart? Are you willing to share some of the ups and downs you’ve experienced? Or your thoughts about what you thought/think would be a good age gap? We’d love to hear to from you.
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Restful Parenting | Holistic Sleep Consultants

We are Holistic Infant and Child Sleep Consultants and we work with families to teach them how to help their little one's get the sleep they need using methods that you will be comfortable with. Offering private sleep consultations and group workshops to parents from Ottawa, North Bay, and all around the world.

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