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two children under two?

To Have “Two Under Two”…Or Not

By Amalah

Hello again!

You’ve already helped me once when I had my mid pregnancy freak out, and now I have another question for you.

I’ve been thinking about when to try for baby number 2. My original thought, before he was born, was to start trying when our son reaches one – so in December. But I didn’t account for how much I miss being pregnant! Which is silly, but no one tells you about the fact that you have this teeny tiny baby in your arms and yet you instantly go back to having bump envy. It’s bonkers.

Though, a couple of weeks ago you answered a question from someone who was talking about how they wanted an 18 month age gap – and practically every commenter underneath that post said how hard their small age gap had been on them and their partner, how it had nearly split them up etc etc and I’ve since been wondering about it.

My pregnancy wasn’t massively physically difficult. I did have spd and towards the end of the pregnancy moving around became difficult and painful. I managed without painkillers for the most part – mainly cause I sat my ass on the sofa a lot – but wouldn’t be able to do that if running round after a toddler/young child. So would a smaller age gap mean that I do less running around? I know he doesn’t stay immobile for long, but he’d still be taking frequent naps etc and I could hopefully put off the painkillers for as long as possible.

My breastfeeding relationship with my son didn’t quite go as I planned either. He didn’t take to it very well to begin with and lost too much weight so we ended up supplementing with formula and I expressed. He’s now at the stage where he takes five 6oz breastmilk feeds a day, with the occasional formula top up if he needs it. I also have a reasonable freezer supply. But I have fed him directly from the boob on a couple of occasions and now I know what I’m more confident, and so is he, he can latch properly and take full feeds from me. I’m worried I’ll forget how if I wait too long.

I think my main thing though is that it took us nearly three years to go from trying to get pregnant to actually having our son. I can get pregnant really easily. Sustaining a pregnancy, well, that bit I’m not so good at. Even if we started trying tomorrow and I was pregnant again in April, well, I’m not so convinced I’d carry to term. I think I still think in my head that it’ll take all that time again to get pregnant, and we’ll have all those problems again and so do I really want to wait a year, or two, to go through a process that took us so long last time? I don’t want that big of an age gap.

So, what, in your experience/observations is a ‘sensible’ (in as much as there can be one) age gap? So far this little one has been fairly straight forward (though when he’s crying for no apparent reason I’m inclined to change my mind at little!) and I know I might not be as lucky next time around. I love this little guy to bits, he’s amazing and made everything seem worthwhile. I’m just pondering when to think about giving him a sibling!

Thanks,
Claire

What’s right and sensible for one family is what’s right and sensible for them, full stop. There are endless (ENDLESS) pros and cons to every single baby-spacing scenario in the book, the end. Most families, however, tend to mostly see the pros after awhile. Or at least see the cons as not really that big of a deal. Because what’s done is done, right?

I could sit here and give you a thoughtful, sensible counterpoint to each of the pros you mentioned (pregnancy spacing has no real impact on your likelihood of breastfeeding success — you’ll remember enough and be more relaxed whenever; 18-month-olds require a different, frantic sort of running-around-after than an older child, since they have yet to really grasp concepts like “no” or “gravity” or “not chewing on power cables”), but then anyone who has done the “two under two” thing and lived to tell about it could easily give ME another dozen counterpoints as to why it’s an EXCELLENT idea.

(Yes, the comments on that post were skewed pretty negative, but I think that was more of a response to an OP who really needed a bit of a reality check, beyond simple baby-spacing logistics.)

It’s just…so different for everybody. Some people like getting the diaper stage done all at once, while others like getting one kid trained before bringing home a newborn. Some people have age/fertility concerns that bump their timetables up rather than any real desire to have babies that close together, but they do it anyway. Some people have “whoops” pregnancies, and other people overplan and overthink things a lot and start wishing for a “whoops” so they can just stop freaking out about these endless pros and cons and HAVE A BABY ALREADY.

My kids are spaced out at three years and two-and-a-half years. Absolutely neither of those age gaps are what we were technically “aiming” for.

Like you, I wanted another pregnancy right away. We started trying (-ish) at one year. A full year later, I still wasn’t pregnant. So I ended up with two boys spaced three years and two weeks apart. AND IT’S AWESOME. Yes, there were challenges (three-year-olds can be bratttt-teee, and my particular three-year-old had developmental delays), but there were also so many great things about it. I had three years of one-on-one time with my oldest child. He was out of diapers 90% of the time AND started preschool during the last stretch of my pregnancy so I had time to rest…and then could count on a few precious hours to fully enjoy being with my newborn. And now, as brothers, they seem completely unbothered by the three years between them and enjoy all the same things and play and fight and argue and love each other.

So then, like you, when it came time to debate a third, I mentally factored in the whole “it could take awhile” fertility aspect — this time, though, I was COUNTING on it. We figured another three-year age gap was about right, or maybe even longer. Four years seemed just fine too — get the older two more independent and able to help/contribute around the house before outnumbering ourselves.

Whoops! I was already pregnant. AND IT IS AWESOME. Noah is old enough to really be a help and having a baby is something fun and special for him, while Ezra was little enough that his world seemed less rocked by the appearance of a younger sibling. We’ll only ever pay for one preschool tuition at a time, thanks to the public school kindergarten age cut-off. (Though on the other hand, by the time Ike enters K, we’ll have been paying for preschools for EIGHT STRAIGHT YEARS.)  My pregnancy was a bit of blur — it was challenging to find time to take care of myself and “cherish” the experience and all that — but in the end, there was no sense in overanalyzing the timing or spacing because it happened when it was supposed to happen.

So listen, while I don’t think there’s any denying that the “two under two” age gap is particularly challenging in a lot of ways, it’s ALWAYS going to be challenging, just in different ways. Only you and your partner know which challenges you guys are honestly up for and can handle best. And what challenges you’re okay with struggling with because of what you perceive as the long-term benefits to that spacing scenario.

And yeah, it absolutely can be a total crapshoot of best laid plans gone awry, since your body could completely surprise you, either good (pregnant on the first try and carry perfectly to term)…or not so good. At some point, you just have to take a deep breath and go for it. It’s a scary, dizzying jump, but rest assured that most families — even the ones who claim to have the “perfect” sibling spacing — were built on similar leaps of faith.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Olivia
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Olivia

Since this is such a case of every family is different, I’ll share our thought process on this decision. We talked about spacing our children about 2 yrs about, but around the time our first turned one, I started feeling like I wasn’t ready to be pregnant yet. I was still nursing a LOT, had just gotten my period back and was finally not experiencing any lingering pain from my c-section. I hadn’t said anything to my husband yet when he came up to me and said he felt our first was still such a little baby. That he wanted… Read more »

Anastasia
Guest
Anastasia

I was looking around the web and saw this site, though my children are older now (18 & 16!) they are exactly two years apart, I just wanted to say it was the best decision we ever made.  Our daughter was 15 months old when we got pregnant with our second child, deliberately, and they have never not been close.  It was a bit hard in the beginning, remembering to make one on one time with each child, required some balancing, but it is doable and well worth the effort.  She went off to college this fall, and she and… Read more »

Michelle
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Michelle

I have two boys that are just shy of 10 months apart. So right now they are both 3 years old. I won’t lie and say that it was easy to have two little ones. When my younger son was around 4 months old until he passed his first birthday, sometimes my husband and I felt like we were simply in “survival” mode. Just trying to keep them both happy, fed, rested, etc. and accomplish everything else we needed to get done was a challenge at times. We were seriously lacking sleep. But here we are a couple of years… Read more »

Meredith
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Meredith

I have two that are 17 months apart, and we had the same experience…the first year or so was HARD (but also awesome), and now I wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, I’m pregnant with my fourth, who will be only 15 months younger than my third. I also tried the wider gap…our third is 3 full years younger than our second. I found that when you really feel like you want to start, as long as it is the baby you want, and not just a cute, attention grabbing pregnancy, and your partner is also on board, then it… Read more »

Martha
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Martha

I am one of five daughters, we are spaced out over 14 years. I think a spacing of two-three years really is ideal. My older sister and I are four and a half years apart and that was a bit too much, we weren’t able to be close as children (although we are great friends as adults). We have a two year old now and are hoping to get pregnant again soon!

Kailee
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Kailee

My boys will be 13 months apart. It took us so long to get pregnant with our first, plus my husband was already 40, that we took a “let’s see what happens approach” and lo and behold, I got pregnant right away. I’m not going to lie, I am a bit freaked out. I know it’s going to be crazy and busy and maddening at times. But, I’m also genuinely looking forward to it too. My siblings are much, MUCH younger than me. I am not close to them, and I am so happy my boys WILL be close in… Read more »

MR
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MR

I always wanted to have my kids about two years apart. But, when our first was 1, she was still an AWFUL sleeper, and I was exhausted. I’d ended up with a surprise c/s and the recovery and associated bonding issues from that combined with her being a HORRIBLE sleeper made the first year really, really rough. So, we weren’t ready for another. Six months later was a completely different story. But, then it took a few months to happen, and my girls are now just under 3 years apart. And I love it. Because I LOVE my girls. My… Read more »

Ashley
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Ashley

My daughter will be a little over 3 1/2 when our next baby is born. Originally I wanted 5 kids and they were all going to be 2 years apart! Well, starting later than we originally thought and the adjustment of becoming parents changed that big time. I had a very hard time when my daughter was born. There were a lot of circumstances surrounding it that just made for a very difficult first year. I swore I was done! But then she grew and matured and I realized I did want another. Then enter lots of moving and job… Read more »

Ally
Guest
Ally

I have three and got pregnant when each child turned one. They are all 21 months apart. I actually really like it. It definitely has its challenges. It is nice to do the whole diapers/naps stage of life at once. 

Karishma
Guest
Karishma

I… am so unsure what this obsession with the 18 month age gap is all about. My little brother and I have a five year age gap between us. We are ridiculously close, probably the best sibling relationship I’ve ever seen, and I do not say that lightly. We are basically best friends. I know people who are similarly close to their siblings, even with 7 years or more in between. Plus? There’s the added benefit of being able to stagger out college tuitions, etc, when the age gap is a little more. Which is all to say – age… Read more »

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

Word. My sister is 6 yrs younger than me and we are not close. I very much doubt we would be close even if we were closer in age simply due to our personalities.

BR
Guest
BR

Amen to the fact that personalities dictate closeness, not so much the age gap. I’m the oldest of three girls. There are a little over two years between the middle sister and myself, and 18 months b/w her and the youngest. We love each other. We get along. But we’re not best friends. And it all comes down to our very different personalities! My husband, on the other hand, was VERY close with his brother who was about five years older than him (his older brother passed away). 

Cathy
Guest
Cathy

I had a “whoops” that made my children 20 months apart. It was very difficult at first because number 2 was a terrible sleeper; however, they starting playing together all the time when she was just 18 months. They are now best friends (4 and 2.5 years). My sister constantly pondered when to have number 2. Will they be close? Is it hard? Etc. I do think it takes longer to be very close when the age difference is more pronounced, but it can still happen. Whenever she would bring it up, I would say, “Whatever happens will be your… Read more »

Tai
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Tai

Can I just say that having kids close together won’t make them close?  My older brother and I are only two and a half years apart. That’s not a big age gap at all. Guess what? We HATED each other growing up. I’m talking knock down drag out fights that ended really violently. I have a friend who has a sister five years older than her. They’ve always gotten along. They’ve always shared a room and hung out and gone places together. My mom had eleven brothers and sister, some half and some step and all that. She was only… Read more »

Jeannie
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Jeannie

I just want to echo others — child spacing has its pros and cons at every gap. And *also* to say, like a couple other commenters — don’t have them close simply to have them be close friends. They might well be; or they might despise each other. That’s totally personality driven. Honestly if it were me I’d start trying once I was feeling out of the “exhausted” phase and just see what happens. 😉 that’s what we did — it just do happened that my first was a TERRIBLE sleeper, and didn’t sleep through the night –not ONCE! —… Read more »

mostlyfitmom
Guest

My husband and I both have siblings close in age and we decided we wanted the same for our kids, as we always had someone to play (and fight – haha!) with growing up and are good friends those of our siblings who are close to us in age. We figured 2 years would be good, but since I have PCOS, we thought it might take a bit for me to get pregnant. After our son was born, we started trying when he turned 1. It took just a few months, and our daughter is 22 months younger than her… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

1. I don’t think that you should even pay attention to that other post, unless you have serious marriage issues, which it doesn’t sound like is the case.  That post was way more about relationship issues, not about child spacing. 2. I believe 100% that children do not break up a healthy marriage.  Children can put a strain on the less healthy parts of a marriage, but you’d have to try pretty hard to convince me that children are the problem (in the majority of cases). 3. I’ll echo what everyone else has said–whatever spacing you end up with will… Read more »

Melissa
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Melissa

I’m a 2u2 mama. My girls at just shy of 19 months apart. Right now they are 6 months and just turned 2. There are pros to the age gap and cons, too. My first was young enough when the baby was born that she adjusted easily and I doubt she even remembers life before a sibling. We are a family that wants the diaper years over and done at once instead of starting over in 5 years. I hope they will be good friends and always have each other to laugh and cry and fight with, though I realize… Read more »

jL
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jL

I have 19 month old twins and another baby due in August so we will have an exact (almost to the day) two year age difference and 3 children under 3. We would like 4 kids total so I think we will have to have them all close I am mostly excited about it and a little bit nervous. My brother and I were three years apart and were not close at all. We are both adopted and are so incredibly different in every way. My husband and his sister are Irish Twins, less than a year apart. They were… Read more »

cagey (Kelli Oliver George)
Guest

My kiddos are 20 months apart and wow, it was really hard there for awhile.   Really hard.  Someone mentioned survival mode and that is a good description. However, I am glad that my kids are so near in age — they are so close and on the same level as far as playing.  Truly they are best little buddies.    also, they think each other’s jokes are funny, which saves me from suffering through the same lame joke again and again.  🙂 I am 5 years older than my next sister and that sucked.  We were not close until… Read more »

B.
Guest
B.

I’m currently pregnant with my second and my two kids will be almost exactly 2 yrs apart.  I actually wanted them a bit closer, but it took a few months to get pregnant.  I think the timing is all a matter of preference that only you and your husband can decide.  I have one girlfriend who tried for 7 yrs and lots of fertility treatments to get her son.  They figured it would take a while for #2, so she was shocked when they got pregnant the first try.  She’s now got a newborn and a 20 month old.  It’s… Read more »

Jules
Guest
Jules

Tai, my brother and I were the same way. Horrible, violent fights that never ended well. We’re only 12.5 months apart. We’re still not very close, though we certainly don’t hate each other anymore. That said, I think that was due more to family circumstances than the age gap. My fiance and I are expecting baby #2 right now, and my kids will be almost exactly 18 months apart. We were “aiming” for an 18-24 month window and happened to get it right the first time. We just know that this age gap will work well for us. It really… Read more »

Tai
Guest
Tai

My boyfriend and his brother are almost exactly eighteen months apart. They were best friends growing up. They’re still best friends!

What I’m really trying to say here is–you never know. For some families it works. For some, it really doesn’t. I think having kids close together so “they can be friends!” is not the best reason in the world. Sometimes they will be friends, sometimes they won’t. It’s up to the kids, really.

If you have kids close together, good on ya! If you don’t, also good on ya! 

Erin
Guest

Mine won’t be 2 under 2, but my firstborn will be about 26 months when his brother is born. As far as my marriage goes it has been just fine so far (I’m 37 wks pregnant now), although we did have to talk about the fact that we were both having a bit of a case of “holy smokes what did we do??” Total honesty: I have had many moments during this pregnancy when I felt like we rushed in too soon. We got pregnant again when we did because we are getting a little bit up there in age… Read more »

Katie
Guest
Katie

Going to echo a lot of others…it’s something you can endlessly obssess over, but in the end, you take a leap of faith, throw out the birth control, and go with it. We started trying when my little guy was 13 months, hoping for at least a two year gap, and counting on some fertility issues. I got pregnant the first month, delivered early due to some pregnancy complications, and I now have two under two (21 months and 1 months). There is a load of 30 diapers in my washer as we speak. And I can tell you that… Read more »

Mona
Guest
Mona

I think the degree to which anyone is ready for a second depends a lot on the individual personality of the first… I love my first son with all my heart- but he was a tough, demanding baby and kind of a crummy sleeper to boot. It took me a couple of years to be ready to tackle another baby. Our second son is now five months old, and they are almost exactly 3 1/2 years apart. My older guy is still a handful, but so much more independent and mature, and that’s been hugely helpful. The new baby, as… Read more »

Heidi
Guest
Heidi

This is very much my experience, too. My husband and I began talking about having our second child when the first was around 10 months old–but we didn’t actually begin to PURSUE that second pregnancy for another two years, ultimately resulting in an age gap of just over 3 1/2 years. If my older son’s temperament had been different, we would have gone for #2 right away. However, he was a horrible nighttime sleeper and almost never napped, was quite dependent and easily freaked out, and did not function well with groups of children or babysitters (it later turned out… Read more »

Jadzia@Toddlerisms
Guest

I think it does depend on the family, especially with respect to the parents’ work and childcare situation.  That said, I have 5 kids and the spacing is all over the map.  BY FAR THE HARDEST gap that I have experienced is between #4 and #5, who are the “magic” 18 months apart.  I never, never again want to be up all night with a newborn while wrangling an 18 month old during the day.  It is unbelievably difficult. Here are the other spacings we’ve done (none of them planned) and what it was like: 6 years between #1 and… Read more »

Lise
Guest
Lise

I really wanted another pregnancy right after my first child was born. I totally understand what you mean about missing being pregnant, and I also wanted a do-over as labor and breastfeeding didn’t go as planned. ‘The urge lessened as my daughter grew out of the tiny baby stage, and I ended up having spacing of 2.5, 3, and 3.5 years. (And the closest-in-age siblings have always fought, and the furthest-in-age siblings are the best of friends. Go figure.) Now I’m glad I had time to really enjoy each of my kids’ babyhoods. Have you talked to your doctor about… Read more »

VG
Guest
VG

Definitely going to give kudos to the ladies who do have babies close in age. That has to be tough. Also – would like to reiterate that closeness in age doesn’t always make siblings like each other. I’m the 3rd out of 4 children. Our ages are 39, 35, 29, 20. I see my oldest sibling are a parental figure not as a sister (and her and I are the only girls so there’s no other sisters to share). My older brother and I used to HATE each other. The hate was so bad, when my sister was getting married… Read more »

Annie
Guest
Annie

Well, I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old (I am a SAHM) and I STILL feel like I’m in survival mode some days! But that has more to do with MY personality as a mom. I’m a fairly boundaried person myself; I adore my kids and think they’re brilliant, but I need daily breaks and occasional weekends away or else I am an ogre. And I’m incredibly fortunate because I get those breaks. We’re stopping at two because I think having three kids would stretch me too thin. So I would say that the decision on… Read more »

Christine
Guest

You don’t say how old your baby is, but I get the feeling things are still in the early days. I thought a lot about my hypothetical “next” pregnancy when I had a newborn (both times) – I think it’s a hormonal thing. I’d say it’s prudent to give yourself a little time for things to settle down in that area, and to see how breastfeeding goes as you start to feed the baby “directly” more often, and to see how he sleeps, and all that. It might make no difference to your eventual decision, but then again… Just to… Read more »

Lisa Y
Guest
Lisa Y

We have–oops–Irish Twins.  The only major con to me is that I don’t remember a lot of our second daughter’s early days.  It’s kind of a blur.  A smaller issue was that my older daughter wasn’t a confident walker until well past a year, so if I had them both on my own, I was carrying both. That said, there are some big pros too.  My older daughter was never jealous and she was still happy to play in her playpen or her exersaucer so that made things easier than if I had one running around while trying to care… Read more »

professormama
Guest
professormama

The following is an excerpt from the World Health Organization’s most recent study on birth spacing, they considered data gathered both for infant and maternal mortality and complications: Recommendation for spacing after a live birthAfter a live birth, the recommended interval before attempting the next pregnancy is at least 24 months in order to reduce the risk of adverse maternal, peri- natal and infant outcomes.  There are lots of factors to consider, and if there is a time constraint due to age or other factors, the risks the WHO considers are probably outweighed.  But to attempt a second/third etc. pregnancy… Read more »

Erin
Guest
Erin

It really is all about your own perception.  We were thrilled to have our first son and we always new we wanted more children, but thought we’d wait 1 1/2 to 2 years before getting preggo again.  Turns out, there were other plans.  My son was 8 months old when we found out we were pregnant again at 8 weeks.  They will be 15 months apart! I was in shock.  I didn’t want to tell anyone and felt completely vulnerable.  But I am 25 weeks now and cannot wait for my next baby to be born! We just celebrated my… Read more »

Aly
Guest
Aly

My husband and I were married for 5 months before we conceived. I won’t say we “planned” it, although we chose not to use birth control and just let nature take it’s course. My daughter was born the following June, and three months later SURPRISE! I was expecting my second child. I freaked out. Having a baby was so hard, I cried so much, and we live far away from all family because of my husband’s work, so I pretty much thought I was just going to have to be locked up in the loony bin. The end. Baby #2,… Read more »