The pros (and cons!) of small and large age gaps between siblings

Small age gaps

Gaps of a year or two have lots of upsides and downsides because of how close in age your children will be. For you, your body and your partner, this will also have a big impact, so it’s important to weigh up these different factors against one another.

On the plus side, you’ll get a fairly clean run at your pregnancies. If you go from one child to the next to the next etc, you’ll get all your early years and pregnancies out of the way in one go and finish up faster. Instead of taking years to get past the late night feeds, potty training and terrible twos, it will be a block of very intense years and then you’re past it!

Man and Woman Carrying Babies While Sitting on Chair

Siblings closer in age may also be closer in general. They’ll usually go through the same phases and have the same interests – give or take a couple of months. That means fewer fights about what to watch on the TV, or what game to play. Mentally and socially they’ll also be in roughly the same stages of life and can understand and support one another as they grow throughout school and their social spheres.

When you get maternity leave for your next child after your first, you’ll also get to spend more time with your eldest, allowing you more time to bond and care for them as they’re moving into their toddler years.

However, this small age gap also means you’re going to be fairly exhausted for that block of time when you have two or three under the age of four or five. It’s a busy time with one child, let alone multiple! You’re going to be tired with growing and then feeding a baby, while also trying to run around after a toddler who is finding their feet. You body may not get the time it needs to recover between kids.

A Photo Of Siblings Eating Grapes

If there’s a very close age gap, you may need to double up on certain items, like cots or buggies. Though nowadays, there’s often options to turn pushchairs into doubles – and if you know you’re planning on having two kids close together, that’s something you can factor into your pushchair buying decision.

Also, if the two are too close in age, the toddler may become jealous of baby and resent them growing up. Baby needs a lot of attention at this point, but so does a toddler – and they know how to get it. This could mean a lot of acting out from your toddler that makes caring for baby that bit harder.

Medium age gaps

With three to fours years between kids the dynamic changes – and how you approach your parenting with them changes. Most families feature a gap of this sort so it’s one of the most common ones.

Cute little siblings playing together in garden near lush plants

This gap is good for mums as it means your body has time to recover between births. These gaps also mean you get time to recover from the often intense and sleep-deprived early years. You’ll have a chance to catch your breath and your little one should be excited about baby’s arrival, rather than jealous like a toddler would be.

Another pro is that you’ll be able to reuse all of your first’s equipment, meaning you have 90% of your gear ready to go. You may need to buy some fresh linens and some new toys and another car seat, but a lot of your nursery basics will still be in relatively good condition. You’ll also have the current safety standards and baby practices learned with your first, so you likely only need a few revisions to get up to date with current baby knowledge.

While your first may be happy to have a baby on the way rather than jealous, they’re also at quite a different stage to your baby now and will be for quite some time. They won’t have that in common and therefore may not be able to play together or be satisfied by the same things as easily.

Kids on Bed with Black Cat

You’ll also take longer to get through certain phases – for example, if there’s four years between your kids, one will be off to college and the other will still have four years in secondary school to complete before they’re done – that means ten years of secondary school uniforms! These kinds of things aren’t that important, but it’s something that’s worth thinking about if the thought of getting the potty-training sleep-training phase out of the way quickly is appealing.

Big age gaps

If there is a gap of four years or more, you’ll see the parenting process change quite a bit.

Your eldest is likely at school age by now, so you and your new-born get lots of time during the day to yourself for your routine.  Your body – and sleep schedule – has had plenty of time for recovery so you’ll feel far less pulled in every direction. Older kids will still need lots of attention of course, but that’s easier to manage if you’re not dealing with high energy toddlers too.

Photo Of Man Carrying Newborn Baby

You eldest child will also be able to help out a little too and will generally be glad to be useful, which is always a pro. They may be too young to do anything major, but they can wash themselves, sort out their school bags, do a little cleaning and little tasks without needing too much supervision. Plus, they generally have a good dynamic with the younger child as they get older, morphing into a more caring role as eldest.

But with large gaps between being pregnant and giving birth, the guidelines and knowledge around babies, birth and childcare will change. What was common practice six years ago may not be so now, meaning you’ll need to do quite a bit of brushing up. Some of your equipment – particularly the likes of car seats – may be out of date in their safety features by now, so always be sure to check up on those sort of things.

Photo of Two Kids Hugging Each Other While Sitting on Gray Sofa

The large age gap between your two children may mean they’re not as close, particularly if there’s no child in between to bridge the age gap. They’ll be at very different stages and therefore into very different things, meaning the age gap won’t even out til they’re quite a bit older.

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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