Girls aged 3 are more likely to cope emotionally with a new sibling.

Girls aged 3 are more likely to cope emotionally with a new sibling.

SO, WHAT is the ideal age gap between children? This was a question that came about last week when a reader emailed to admit she was a little low after struggling to conceive her second child. She was desperate for her children to be close in age, but that was starting to look less likely.

She is now being bombarded with comments from friends and family about how kids need to be close together. Not exactly what you need to hear, right?

I could relate. I chased The Bloke In The Shed around the bedroom for eight months. It’s the only time he’s faked a headache. However, our two girls ended up a month shy of being three years apart. For us, it turned out to be a blessing.

Here’s why:

  • After giving birth to Baby Holly, my child health nurse informed me girls aged three are able to cope better emotionally with the change of a new person in the house. There are also less issues with jealousy and behavioural problems. For boys, it is even later – 3.3 years.
  • Princess Ella is able to get nappies and wipes, take herself to the toilet and dress herself.
  • Sleep deprivation is only caused by one child – not two.
  • Ella is capable of entertaining herself while Baby Holly is being fed or put to bed.
  • All children want to be affectionate with their baby sibling, but at a younger age struggle with the concept of being gentle. Mind you, there has been the odd time I’ve caught Ella sitting on Holly. She is not a horse, Ella.

Of course, Ella still has her moments. She’s just a child after all. However, we’ve found life much easier than for some parents (not all) who have children closer together. But that’s just us.

My lovely reader is quite keen to hear other parent’s thoughts on the issue. What do you think the ideal age gap is? What’s been your experience?

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45 Responses to What’s the ideal age gap between children?

  1. olivia says:

    it really does depend on the parent/s and the child/ren. we have a 2 year gap (24 months and 22 days to be exact), and it worked for us, but our son was a very easy going child, and just accepted his little sister was here. no real jealousy issues, he just ‘loved’ her from the start.
    Now we have an almost 5 y/o and an almost 3 y/o, and we are only now entertaining the idea of having #3. Our daughter is a clingy little girl, hates change, and mummy is ‘hers’ (she doesn’t accept mummy can cuddle her brother, or her daddy). the idea of having another 2 year gap scared the living daylights out of us.
    i’m of the opinion if it works for you then go for it. i could never have had a 12 month-ish gap, i would have gone insane, whilst some people don’t know how i coped with the 2 year gap.

    • Kel says:

      So true, Olivia. It really does come down to the parents and the children. Personalities play a big part in it. We were quite fortunate Ella was a pretty easy going child.
      All the best with #3 too. xx

  2. Kirsty says:

    My first 2 are only 18 months apart while the gap between my two girls is 4 and a half years. In a way both are ideal. We didn’t mean for the first two to be so close together but in a way it was good as I didn’t have to get back into the groove again like I had to with number 3. Having said that, there was a reason we didn’t go back for number 3 for so long – I think 3 under 3 would have been way too much for me! But now, my older kids can do things for themselves and I was able to spend my mat leave with just my baby girl while the others were at school/pre-school. I don’t think the are any hard and fast rules, just go with it and if you’re lucky enough to have more children, cherish them, whatever the age gap might be!

    • Kel says:

      Oh Kirsty, it’s such a blessing to even have these little people in our life, isn’t it? You’re right, there really are no hard and fast rules. I love that you were able to get some quality one-on-one time with your baby girl. That’s really lovely. What a blessing that age gap was for you. xx

  3. DanniiBeauty says:

    I have six years between my kids and that was intentional. We wanted to wait till our oldest was five so we could spend one on one time with him. It turned out well – we love the gap. They are now 8 and 2yo and get along very well. I think it is a individual thing, whatever works for each family.

    • Kel says:

      You’re right about it coming down to what works for each family, Dannii. I love hearing about families with larger gaps and being able to have that precious one-on-one time with the youngest. And great to hear that they get along so well too. xx

  4. My oldest son is almost 16 and my twi boys are 2 and a half- 14 years is an AWESOME age gap! Maybe not ideal for everyone, and totally unintentional, but thanks to being a very young mum, then a second marriage, then being an older mum- it has worked out fabulously!

    • Kel says:

      What a wonderful dynamic that would make, Gillian. There would be so many benefits to both ends of the spectrum – the older one learning about caring for younger siblings and the twins having someone to look up to. It would be interesting to hear how you coped with motherhood the second time around compared to the first. I know with simply having a three-year gap, I’m more relaxed the second time around. However, I think that comes down to knowing what I’m doing this time. LOL! 😉

  5. I have a three year gap (after losing a baby at the two year mark), then six years and then two years, and I’d have to agree with my early-education expert aunty that three years is the best. The point though, is that you can’t get hung up on it because it’s simply something we can’t control. When my second baby was stillborn I came to understand that, so sure, have a general idea of what you want, but then you have to hand it over to the universe to give you what you need.

    • Kel says:

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Anna. We can’t control it, as much as we’d like to think we can. Some do get lucky and fall pregnant exactly when they wish, but for a large majority of us it’s a longer road for various reasons. xx

  6. Nicole from myidealife says:

    My boys are 16 mths a part and although everyone says you do reap a lot of benefits of them being close together once they over 2, the first year has nearly killed me. Guilt because my eldest was very affected by the new arrival, illness central as eldest still hasn’t got full immunity so I often have two sick children and the grand daddy of them all sleep deprivation. Am exhausted. I reckon 2-3yrs difference wd be the best balance of all pros and cons. Good luck. Nicole x

    • Kel says:

      Thanks for sharing that, Nicole. It’s really interesting to hear the challenges you’ve faced. It’s so true that there are pros and cons to each situation. No scenario is truly perfect. However, I concur – a bit of sleep would be nice! xx

  7. Emma says:

    With 3 little ones just under 4, I feel it’s more a question of how well parents adapt to change in life. The challenges don’t stop coming, the kids may be placid but the bills piled high or the bank account & babysitters are overflowing but you simply aren’t coping. I am surrounded by variety of parents in all sorts of situations & as I continue on my parenting journey it brings me continuos peace to remember why my husband & I embarked on bringing these Angels to our world, the age gap in the big picture is irrelevant. To the lovely lady feeling discouraged by well meaning family n friends , you just get ur bub here safely & healthy, the gap will be what it is and you will adapt ur lifestyle & routines to suit, cos that what us mums do- we do what ever it takes:) xxx

    • Kel says:

      You’re so right, Em. It really does come down to the parents. You are a shining example of that.
      Interestingly, as parents we continually face situations and wonder how we will cope, but we always do. I think we’re capable of a lot more than we give ourselves credit for. And in the end, we are just so blessed to even have these little people in our lives.
      Hope bubba, big sis and your little man are well. xx

    • rachel says:

      what a beautifully written answer emma! that is the best advice this mum needs to hear in my mind.

  8. Lene says:

    My four children are all three years apart, and it was completely intentional, bascially for the same reasons you have listed above. I found that three years just worked for us. Only having to change 1 set of nappies, only having one disturb us through the night etc, etc. Although I do know parents that have children close together and have simply adjusted.Personally I think it is up to the indiviual situation of each family. Best of luck to your friend with her descision.

    • Kel says:

      Thanks for sharing that, Lene. That’s really interesting that you had all your children three years apart. I can relate to only wanting to change one set of nappies. Not sure I’d be keen on dealing with two nappy-covered wriggling bottoms! LOL!
      As you say, if you have a choice it really does come down to the individual situation in the end.

  9. Angela says:

    I think gaps work no matter what. They just have to. We wanted our kids close together but the universe had other ideas so we have a 3 1/2-year gap between the first two and a 2 1/2-year gap between number two and number three. Our first daugher was a bit exceptional so she would have coped with whatever was thrown at her. We thought the gap was too big but we’ve actually never regretted it. Then the universe got in the way again with number three but, again, we’ve never looked back. It made number two realise the world didn’t just revolve around her and the six-year gap between child 1 and 3 is awesome. It’s handy having a little mum around! All in all, we’ve never had any jealousy issues and they are perfect together.

    • Kel says:

      That’s so great to hear, Ange. My family set up was very similar to what you have now, with my sister three years younger and brother six years younger. I think I was probably a “little mum” to my brother as well. Truth be told, I probably still am. 😉
      You’re right about gaps working regardless. It doesn’t matter what’s thrown at us in life, we just seem to adapt. xx

  10. amie says:

    My two girls are also a month off being three years apart, intentionaly.

    We have found that it has been perfect, to be honest I was prepared for tantrums, a backwards step in toilet training, the works. But I think if anything our eldest has grown and matured into a resonpsible 3 1/2 year old (in all the ways kellie listed)!!

    The girls play so well together, the elder seems to know what the younger child wants before I have figured it out! She is also a wonderful distraction if you just want to finish off a little job, wonderful at reading to the little one or helping her explore new things!

    Of course there are challenging moments when everyone wants something, but I think that happens to all of us at some stage!! All in all we are having lots of fun!

    • Kel says:

      It’s uncanny the connection they have, isn’t it? The girls were having a giggling fit tonight and I have no idea what was so funny! Still trying to figure it out…
      It’s true that, no matter what the age gap, there will be pros and cons. As is with everything in life. Each balances the other though.
      Thanks for sharing that, Amie.

  11. rachel says:

    this is kind of strange and airy, but i feel like kids come into our lives when they are meant to which is probably why it takes some people so long to conceive and others not so long at all… the little soul is waiting until it is ready to happen.
    my two are about the same age difference as the little princesses! Smiling Tiger was born about five weeks before Little Emperor turned three. For us this gap has been wonderful for most of the reasons you outlined also. Oldest one was somewhat independant at that time, toilet trained and well and truly old enough to move out of the cot. My two boys are very close to each other and are usually giggling and playing fairly nicely so i don’t think the gap is too big either.
    On a personal note I don’t think I could have even contemplated having them any closer together. For me it took until the Lil Emp turned two to even consider having another – so I guess the gap doesn’t matter as much as your feeling of being ready to care for another. It all depends on the individual and what is right for you 🙂
    now to decide how long before another, hey Kel? Just joking I know you mentioned two was your magic number – and what a gorgeous two you have x

    • Kel says:

      Not strange and airy at all, Rachel. I think that’s quite true. I think I was better prepared for Princess Ella after the extra eight months trying to conceive. And again with Baby Holly – the wait meant a few things we were waiting to have sorted happened just as we found out she was on her way! The universe works in mysterious ways.
      And no, definitely no more babies here!! LOL!! Although, I think there’s a blog post for next week in that topic, considering the interest in this one. 😉

  12. Amanda says:

    Agree with what Rachel said! Especially about them coming in to our lives at the right time (my small boy took a few years to conceive but is now the perfect child at the perfect time). I’m also pleased to read that you heard 3.3 years is a good gap from a first boy to a next child, it means I have plenty of time (small boy is only 16 months). Phew!

    • Kel says:

      That’s so lovely to hear, Amanda. The wait, despite being frustrating, is always worth it.
      And best of luck with baby No. 2. I’m sure he/she will come into your life at just the right time for your family. xx

  13. Kate Mason says:

    5 in 5 years after 8 years of fertility treatment. I don’t care how it rolls, I feel super lucky. Gaps schmaps. One child is a blessing really, the other stuff just doesn’t rate on my ‘worry-about’ list.

    • Kel says:

      Well said, Kate. As I’ve said previously here, we really are blessed to bring these little people into the world. For you to have the chance to give life to five of them is just wonderful. xx

  14. Sidetracked says:

    Our original plan had been to have about a 3 year age gap between children, but to cut a long story short, we realised that given our life circumstances at the time, it was going to be better to have about a 2 year age gap. I was fortunate that I conceived straight away and Wombat is 22 months younger than Seagull. We told Seagull that there was a baby inside of Mummy quite early and he used to love lifting my top to rub my bellly. He was a bit confused about my hospital stay and the extra person involved, but he was quite accepting of Wombat when we brought him home. He rubbed my belly while I was feeding Wombat one day and said “bubby”, so I told him that bubby wasn’t in there anymore and that Wombat is the bubby. Again, he was quite accepting and he tends to call Wombat “Bubby” moreso than by his actual name. They get on really well with each other and are quite often laughing away with each other about something.

    What I found really hard was being pregnant right through the stage where Seagull was discovering his indepedence. Trying to put an 18 month old in their car seat when they are determined not to sit in it is not an easy task when you have no abdominal strength to speak of. Trying to stop your toddler from running out onto the road so that they don’t become a road pizza when you can’t move any faster than a slow waddle is also no fun. Having said that, I think there are good things and bad things about the timing between children, no matter what the gap. If people are giving you a hard time because of what they think the age gap between your children should be, tell them to mind their own business and shove off.

    • Kel says:

      How beautiful is that. It’s lovely that they get on so well together.
      The pregnancy was also tough my end, mainly due to severe morning sickness. But it was probably made easier by the fact Ella was able to occupy herself while I was bed ridden for four months. I’m not quite sure how I would have coped if she was any younger. But I would have survived – we always do!
      Love your final words too!! 😉

  15. Two years between our three boys and when the next is born in October it’ll be another two year five month gap. It’s cool. We like it. We know what’s involved so no surprises (that’s assuming no serious illnesses etc fingers crossed) I’m always sleep deprived but I cope well.

    • Kel says:

      Somehow, I think our bodies just get used to the sleep deprivation. Funnily, on the nights I get a decent sleep now, I struggle the entire next day. I’m better off with no sleep!!
      It’s nice to hear the two-year gap has worked for you and Reservoir Mum. I think we learn to adapt to whatever situation life throws at us. Plus, as I’ve said, there are pros and cons to everything.
      By the way, October babies are the best! 😉

  16. I have 3 kids, there is a 2 year 9 months between my oldest son and daughter and 3 years 8 months between my daughter and youngest son and i think its a great gap. 🙂

    • Kel says:

      That’s fantastic to hear, Jane. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m loving reading everyone’s experiences and how different age gaps have worked for different families. xx

  17. DankeSchon says:

    Me and my sister have a year gap, and what can I say, this is not a problem, but looking for the ideal gap, I think 2 to 4 years is great. The most important is to love your children, not the gap between them, and to have a stable family. More than that, I cannot add.

    • Kel says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s nice to hear what others think. I agree, loving our children is definitely the most important thing. 🙂

  18. katepickle says:

    My kids are all three years apart (well except for the first two who are 30 seconds apart! LOL) which wasn’t planned… just the way it happened due to miscarriage and life getting in the way. It’s also turned out to be awesome for us… though had my boys been a little closer together we might have been able to go for number 5…which may or maynot be a good thing

    • Kel says:

      LOL!! I can’t even imagine how you cope with four, Kate. Mind you, they say it gets easier the more you have. I’m sure by five it’s a breeze!!! 😉
      Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

  19. Elisha says:

    How did i miss this post ! I think i was sitting by the letter box waiting for my copy of “wonder weeks” anyho… My eldest 2 are 18 months apart, and then i have a 10 year age cap between my eldest and the twins, the twins and Emily are 18 months apart, and i have a ten year age gap between bella and Emily – sooooo confused yet
    ?? Basically My big kids are 18 months apart, My little kids are 18 months apart and then i have the whopper big break between big and little ! Each has pros and cons but im gonna say this – If its a 10 year age gap, you have built in baby sitters who can feed, change stinky poo nappies, feed and even cook for the little ones ! Yeee Haaaa !

    • Kel says:

      LOL!! Love that, Elisha.
      Even at age three, Ella is really helpful. But I can imagine a 10-year gap would be a major bonus on the help side of things.
      PS. Hope the Wonder Weeks books is helping. Think we’re starting to go through another leap now!

  20. I think any age gap has its advantages and disadvantages. My first two are 2 1/2 years difference and while they get along they also fight alot. I wasn’t planning a third but changed my mind so there is a 5 and 7 year gap between him and the older two and they just love him to bits and can help me with him.

    • Kel says:

      It would be interesting to do a pros and cons list for each age gap. It would be really interesting to read. As per the comments section here, each end of the spectrum offers such vast differences. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Nicole. xx

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