Wondering about the ideal age gap between siblings?
If you’re thinking of having a second (or third or even fourth) child, how far apart your children will be in age is likely to come up as a consideration.
So if you’re trying to figure out the optimal sibling age gap, it isn’t necessarily a simple straightforward answer. There isn’t a one size fits all answer and there are a bunch of factors to consider.
But fear not, we’ve explored all of the important things to take into account as well as the pros and cons of different age gaps to help you figure out what is best for your family. Be sure to pin this now for easy access later!
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In This Guide:
What Is the Average Age Gap between Siblings?
According to a look at interpregnancy intervals by the CDC, the average age gap between children in the United States is 24-29 months.
Now that’s a simple average across the board. There are lots of important factors to consider.
For example, shorter gaps of less than 18 months tend to be more of a trend with older mothers (over 35) and younger moms (under 20 years old). There are also trends across various levels of education and other socioeconomic favors.
Large age gaps (greater than 10 years) is by far the least common gap present less than 5% of the time.
These averages indicate that while there is indeed an ideal age gap between siblings, it depends on various factors unique to each family unit.
Age Gap Considerations
As mentioned earlier, there isn’t a one size fits all answer for the ideal age gap between siblings.
Here are the considerations you need to take into account before figuring out what will work best for your family:
Your own physical and mental health needs to be considered when timing your sibling age gap.
Generally, doctors advise waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies to give your body time to fully heal. The risks are highest for pregnancies less than 6 months apart.
Also, if you had a c-section, there are additional risks for another pregnancy within 18 months.
Can you afford the cost of two in child care at the same time? Or for that matter two in college?
Spreading out the age gap between children can help spread out these costs over a longer time.
On the flip side, shorter age gaps mean you get some of these costs over with sooner instead.
Many parents take their careers into account when trying to space out pregnancies. Taking time away from work can have lasting impacts on your career.
This is a very personal issue based on individual circumstances and multiple factors like the length of maternity leave and office flexibility. Some parents may find longer gaps better so they can focus on work in between, others may want to find a short gap best so they can be home one stretch before returning to the workforce.
Also, if you’re switching jobs, it’s really important to time your pregnancy to ensure you’ve been employed long enough to qualify for any benefits.
Big Life Changes
If you have major things going on in your life, it can be helpful to plan your age gap around them. For instance, things like moving or job changes are big stressors and adding a new baby into the equation can really be overwhelming (I know this from experience). Ideally, one big change at a time is enough, but this could mean pushing your desired age gap either sooner or later.
Still deciding if you even want a second child? Here are all the considerations you should take into account.
Pros/Cons of 1 Year Age Gap between Siblings
Irish twins anyone? Here are considerations to ponder if you’re thinking about the shortest of age gaps.
- You never get out of the “baby zone”. Lack of sleep, changing diapers, and pureeing food is a constant. All this continued experience will make parents super efficient! Plus you don’t have to worry about packing up and storing that baby swing – by the time one is growing out of it they next will be ready.
- Children can more easily share toys since they are in similar developmental stages.
- Older siblings are often barely affected by the change in routine with the added sibling. If they do notice, they’ll quickly adapt and adjust.
- The closer in age, the more likely they can play as friends or classmates do.
- We’ll say it again, you never get out of the “baby zone”. Which is good for efficiency… but since you never get a break it’s simply exhausting. Many parents who have babies this close together admit that the first year or so of the second child’s life is a blur because of stress and sleep deprivation.
- Having two (or more!) children so close to eachother is hard on the body since your iron and calcium levels may still be reduced. Additionally, two pregnancies close together can increase the changes of preterm delivery and/or low birth weight. Postpartum depression is also more common when babies are born in close succession. All of these reasons and more is why the WHO and other experts recommend waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies.
- It’s easy to feel guilty since parent’s time and attention is divided between multiple children during the critical first years of life when bonding is supposed to occur.
- Rather than passing down baby items to subsequent children, you’ll likely have to buy a second. You’ll need an additional crib, high chair, and car seat. Not to mention a double stroller.
Pros/Cons of 2 Year Age Gap between Siblings
What if you wait an extra 12 months, is a 2 year gap okay?
There’s a good case for 2 years (24 months) being the ideal age gap between siblings since it’s medically easier on the parent and yet kids are developmentally close enough in age to share interests.
- Waiting a full 2 years is easier on the body since vitamin levels have largely replenished and tissue has fully healed. This also reduces the risk of pregnancy complications. There’s a reason the WHO and other experts recommend waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies.
- You can make good use of hand-me-down clothes, baby items, and toys from one child to another. In many cases you don’t even have to worry about storing them since the next will reach that developmental stage in no time at all.
- Parents have a small rest between baby stages and yet not enough time has transpired that they’ll forget how to care for a newborn.
- Siblings are still close enough in age to grow up as friends.
- Sibling rivalry and jealousy is heightened with this age gap. Toddlers aren’t exactly known for being flexible to change and sharing. But fear not, it’s still possible to survive having a toddler and a newborn.
- Behavioral issues and regressions are commonly seen in toddlers when younger siblings are introduced. Parents should expect they’ll try to start using pacifiers again, drinking out of bottles, waking up more often at night, etc.
- While maybe not as tiring as having two children under the age of 2, it’s still exhausting. Caring for a toddler is a full time job in and of itself. Adding a newborn into the mix brings it to a whole different level.
Pro/Cons of 3 Year Age Gap Between Siblings
A three-year age gap can have lots of advantages! But also some disadvantages.
Let’s dive in.
- Your 3-year-old is a little more independent. They can do some things for themself (which they probably insist on anyway) like put on their own clothes and shoes, climb into their car seat, and feed themself. They also often speak pretty well making communication easier and may even be in preschool. Since they’re a bit older, you get the benefit of one baby at a time.
- Your older child is often potty trained or at least in the process and hopefully soon will be. Having only one child in diapers helps your budget and it’s also just really nice to not constantly be changing diapers.
- The older child is also old enough to at least sort of understand. They can get excited about the new baby during your pregnancy and becoming a big brother or sister. They may be happy to help out and hold their new sibling too.
- Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for olders siblings have regressions. So if they were sleeping great or totally potty trained before, well they may stop doing that. Or they may want to act like a baby and be carried and held again. These behavior changes can be tough on parents and super frustrating, especially when caring for a newborn. The saving grace is that these regressions typically pass with time.
- Three-year-olds are not exactly known for their maturity so there can be problems with jealousy and aggression.
- It will be a while before they can play together. The developmental differences between them are most apparent for the first couple years, but do eventually start to even out.
Pros/Cons of 4 (or more) Year Age Gap Between Siblings
While less common, larger seperations are still in the running for being the ideal age gap between siblings.
- Your older child is more self-sufficient. Since they are capable of doing a lot for themselves, might be involved in school and other activities, and don’t require the same level of attention as younger kids, you are able to focus more on your newborn.
- Older kids can actually help with their new sibling and by this point they can truly be helpful. They may even like getting to help out!
- You get more individual time with each child. You will have had several years of individual time with your oldest where they got all of your attention. When your second baby comes and your oldest is so independent and often at school, you get lots of one on one time with them as well.
- Larger age gaps mean the siblings will likely have less in common since they’re at different developmental places. They often have different interests in things like activities, toys, and events. This can make it challenging for them to play together and also makes it more difficult when planning family outings or vacations to find things that everyone can enjoy.
- It can be tough getting back into baby mode. Returning to nap and feeding schedules and sleepless nights is always hard, and can be challenging to go back to while your older child maintains a different schedule. You also have to relearn some of the baby knowledge that you inevitably forget when you stop needing it. And with a long gap, you might be starting from scratch on baby items. Even if you saved everything from your oldest, products and recommendations change fast and you might find things need replacing (like expired car seats or recalled items) or simply that better alternatives exist.
- Longer age gaps obviously mean you are aging too and that could mean higher risks during pregnancy. Also, though the reason isn’t yet fully understood, research has shown increased risks like preterm birth when the time between pregnancies is over 5 years.
So What Is the Ideal Gap between Siblings?
Is there a perfect age gap? Sure, but it’s specific to each individual family.
For many, the ideal age gap between siblings is around 2 to 2 1/2 years. But as we’ve shown you, there are pros and cons to every age separation!
What is the spacing between your children? Let us know in the comments below!