Timing Advice for Planning a Second Child
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Timing Advice for Planning a Second Child

This article was written as a response to the question:
How old should the first child be before planning a second? Why people should not rush into having a second child.

Many women, after having one child, are eager to have a second. However, this is something that should not be rushed into. Having a second child is not that simple; you now have another person to consider, that being your first child.

You will notice your first child is pretty easy to care for at first, they just need feeding, changing and sleep. You get a lot of attention from friends, family, and sometimes complete strangers. But after a few months things change . . . the baby grows and becomes a toddler. Toddlers are very needy. They must be watched constantly and find getting personal attention is very important.

Remember that children's most formative years are 0-5 and you will see that children 18 months – 3 years are very much in need of attention, training, and love. The events that happen to them in these early years may not be consciously remembered, but may have a long-lasting impact on how they grow and develop. If a child is pushed aside too early because of the arrival of a second sibling, it may have long term effects on how they see themselves, and how they view love.

Imagine a needy 2 year old being told “Not now, the baby needs me.” or “Don't do that, you will wake the baby.”  Suddenly they see themselves as no longer being important, no longer the center of attention. It is not uncommon for first-born children to become resentful of the second children, especially if they are born at a sensitive time in the life of the first child (as when they are an emotionally needy 2yr old).

While every child does have to learn that the world does not revolve around them, at this age it is particularly traumatic because they still have not learned basic independence. They are still going through “the terrible twos”, the time when children try to find out their boundaries. A parent who is too busy with a new baby may take short cuts with their older child, resulting in problems later.

As such, many experts in family planning suggest couples wait until their first child is 2 years old before even planning a second. This would mean that their first child will be almost 3 when the second is born, or even older. At this age the first child is at a better stage of independence and can appreciate what is happening and why the parent needs to tend to the baby.

There are other reasons for waiting, one being emotional preparedness. Few people know what they are getting into after having one child, and think about having a second when things are still going pretty easy with their first. Many couples have been startled to find out that things don't get easier, they get harder; and with a second one, they may be overwhelmed. If parents are struggling to find time to spend with their first child, they surely will not have time to devote to a second. This has to be considered.

Additionally some women get postpartum depression. If they rush too soon to have another they may find themselves totally drained, as it tends to get worse with every child.

It is a myth that women are not fertile while breast feeding, although they are less fertile.  A woman may want to stop breast feeding before planning to conceive.  But while she is breast feeding she should take precautions against getting pregnant, until the decision has been made to plan for an additional child. 

It is not unusual to hear parents complain about how much work children are after the fact. Having one child who is a bit older, and a bit more independent, will make a world of difference, so by spacing them apart, a parent makes things easier on themselves.

The final reason is financial. By waiting, the parents can decide if, financially, they can afford  another child. Many people rush into starting a family without practical planning. If home ownership is a priority, giving the child a sense of permanence and security, a yard to play in, will it continue to be a possibility with the birth (and financial concerns) of an other child? Or is it better to stop at one? Or to wait until the home is a reality before trying for another?

It might not sound very romantic, but having children is a serious lifetime commitment. A good parent has kids not because they want them, but because they can do a good job at being a parent. Family planning is a practical part of being a good parent. Planning your second child has an effect on everyone in the family, including the first born. So, to be fair to that first child, plan on waiting until they are at least 2 years of age, before considering having another.

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