Child Spacing: What’s The Ideal Number of Years to Wait?


It was at the time, my husband and I were talking about not having any more kids when I discovered I was pregnant again. That was close to four years after the first set of twins showed up. And that space was not deliberate, in the sense that I was not on any long term family planning method. We were using the mostly unsafe methods of withdrawal and condoms.

I cannot tell you how many months, I was calculating and circling dates on the calendar, waiting for the witch to show up or even the amount of HPTs I bought, to check and let’s not talk about the morning after pills. What was I afraid of? All the side effects of the long term family planning methods, I had read about.

The first time, I went to the clinic, inquiring about family planning, the nurse in charge of the unit had given me and some other women, who had come for the same purpose, a small pamphlet filled with immediate, short term and long term family planning methods alongside a talk on the benefits of family planning for us as mothers, our family and even husbands.

I was glad; I went there, until I started to read the many side effects of the methods. When I showed the booklet to my husband, he just said, “Let’s wait.” That was how, we were waiting oh, until, we “scored” another confirmed goal.

And that signalled the end of all talks on stopping child bearing.

However, I so wanted to not deal with the anxiety of the years after having the first twins, that I dusted that booklet again and settled on having this hormonal implant that they would insert in my upper arm. I even went to the hospital to tell the nurse in charge of the unit, and we agreed that after childbirth and the post partum period, I would come in on a Tuesday for the procedure.

For where? I did not step into that unit, until my kids were over one year old and I had taken my brother-in-law to see the doctor. I went to say hello. It was a Tuesday and the doctor in charge was available, in fact, he was there just to do different family planning methods. That was the day; I broke the jinx and actually registered, got a card and got on a very long term family planning method that day.

I put it off for so long, because, I hoped that the fact, I was breastfeeding would protect me, even though, I had started seeing my period, from the second month, after childbirth.

It was at that unit, that I met new moms with their babies in hand, coming for three/six month shots. Older moms, who were still menstruating, were not left out, as they did not want to have a last chance baby. I was particularly touched by the story of one older mom, who is from the north. As that that time, over three years now, she looked in her late forties, but she was already mommy to a 24 years old daughter, who was married, after whom she had had seven more children, until, someone took pity on her and told her about these family method could protects her and gives her some breathing space.

Her last child then was a 6 year old boy. She said she preferred the injections to every other method, as it does not give her husband any inkling that she had done anything to prevent pregnancy. Popping pills would have given her away, an IUCD, would have made her husband scream blue murder.  An hormonal insert? She did not fancy being cut, so injections were the way to go. What made me and other women laugh was when she said, whenever her husband,(who by the way has other wives) asks her, why she wasn’t getting pregnant, she always told him, “The pregnancy was not staying ni.” That is the best answer oh. Biko, how can she come and die from having so many children?  In that room that day, all the women there agreed on one thing, family planning was important to our lives.

Child spacing is a personal and private matter between a couple, some prefer to have their kids in quick succession like my Mama and then retire, while others want to do it over a period of time. I know several couples who fall into both categories. And sometimes, child spacing is a luxury that older moms can’t afford. I mean, if you have started having babies in your 30s, you are often conscious of your fertility nose diving, the longer the space between each pregnancy.

Again, I know one sassymumcy (that’s exactly what she calls herself), in her early 40s, with one five year old child and in no hurry to have another. For those, who have dared to ask when her child’s sibling was coming, they don’t have a good mind to tell the story of her comeback. She knows how to serve it ‘hot.’

article-spacing-childrenHealth-wise doctors say, it’s better to recover from one pregnancy and childbirth before embarking on the next for you and your babies. A 2006 review of many studies in this area has shown a significantly higher risk of prematurity and low birth weight in babies conceived within six months, when compared to babies conceived within 18 to 23 months, of a previous birth.

On the psychological levels, according to another research, published in the Journal of Human Resources, older children who are born at least two years before a younger sibling’s debut are smarter, they score higher on math and reading tests than children born closer together.  Conversely, this spacing doesn’t help or harm the younger sibling.

From a social perspective, a smaller gap between babies’ means, you get to do the hardwork of parenting toddlers and babies at the same time, even though, you will mostly be doing damage control drills, as your arms are full with two or three kids under 5 to pay attention to them individually.

On the other hand, wider gaps give you the opportunity to enjoy each child as an individual, even if they are twins, you get to give them your undivided attention for the first few years of their lives and that helps a lot, at least, it did in my own case.

The downside of having children who are very widely spaced is, they may grow up less close to one another. Sometimes, there is even resentment from the older child(ren) who feels his position has been taken by the new kid on the bloc.

In general, it’s expected that a mom should wait at least six months to a year before trying to conceive again in order to give her next baby a healthier start in life. Or longer, if you had twins the first time around.


I will leave you with the story of a young women and fellow mom of twins, whose older twins were barely a year and six months old, when she had the second set of twins, who weren’t planned. This lady nearly disappeared. She was flat out stressed, caring for four kids at the same time, all of whom had jealousy running through their vein, demanding 100 percent of her attention. Of course, that was not possible.

She has pulled through somewhat now. They are all still under five years old, and settling into the fact that they are four kids to one mom. But, it’s not easy oh.

The ball is still in your court though.





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