Mind the (age) gap

Mind the (age) gap

In an ideal world, I would have had my second baby by the time I turned 30.

My first-born - whom I had at the age of 26 - would be around three years older than her younger sibling. But that was not meant to be.

I waited, and now my girls are more than six years apart.

The older one is now eight and in Primary 2, while her 18-month-old mei mei (little sister) has not even started potty-training.

Should you wait, like I did, or have another one as soon as possible?

Most experts suggest spacing kids three years apart.

Any pregnancy will pose a strain and stress on the mother, said Dr Chua Yang, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at A Clinic For Women at Mount Alvernia Hospital.

Then, there are the demands of caring for a newborn, making you tired and less fit.

That is why Dr Chua recommends that you wait at least two years before trying for another child.

This gives you time to recuperate from the pregnancy and delivery, and prime your health and fitness for the next baby.

She said this is especially important for mums who had a complicated pregnancy or delivery - for instance, a caesarean birth.

Back-to-back pregnancies may also compromise a baby's health.

An analysis of studies published in the International Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynaecology last year found that short intervals between pregnancies - of less than 18 months - increase the risk of pre-term birth.

There might even be a link between autism and close birth spacing, a new study found.

Published in the Journal Of The American Academy Of Child And Adolescent Psychiatry last year, it suggested that children conceived too close together - under a year - had a 50 per cent higher risk of autism, compared with those conceived two to five years after the birth of a sibling.

A wider age gap between kids might also increase their chances of becoming high achievers, according to a study from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex last year.

A longer stretch between children allows parents to devote more time to the first kid, said Dr Chong Shang Chee, the head of Child Development Unit at National University Hospital (NUH).

The younger child may even get a boost in her language and emotional development from interacting with a sibling who is at least three to four years older, she added.

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