"One and done" isn't a phrase that enters into most parents' minds these days. Only about one-quarter of families have only one child, so usually as soon as the first baby is born, parents start thinking about when they should have the next one.
For grandparents, the babies can't arrive fast enough, but some dads prefer to slow things down. There are lots of opinions from people about the perfect spacing of kids. Some say that kids who are less than two years apart are great friends while if they are three years or more apart, they fight all the time. There is some research into that, but all of the studies tend to say something different. So most family planning just comes down to personal preference.
However, there are a number of factors that parents should think about before considering back-to-back pregnancies. Doctors believe that moms should try to space pregnancies at least a year apart — and we'll go into some of the reasons below — but there are a number of reasons why parents might be in a hurry to have another baby. There are pros and cons to having babies right after each other, and we've got a guide.
Here are seven reasons it's harder to have back-to-back pregnancies and eight reasons to do it anyway.
15 Autism and Other Risks
Researchers aren't sure of all the things that can cause problems when babies are born within 12 months of each other, but the facts don't lie. There is an increased risk of a number of disorders when a mom has back-to-back pregnancies, including congenital disorders and schizophrenia.
Most recently, research has shown that there is an increase in autism rates is second-born children who are born less than two years after another birth — the risk is even higher when they are less than 12 months apart. While the reasons aren't clear, doctors speculate that a mother may have a depleted amount of certain nutrients, such as folic acid and iron, and that could mean that her second baby gets less than he or she needs. There also could be some inflammation in the body that is passed on to the baby. It's a big concern, even though doctors don't have all the answers yet.
14 Baby's Birth Weight
An average baby is 7 pounds, and in general, babies tend to be bigger after each subsequent pregnancy. But that's not true if the pregnancies are back to back. In fact, if the second child was conceived six months after the first baby's birth, the second child has a 61 percent increased risk of low birth weight, compared to babies conceived a year and a half later.
Low birth weight babies could be at risk of having breathing problems at birth and more long term issues like asthma. They could have bleeding on the brain at birth or issues with their blood vessels and intestines, as well as problems that impact eyesight. While all babies have a little bit of jaundice after birth, a low birth weight baby is susceptible to getting really sick and possibly suffering brain damage. Low birth weight babies are fragile, for sure, and it can be quite a shock if a mom has another big healthy baby at home.
13 Takes A Toll On Mom
Sometimes it takes moms an entire year to lose their baby weight after birth. But if she is pregnant again within just a few months, that could mean that her body is taking a double wallop in a very short period of time. Most moms end up gaining more with a second pregnancy anyway, but starting 2o or so pounds higher than the first time can really make it difficult later on.
In back-to-back pregnancies, women's bodies also haven't had time to gain back the muscle definition in their abdomen, and their organs are still trying to get back to normal as well. Moms end up with more back pain and other problems when they get pregnant again in short order. The postpartum issues are exacerbated the second time around, especially if they never really had a chance to recover the first time.
12 Preterm Labor
A mom may think that her babies are going to be 12 months apart, if the second baby's due date is just about the same as the first one's birthday. But they could end up being even closer, 11 months or even 10 months. That's because there is a greater possibility of having the second baby premature when the second pregnancy is within a year.
Research shows that the increased risk of preterm labor goes up by 40 percent. That makes sense since the mom's body is overtaxed and the baby could have other complications. But it could mean that a mom with a baby just starting to walk is put on bed rest. Or if the baby comes early, there could be some complications. Some babies face very serious problems when they are born early, although most are OK after a few days in the neonatal intensive care unit. That's a tough start for Irish twins and for a new mom of two.
11 Breastfeeding Complications
The benefits of breastfeeding are so amazing that a greater percentage of moms have goals of breastfeeding for the baby's first year of life or beyond these days. But having back-to-back pregnancies make it very difficult to reach those goals for the first baby and for the second.
It's fine to continue breastfeeding while you are pregnant — at least at the beginning. But nipple stimulation is actually a trigger for labor to begin, so nursing moms in the third trimester are the most at risk of having a premature baby. If they are put on bed rest or go to the hospital, they won't be able to continue nursing. And when their milk switches to colostrum, their first little one won't have the same benefits that he needs at his age. Milk supply can also be a big problem when pregnancy hormones are mixed in, so it's possible the mom may not even get to the third trimester. And keeping up enough supply for tandem breastfeeding after the birth can be hard as well. It's definitely more complicated to breastfeed with back-to-back pregnancies.
10 Extra Exhaustion
The first few months of pregnancy are the most exhausting time of a woman's life. Even if she takes a nap every day and goes to bed early each night, her body experiences extreme tiredness because of how much energy her body uses to form her baby's sweet fingers and toes, organs and everything else. The second trimester isn't quite as bad, but the third trimester, when the baby is growing so quickly and her body is so big, the exhaustion can be terrible. Then the baby is born, and sleep is hard to come by for months.
Combining the pregnancy exhaustion with the sleep deprivation of new motherhood means that back-to-back pregnancies bring women past the brink of tired. Their bodies are working overtime, and with a newborn, catching a nap can be that much more difficult. It's definitely a downside to having babies so close in age.
9 Missing Milestones
Having babies back to back can definitely have its benefits, and we'll get to that in a moment. But it is also rushing through the early stages of parenthood, and when you rush, you might miss some of the best moments. An exhausted pregnant mom may not cherish the things that her infant is going through as much as she would if her body wasn't going through so much.
It's hard to celebrate the baby's first tooth when you haven't slept well because of teething and you are racing every few hours to the toilet with morning sickness. And a mom may miss her baby's first steps while she is on bed rest trying to avoid preterm labor. With her second baby, she may be so busy with two babies that she doesn't remember the first smile. It's all a blur when the pregnancies are back-to-back, and mom may feel like she's missing all the important moments.
8 Best Friends
There are a lot of theories on the perfect age difference between kids, and the truth is that on the days when nobody can get along, it's hard to imagine that there is ever a good answer to that question. But whereas a preschooler is likely to get jealous of a new sibling, that doesn't happen when he is still in diapers himself. The first baby won't remember a life without a sibling, and their ages won't be the only way that they feel close.
Babies known as Irish twins — they come back-to-back — often end up at a pretty similar stage in life, so they tend to play well side-by-side when they are young. The "mine" stage is definitely rough, but that happens whether it is one child or two. And when they learn to share, close siblings will be best friends. That is all that a mom hopes for her little ones, so it's definitely a reason to go ahead and have another baby soon.
7 Fertility Focus
For some women, it's not a matter of planning a baby right away; it can happen without any forethought at all. That's because some women experience a surge in fertility after giving birth. It can be hard to avoid having back-to-back pregnancies since it can be hard to predict when a woman is ovulating.
For some women, breastfeeding can stop them from ovulating for months or even a year. But some women continue their cycles at any point after the birth. Birth control can cause blood clots if they are started in the first month or two after birth, and after that, it could interfere with milk production, so many women choose to delay getting back on the pill. Fertility can definitely play a huge role in having a back-to-back pregnancy, and it can even happen to women who suffered infertility before conceiving the first time. It's definitely one reason to go ahead and give it a go if you want to have the babies close in age.
6 Diaper Duty Ends Early
There are many joys to having a newborn, but it can also be a very dirty job. There are lots of diapers to change, and that job lasts for a few years per child. If you have three kids three years apart, you could be stuck in diaper duty for an entire decade. Just as soon as one child gets potty trained, there is another baby on the way. But if you have three kids just one year apart, you can cut that time in half.
At the beginning of a baby's life, mom and dad could have to change diapers every hour or two. Eventually, that will go down to about five to seven diaper changes a day, but those always tend to happen at the most inconvenient time, and they are never exactly pleasant. Having stairstep kids may mean that you are changing a lot of diapers in a given time period, but knowing that you won't have to change any more diapers soon can definitely make back-to-back pregnancies worth it.
5 Geared Up
Despite the drawbacks, there are plenty of reasons that women choose to have their babies close together in age. (Sure, sometimes, things happen, but there are also reasons women plan things these ways.) There are some benefits to going ahead and having another baby right away, and part of that is that you are already geared up for the role as a new mom.
While there are a ton of items on the market these days that aren't necessarily needed for new moms, if a woman times it just right, she can make use of the things that she has. For example, the baby only needs a special bath for a short time, then they can hand it down to the new sibling. Clothing can be passed down, and as soon as a toddler graduates from an infant car seat to a convertible one, the new baby can use it. There may be some things that the mom has to stock up on because of her back-to-back pregnancy, but she won't need to buy bottles and blankets, since she has those already.
4 Learning Together
The good thing about the end of diaper duty is that kids who are close in age are likely to figure out the skill together. That's because a big benefit of having back-to-back pregnancies is that the babies are close enough that they will learn certain skills together. We're not talking about things like walking and other milestones, but the second baby might walk faster in order to keep up with his big brother or sister.
Kids who are so close in age tend to try to teach each other and they compete to keep up with the older one. The younger one doesn't want to be left behind as their older sibling uses the potty, and the big sister likes to play school and teach letters to her younger sib. They will learn family traditions together and grow smarter and stronger together. That's what comes from back-to-back pregnancies that create great friends.
3 Beating the Clock
There is a limit on the time when a woman can have kids. These days, fertility treatments and medical breakthroughs have made it possible for women to have children past the age of 50, but most women want to have children while they are younger and have a greater chance of enjoying them. But of course, sometimes circumstances and choices mean that a woman might be past 30 before she even starts to think about having babies.
Not only is it more difficult to have a baby past the age of 35, but research shows that there is an increased risk of everything from birth defects to pregnancy complications after that time. That means that some moms want to have back-to-back pregnancies in order to beat the clock on their fertility. According to What to Expect, the risks of having a baby again so soon are less than the ones of waiting past 40, so it might be worth going back-to-back for some families.
2 Sharing Everything
Having babies is really expensive, and doubling the size of a family in just a couple of years can really be a financial burden. But the good thing is that having back-to-back babies can save on that, since they can share a lot of the things that babies need. Of course, the babies need their own special lovies, but otherwise, they can share toys since they are pretty much in the same stage of life.
Hand-me-downs aren't a big deal at all when the kids are young, especially when it's just a year or so that the clothes are passed down. The games and toys are all part of the same fads and trends, so they both love Paw Patrol. It can be hard to get the kids to share at times, but they can play together and learn the best lessons of all. Siblings are blessed with having the same life experiences, especially when they are so close in age. Back-to-back pregnancies can definitely lead to the best sharers and automatic friends.
1 Big Family Dreams
There are a number of reasons why it's not a great idea on paper to have back-to-back pregnancies. But family decisions are definitely about more than statistics and risks. They are definitely personal in nature and there are a ton of reasons that parents should go for it anyway. Their own family dreams are a big part of the equation, and they may outweigh all of the risks.
Whether a mom is hoping to have two kids or 10, sometimes, she has to rush a bit to get everything in according to her timeline. That's especially true for older moms and for those who struggled with infertility that threw off their initial plans. There are risks with any pregnancy, so she may be willing to risk her body to have the family of her dreams. Back-to-back pregnancies can certainly be a part of big family dreams, and they are worth it, for sure.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, What to Expect, Romper