Ready for More Children? Consider the Pros and Cons First

Reasons to Wait

You need a break.

Making it through pregnancy is challenge enough, and soldiering through it while trailing a tantrum-y toddler can feel like you're a new contestant on The Amazing Race (but instead of prize money, you get a squawking infant). In fact, the March of Dimes advises moms to wait 18 to 23 months between giving birth and conceiving to recover, physically and emotionally -- upping the odds of a healthy pregnancy and newborn. "Babies require a lot of attention, so having them close in age can be incredibly stressful on your mind and body," says Ari Brown, M.D., a pediatrician in Austin, Texas, and coauthor of Baby 411. Jamie Ratner, of Bethesda, Maryland, founder of CertifiKid.com, learned that fast: "My kids are 19 months apart, and the first year with the two of them was hell," says the mom of 4-year-old Noah and 2-year-old Lila. "I was barely sleeping and couldn't take my eyes off them." That's exactly the kind of stress Jennifer Spengler, mom of 13-year-old Kyra, 9-year-old Mila, and 3-year-old Evie in La Jolla, California, wanted to avoid. "Having a few years between each pregnancy has made life a little easier and more enjoyable for all," she says. "I could spend time individually with each of my kids as an infant and toddler. Plus, I was able to play on a women's soccer team, take classes at the local university, and work part-time."

You have a tight budget.

It's often said that a lack of funds shouldn't stop you from having a baby. For some parents, though, it is a factor in postponing one. A child in today's economy costs an average of $286,050 to raise (before college), according to the United States Department of Agriculture, and that's conservative by plenty of parents' estimates. "Having two children close in age is expensive," says Mary Baehr, of Bristow, Virginia, mom of 4-year-old Madeline and 2-year-old Celia. One of her top concerns? Paying two preschool tuitions at the same time. And doubling up on big-ticket items such as cribs and car seats can certainly take a bite out of your wallet.

You'd rather not play referee.

"Kids who are close in age may be fighting over a toy or vying for your attention, and that can be exhausting for the parents," Dr. Brown says. Just ask Jamie Martin, of New Haven, Connecticut, a SteadyMom.com blogger and mama of 8-year-old Trishna, 7-year-old Jonathan, and 6-year-old Elijah: "We have our share of squabbles. All three often need attention at the same time." If parents don't mediate the disputes, the problems could get worse. "I've worked with a lot of people whose parents didn't step in when their sibling was pummeling them, and the damage can last a lifetime," says Frances Walfish, Psy.D., a child psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, California and author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond With Your Child. "So many parents today say, 'I want them to work out their issues themselves,'" Dr. Walfish says. "You can't do that when children are closely spaced. You don't have to resolve the conflict, but you need to teach them how to work it out by modeling cooperation."

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