Sibling spacing based on older child's temperament

I'm a 38-year-old mom of a 1-year-old.  She's a wonderful, curious, and fun baby but no one would ever describe her as easy going...  We'd like to have a second baby but my family has cautioned us that based on our daughter's temperament, it might be particularly hard on her to have a younger sibling when she's under 3 (even though in general 2.5 years is common sibling spacing).  They recommended waiting until she's three to have another baby. 

I think they're right that our daughter benefits from a lot of parental love and attention right now and if I were ten years younger, I'd definitely wait.  However, waiting would mean I'd be 39 or 40, and I'm worried about my ability to conceive again.  So, I'd be curious about how others in similar situations have navigated the tradeoff between sub-optimal birth spacing and potentially waning fertility.

Also, if anyone could weigh in on how their more high strung 2.5 year old reacted to a younger sibling, that would be very helpful too.  Thank you!

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My older child is very challenging and we also weighed the challenges of two kids close together against the ticking biological clock. Our kids ended up 3 years apart, and it has pros and cons. Having a newborn and a 3yo was actually not so hard, but we struggled when our younger kid started to hit the challenging toddler stuff around 1.5 and our older kid was 4.5 and still really acting like a toddler in a lot of ways, and kind of wished they were further apart so that our older kid were older and more rational. Now our older kid is 6 and still having a hard time with some behavioral stuff and I wish our younger kid were older and more rational! I think, ceteris paribus, it would be a little easier if they were further apart, but the risks of waiting are real (we lost one pregnancy in between our two kids) so I wouldn't make a different choice about spacing. Having a challenging older kid is really really hard (I compare our situation to friends with a challenging younger kid, and it is definitely different because the older kid really sets the tone in a lot of ways) but that's the case no matter the age difference. 

Our daughter sounds like yours. we had a second child when she was 3y 1 mo. She was mad at us at first but has always loved her sister to bits. We’re 5 months in and it feels like the new normal. Her verbal skills and maturity really accelerated at around 2.5 years. We did have a miscarriage before and I am also over 35. With having babies you never really can plan with precision…in your shoes I might wait a bit but not til 3. 

I think I might be able to answer this question for you. My older daughter had a similar temperament, she was by no means easy going. We had our second child when she was 3 yrs 8 months right when the lockdown started and both the kids were home. It was incredibly hard. There were lot of tantrums, lot of aggression.It took my daughter 12 plus months to accept her new sibling but now at 17 months in she loves her sister and 80% of interactions are positive. . At around age 3-4 they go through some big hormonal changes that some kids don’t handle as well so I wondered if it would have been easier if we introduced the sibling earlier! In the end I think a sibling is a big transition so I would work towards preparing for that, lining up more support for yourself for the first year. Have the older child go to daycare or some sort of activity out of the house for part of the day. Ensuring a good bedtime routine for the older child.
I highly recommend reading Siblings without rivalry and How to talk so kids listen.. to prepare to handle and acknowledge  the big emotions which will inevitably occur. I would not delay the pregnancy in the hopes of an easier transition for the older child. Besides being close in age they will be perfect playmates!
 

I waited until 39 to try for my second and I regret it. I didn’t realize I’d have the fertility issues I do now. If you are open to IVF or other fertility interventions, it might not be as big of a deal to wait. We couldn’t afford the expense of IVF so we’re likely going to one-and-done. Remember you’ll be pregnant for 9 months before baby comes and your toddler will grow and develop a lot in that time. My daughter is very high maintenance but every month that passes it gets easier. Only you can decide what will be best for your family, but thought I’d share my experience. 

Some things you just can't really plan - precise child timing is one of them. At 38 if you start trying now, who knows how long it would take. You might get pregnant right away, or it might take a year or more. Early miscarriages are super common too, and rob you of a few months. I got pregnant the month I removed my IUD at 37, but had a much harder time 3 years later. Having two kids under 3 is super hard (or so I've heard) but if I were you and I really wanted the second kid, I'd go for it. Maybe think about how you'd feel if you waited and then couldn't have another. 

I had a new baby when my very high-strung, curious, and energetic son was 2 1/2 years old.  I can say now, it worked out fine.  The 2 1/2 year old was initially disappointed with his little brother, but the baby grew, and before we knew it they were playing.  They also fought, of course.  And there were a few incidents along the way.  They both survived, and almost four years later we added twin girls to the mix.  They are now 28, 26, and 22 x 2.  They all get along well.  Oldest boy is a Googler, second works at UCSC on their telescopes, and the two youngest have just graduated Cal and have their first jobs.  It was tons of work.  It was worth it.

--Silvia

Your daughter sounds a lot like mine (now almost 6)! She was 2.5 when my son was born and it was not easy. She was a pretty aggressive/physical toddler pre-baby and had a lot of big emotions, and then when he came along, all of that was directed at him. She’d be cuddling him one minute and then whack him on the head in the blink of an eye. Not in anger- just like she couldn’t handle all of the emotions and that’s how they came out. I couldn’t leave them alone at all. She also had a lot of tantrums around then, but that may have happened with or without the new baby, who knows. So, yes, it was very difficult due to her temperament and age, but we worked hard to encourage their bond and teach her proper ways of interacting with him (when we had enough patience to do so). And we tried to have a lot of one-on-one time with her. Between that and her maturing with age, they are now truly best friends and love each other SO much. They still fight, of course, but their bond is incredible, I think partly because they have had a lot of time together and like to play similar things since they’re closer in age. We just had our third baby 2 months ago and our son (almost 3.5), who has the opposite temperament of our older daughter (he’s always been super relaxed and content), has responded really well to her arrival, as has my older daughter this time around, and I do think part of that is due to him being slightly older when #3 was born (but I think it’s mostly his temperament). All this to say- this is just my experience. I don’t think there’s a perfect timing on this, and it sounds like your daughter will likely struggle a bit whether you wait the extra 6 months or not. Or maybe she won’t struggle very much, she could surprise you! But it’s a massive change for everyone, so even if it’s tough for awhile, you’ll get through it and you’ll all adjust in time. Good luck with whatever you decide- I wouldn’t overthink it too much because you just never know how it’ll be until it happens! 

I have an almost 2.5-year-old son and a 5-month-old daughter (their birthdays are 1 week short of 2 years apart) and I will turn 41 in December. Our son definitely needs a lot of parental attention and is quite anxious. Our daughter was a bit of a surprise and I was so nervous about how our son would react to her. While it is definitely a challenge, he is absolutely in love with his sister and is pretty quickly getting used to sharing the spotlight. Does he have some tough moments? Of course. He's a high strung, anxious toddler. But I almost think having a sibling is helping him realize he isn't the center of the universe and mellowing him out a little. I think kids are more adaptable than we realize before we give them something to adapt to. I'm not saying it won't be challenging, but I also understand feeling like your body may not wait for timing to be ideal. But also, your body may be just fine to conceive when you're 39 or 40. There are some good books to help prepare for new siblings that you could start reading now to see how she reacts to the idea of being an older sibling. ("You're the Biggest" comes to mind off the top of my head--our son still likes reading it).

Hi, My daughter and my son will be 3 years apart. But I think 2 or 2.5 years apart would have been fine too. I think one key factor is to include your daughter in a lot of decision making and preparations for the new family addition. She started preschool and she started sleeping in her own bed/ room before her brother's arrival (step by step transitions without feeling replaced). We looked together at her baby brother's clothes and she gave him some of her own. I also explained to her that some clothes were hers, but now she has new clothing and she has outgrown the others. Same with toys, etc. We have also started activities that we do with her alone. Such swimming. Special mama and papa days just with her. We also told her how she can help with her little brother, if she wants to, and what he is and is not able to do because he is still so small. I encourage her to talk to him,  sing,  etc. You have 9 months to prepare her. Don't emphasize or let others emphasize that she will be jealous or that she might have difficulties.  She is going to meet her new best friend and fan. 

I’m now 70 and a grandmother of 6, but how well I remember our 3 year old perfectionist when I was pregnant with #2.  I think first children are always a bit more of a challenge, but we forget no two siblings are alike.  Our second daughter was an angel, all laughter and delight.  Actually the difference a shock.  Keep that in mind with you equation!  I think your instincts are right and kids do need to learn life happens.  They can be best friends.  Always my goal.  

Don't wait!

Sorry to jump right in with that but as soon as I read your post I felt that hindsight moment. Our kiddos are 3.5 years apart and I wish I had thought about my second sooner. My husband and I joke that we were so burnt out exhausted from our first we can't even believe we had a second but then he was born and I truly saw how temperament is unique to each child. My bright, intense 3.5 year old had a terrible time with his arrival, therapy, outbursts, regression, the works. I think it would have still been a tough adjustment if she was younger but it felt even more so being that age--I distinctly remember her being so mad her sibling was there one day she said in tears, "wasn't I enough"...so many big feelings at our home. In our experience, having that space between them certainly did not help. It is better now that they are in school and have their separate times and groups but she continues to dominate our energy. I wish I could give you advice about how to make the transition easier for her when a second does arrive, we tried it all, and it was still tough and just took a long, long time.

Even now, at 11.5 and 8, she likes to look through early photo albums reminding us how great life was when it was only her before his arrival, LOL. They are a passionate little duo of love and hate but that jealously lingers so I say don't wait, do what is best for you, your family, your fertility! 

We just made it through our first year with two littles spaced exactly two years apart. Our first falls into the “highly sensitive” temperament range and while I would say it wasn’t an easy year and I could definitely see that we would have had a different experience if she was just now transitioning into being a sibling, we all made it out alive. And overall I don’t think any of us are any worse for the wear and in the long run I’m excited for the relationship they will have growing up so close in age. 
We did a lot of preparation work with our older one by reading books about siblings and watching videos of meeting new baby siblings for the first time and talked a lot about her as a sister. 
Littles are resilient and I think even for a highly sensitive toddler, as long as you have enough resources to be able to catch your own breath so you can stay calmly responsive to her- my biggest struggle at some moments this year- you’ll all be fine regardless of spacing. It will certainly be harder on you than on them so you get to choose your own adventure! 

My kids are 21 months apart, i.e., my daughter was not yet 2 when her brother was born. The first year with both kids was really rough, but mostly because baby #2 was very high maintenance. My daughter loves a lot of attention and it was hard for her to share (and hard on us to handle everyone's needs). Now that they are 3.5 and almost 2 we are really reaping the benefits as they start playing together and enjoying each other more. If I waited too long and couldn't have another baby I would have regretted it. Kids adjust. It's more about how hard it will be on you rather than how hard it will be on your daughter. 

Hello, I just want to comment on my experience with waning fertility in case that helps you make your decision. I had 3 children in my 30s with a single miscarriage in between numbers 2 and 3. Hoping for a 4th, we started trying when I was 39, assuming we'd have no problems since we hadn't before and so many women conceive at that age. It took 4 years and 5 miscarriages before I was able to get and stay pregnant again. My advise based on my experience would be to try to get pregnant as soon as possible and let go of the illusion of control over temperament, timing, spacing, etc. There is very little that can be predicted when it comes to kids, so let go and hope for the best (your daughter may in fact love being a big sister and helper - energetic/busy kids often do!) Wishing you the best of luck!!!!!