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Your Children’s Future Successes May Depend on Birth Spacing

Baby Spacing

While my family and I enjoy our vacation, I am pleased to share guest posts from many of my favorite bloggers. The following post was written by Emily of Holistic Squid. Thank you, Emily!

What’s the best number of years between siblings? Ask most folks this question, and you’re bound to get discussions about rivalry, companionship, and the challenges of parenting children of similar or varying ages. But did you know that proper birth spacing can affect not only the health of your children and yourself, but also your child’s future successes?

Women are not designed to have babies in close succession. While a nursing mom (who is exclusively breastfeeding) will typically not be fertile for at least six months postpartum, traditional wisdom dictates that an even bigger gap is necessary between siblings.

Thriving traditional societies throughout the world have honored the importance of prenatal nutrition as well as proper birth spacing of at least 2-3 years.

Among many of these cultures, having siblings closer than 2-3 year was considered taboo, it was encouraged to practice abstinence or use folk medicine for birth control to aid in proper family planning. If children were born in too close together, their parents were often disgraced and shunned.

Birth spacing may save your baby’s life

The general recommendation among modern health and family planning professionals is at least two years in between the birth of siblings.

Second Child SyndromeThe New England Journal of Medicine reports that a minimum of 18-24 months creates the best space between pregnancies to prevent preterm birth, low birth weight, and infant death. (source)

According to a large-scale African study babies born less than two years before a “preceding sibling are twice as likely to die as those born after an interval of 2 years. This risk changes little between countries, in spite of variables in fertility, infant mortality, and level of socioeconomic development.” (source)

In yet another report which gathered research from over two million pregnancies in 18 different countries, it indicated that both mom and her offspring will have better health outcomes when births are spaced by 3-5 years. (source)

A link has also been drawn between closely spaced siblings and autism. (source)

So having kids too close together may increase risk of death, birth defects, and developmental issues, but how does this explain all of the seemingly normal siblings born less than two years apart?

Birth spacing may make your child more attractive and successful

In her book, Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, Cate Shanahan gives a more thorough explanation of the issues around improper baby spacing. She explains that, once underway, a pregnancy is designed to ensure the survival and success of the unborn child – at all costs.

If a mother’s diet is insufficient in any way (which is extremely common even in wealthy, modern countries), the placenta will demand resources from the mother’s body: calcium from her bones, essential fats from her brain – essentially scavenging her body and using mom as a backup store for any nutrients that are needed to make a healthy baby.

Second Sibling SyndromeWhile this usually works out well for the first born, the pregnancy may leave the mother depleted – suffering from physical ailments, poor memory, anxiety, and postpartum depression.

If the next pregnancy occurs before mom has fully recovered and replenished her resources, unless she is now eating a sufficiently nutrient-dense diet, her body will not have enough resources left to make a baby with optimal health, bone structure, or brain capacity.

As a result, second siblings tend to have inferior genetic expression that manifests in less attractive physical features, lower IQ, and a higher likelihood of chronic physical ailments. This is called Second Sibling Syndrome. (See examples here).

According to Shanahan, an exception to this rule is that if a pregnant woman has eaten a poor diet high in sugar and vegetable oils leading up to conception. In this case, her placenta will not have optimal blood flow and hormonal function will be “blunted”.

In these cases, the first baby will not be able to pull resources from the mother’s body, and the first child’s health will suffer.

The second sibling, however, will benefit from an established “uterine system” and be able to draw from the mother’s nutritional stores. Then any subsequent children run the risk of suffering from Second Sibling Syndrome.

According to Shanahan, children given the proper resources for fetal development are set up with better bone structure, more confidence, and higher intelligence.

So your choices around what you eat and how far apart you space your children may not only affect your health and the health of your children, but it may determine their future success as adults.

Two Simple Rules for Successful Family Planning

#1 – Honor the time tested traditions of proper birth spacing

The best way to practice family planning is not the birth control pill – which can create an imbalance of gut flora and deplete the body of essential nutrition. Instead, get to know your cycle, use condoms and/or abstain from sex when you are most fertile until your body’s ready to make another baby.

Wait at least two years after the birth of your first child to consider trying to conceive again, and before you do, make sure that your own health is in optimal condition.

#2 – Prepare for pregnancy with a nutrient-dense diet

Prenatal vitamins are like disaster insurance, but they do not supply adequate nutrition to ensure optimal health for you and your baby.

The ideal prenatal diet is rich in in good quality saturated fats from pasture-raised animal sources, wild caught seafood, and other nutrient dense, properly prepared foods.

You can read more about getting adequate prenatal nutrition here.

I also highly recommend Beautiful Babies, a super informative read and the best gift for any mother-to-be on how to eat right to make a healthy baby.

Right now you can receive free access to Kristen’s online class of the same name (a $199 value!) when you simply pre-order the Beautiful Babies book which is due for release on March 19th. Hurry this offer ends March 18th, 2013! Click here to Order your copy now!

To get free access to the online course, simple email your order receipt to [email protected] Once Kristen verifies your pre-order, she will email you a coupon for your free enrollment.

What is your experience with baby spacing and your children’s health?

If you don’t have kids yet, do you plan to space them out?

Meet Emily

Emily Bartlett writes HolisticSquid.com. Like the mysterious creature that shoots and swirls through the ocean, she’s got her tentacles exploring many things: fertility, health, delicious, nourishing food, and whatever else blooms from her neo-hippy existence in Southern California. Dive in and have some fun at HolisticSquid.com!

Further reading:

Morell, Sally Fallon. The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Childcare. New Trends, 2013.

Shanahan, Catherine. Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food. Big Box Books, 2009.

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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110 Responses to Your Children’s Future Successes May Depend on Birth Spacing
  1. Nick Garcia, The Wellness Chef
    February 28, 2013 | 3:27 pm

    Great information and awesome to see you discussing psychological concerns from a HEALTH perspective.

    Aesthetically, especially in regards to abdominal wall and pelvic floor healing, 3 years is adequate to prevent diastesis recti and PF dysfunction.

    Well done ladies!

  2. Katie
    February 28, 2013 | 4:00 pm

    After our first child we wanted to wait 18-24 months before trying again now I think we’ll definitely go with 24 + months! I knew a lot of this but not all of it, I love all the information!!

  3. Kelly
    February 28, 2013 | 4:11 pm

    I think this article is ridiculous. I have 6 children, spaced anywhere from 19-36 months apart. All were ecologically breastfed and attachment parented. None of them suffer from “second child syndrome” [in fact, ALL of them have been labled "gifted" in their school system, they are all attractive and sought after by their peers as friends and romantic interests, and they are uncommonly kind and generous]. I think this article is designed to scare the heck out of people and I think that is an unjust thing to do. You can’t compare nutritionally compromised people in 3rd world African nations with people who have access to plentiful food and a wide variety of nutritious food [whether they choose to eat it or not]. Because I belong to a religious tradition that values children very highly, I know many large families with children spaced 18-24 months apart and the children are fine – intelligent, cute, and deficient in no way. A woman should be able to choose how closely she wants her children spaced without having other people try to terrify her into only having one child or spacing them 3 years or more apart.

    • The Provision Room
      February 28, 2013 | 11:12 pm

      I agree with you. This article is the opposite of empowering. Which is unfortunate. We should be empowered in our fertility and not frightened.

    • Jaime
      March 1, 2013 | 2:25 am

      I’m totally with you. I have 4 boys, all about 2 years apart, the 2nd and 3rd only 18 months apart, and I haven’t experienced anything like this at all! My diet was ridiculously bad until 2 months after my 3rd child was born. I was thin, but lived on processed carbs, sugar, sugar, and more sugar, and caffeine. The only part of this post that made sense was that I can tell my body got depleted, but my children are all healthy as oxen.

    • Emily @ Holistic Squid
      March 1, 2013 | 2:27 am

      Hi Kelly – It’s wonderful that you have such a healthy family.

      My intention here is not to “scare the heck out of people”. There are a plenitude of overfed yet undernourished women outside of developing nations that don’t have the physical capacity to birth baby after baby without a big risk to her health or the health of her children.

      Couples should absolutely have the right to choose how closely they would like to space their children, and my intention here is to provide information so that they can make informed decisions based on their health, diet, and beliefs.

    • Tiffany
      March 2, 2013 | 1:00 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience Kelly! It is inspiring. I had my 1st child at 18 with a poor diet and then had my 2nd 7 years later. 18 months later my 3rd was born. My 3rd is a girl and beautiful. They are REALLY close and I am so glad I had them close. I had my 4th baby 4 years after her and then I gave birth to a baby boy in June of last year at 5 1/2 months pregnant and he died. My water spontaneously broke and I gave birth a few hours later. Reading this article made me wonder if getting pregnant to soon caused him to die. There is no way to know for sure. I have been mostly traditional for awhile now and am ready to get pregnant again. I am 33 and just ready to have more babies! I too am from the faith and I would love at least two more babes. I am confused as to what to do now because I believe this article could have some truth to it. It is scary. The last time I gave birth to a full term baby was in 2010. I was pregnant with my 5th for only 5.5 months. so… it’s been 8 months now and I am ready. After reading this I second guessed whether or not to. I am glad though that there are testimonies of big healthy happy families.

    • VK
      April 25, 2013 | 3:22 pm

      I don’t think she was trying to scare anyone, but do her best to inform based on her field of expertise. With that said, I respectfully disagree with the post. None of my children (spaced 21-29 months apart) suffer at all. Like you, they are highly attractive, confident, talented intelligent and even gifted in areas (I have a 5 year old that plays the violin like no other), etc. I think each family (and ultimately God) knows what’s best for them. Some children are spaced far apart and have big issues. I think it goes a lot further than what this article discusses, and a lot is at play, including genetics. Not just nutrition or lack thereof. We all know that there are a ton of factors that affect all kinds of aspects of life everyday, and we can’t attribute one factor to everything. Nutrition is big factor, don’t get me wrong, but there are others contributing factors she failed to mention. I try to do my best to keep my children nourished in the right ways, avoid toxins as much as possible, keep active and so forth. I think they will have a great quality of life (for many generations) despite my lack of responsibility in having them spaced too closely together. :)

    • Mindy
      October 7, 2013 | 3:51 pm

      I agree this article is not useful. Sure there are risks in pregnancy, but this does seem to persuade people to wait much longer than necessary. My youngest 2 are 14 months apart. The littlest guy was born right on time weighing in at 9 lbs. As long as the mommy is healthy, no reason to wait up to 5 years to have a second child!

    • Julie
      December 10, 2013 | 9:37 pm

      I am in total agreement with you, Kelly!

  4. Kelly
    February 28, 2013 | 4:12 pm

    Incidentally – my favorite spacing was the 19 months apart one, because those two siblings are SO close to each other. It is a fantastic bond that they have.

    • Tressa
      March 24, 2013 | 5:24 pm

      My daughter and son are also 19 months apart
      I completely agree
      I am pregnant with number 3 though and this one
      Will be 18 to 19 months apart so what do I do I
      Missed the cut off

    • Annette
      April 25, 2013 | 3:56 pm

      My boys are 16 months apart, and their sister came along 17 months later. I love how close they all are to each other, and strangers comment on how beautiful and intelligent they are.

  5. Kristi
    February 28, 2013 | 4:18 pm

    Wow, I think it’s sad……
    If we are healthy, eating real food, making sure to exercise, drink that great mothers tea to strengthen the uterus….
    GOD designed our bodies….he knows when we can handle another baby!!

  6. Crystal
    February 28, 2013 | 4:23 pm

    I disagree. As long as we get back to the basics, and provide a strong family foundation, our kids will survive and thrive.

  7. Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf
    February 28, 2013 | 4:30 pm

    Great info! I’m only pregnant with my first, but I am hoping to space my kids by at least two years between pregnancies for these reasons. :)

  8. E.
    February 28, 2013 | 4:32 pm

    Be prepared for lots of angry comments, by people feeling “judged”! :P

    While there are many factors that go into child spacing, and sometimes things just happen, two years is really not that much to wait. My son is 18 months, and I practice ecological breastfeeding. I have yet to see a return of fertility, and I am glad of it! He is still very much a baby, and needs my full attention. If we decide to have a second child, I would like a 3-4 year gap.

  9. Dalas Mueller
    February 28, 2013 | 5:05 pm

    Wow, I am really disappointed by this post! I have been following your blog and enjoying your recipes for a long time now. I have not had bad advice yet! Until now…

    I am surprised that with how dedicated your are to natural approaches to living, that you have not also advocated for natural approaches to making healthy babies!

    Abstinence is not natural! (Ask any couple…) Barrier methods, again, are not natural forms of child spacing. Even NFP causes an unnatural relationship between a couple.

    The only natural mode of child spacing within a marriage is ecological breastfeeding. Not only that, but it is one of the best ways to ensure the health of mother and baby after prenatal measures are taken!

    Breastfeeding is the natural, nutritional way to space your children. And, I also agree with Crystal, if we are eating a nutrient dense diet this will not be an issue in the first place. Child spacing isn’t the problem, a lack of nutrition is!

    Ecological breastfeeding and eating a nutrient dense diet are the keys to ensuring your young children develop well from the start. I think you have some great points with “second sibling syndrome”, but I wish your conclusions and suggestions for avoiding that problem were more well researched.

    • Melissa
      February 28, 2013 | 11:47 pm

      Have you done NFP? We do and love it! NO unnatural relationship here. And, many people I know that do it are very happy with their decision.

    • Emily @ Holistic Squid
      March 1, 2013 | 2:40 am

      Hi Dallas – We agree on the importance of the nutrient-dense diet. It seems to me that you only disagree with my suggestions for birth control? If ecological breastfeeding is the method that works for you, great! As a health practitioner specializing in women’s health, I can tell you that not every women is willing or interesting in doing this. As for type of birth control, as long as it is not one with hormones and actually works, I really have no opinion on which is best.

    • DaNelle Wolford
      March 1, 2013 | 10:28 pm

      Hi Dalas,

      The problem is ecological breastfeeding does not always produce amenorrhea.

      6 weeks after the delivery of EACH of my children, I have a period and continue every 28 days EVEN WITH practicing ecological breastfeeding.

      This is the same for my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother.

      Does this mean my body was ready for another pregnancy 6 weeks after giving birth? Definitely not. In fact, after the birth of my second child, it was me who suffered with poor health the most.

      And 8 years later, my body is STILL not healthy enough to carry another child. Now we are adopting and very happy about that.

      But my point is that ecological breastfeeding is NOT a guarantee.

      • Jessica O'Keefe
        March 1, 2013 | 11:45 pm

        Yup, same exact thing happened to me. I was still breastfeeding all the time (nights too!) and my period came back at 6 weeks. We’ll see if it happens again with the next one!

      • Tara
        March 3, 2013 | 8:03 pm

        Same here. With both of my kids, my period returned after 6 weeks as well. Bummer! I also breastfed both of my kids until they were two.

  10. Sahara
    February 28, 2013 | 5:15 pm

    Thank you for being straightforward about this. Those who did not space their kids widely become defensive about this topic therefore turning birth spacing controversial. But it’s really not an agree/disagree kind of thing. 2-3 years is the minimum ideal from a biological standpoint and stating this information is not a judgement on those who have closely spaced children. Those just planning conception have the choice to aim for this ideal.

    • Dawn @ Small Footprint Family
      March 1, 2013 | 12:58 am

      Thank you for saying this. The author is not sharing her opinion or her judgment of other parents. She is merely sharing the scientific findings of several doctors and genetic scientists from around the world.

  11. lauren
    February 28, 2013 | 5:50 pm

    i am a fan … i am a believer in the need for real food and deep nutrition… i spaced my four babies 27-28 months apart on purpose.. but i also have grave concerns about characterizing those of ‘lower’ attractiveness by judging how wide their jawbone is. something about this whole discussion creeps me out. and that link? showing pictures of ‘less attractive’ siblings based on their cheek wrinkle?? rude.

    • Melissa Napier
      February 28, 2013 | 8:49 pm

      I thought the same thing. I appreciate the concern for optimal health, but you might want to retract some of the over-generalization about attractiveness of offspring!

    • Emily @ Holistic Squid
      March 1, 2013 | 2:45 am

      Hi Lauren – I agree that Dr. Shanahan’s choice of images is not the best. Legally, I cannot just grab photos off of the internet and post them here without permission. For more examples I recommend reading her book, Deep Nutrition. Among much more, she explains the science behind beauty and wider facial structure. It is truly a fascinating read.

  12. Jennifer
    February 28, 2013 | 6:12 pm

    My diet was poor when I first started having children. My second child, born 30 months later, has allergies, asthma, and eczema. Third child, born 24 months later, has similar issues. Then I started eating better and later children have fared better. Their spacing was 27, (miscariage at 18 weeks), 28 months, and 30 months.

  13. Cattaca
    February 28, 2013 | 7:07 pm

    I’d just like to chime in with my personal experience. I’ve got a 20 month old child who I am extended breast feeding – especially at night. It’s rare that we go longer than 4-5 hours without breast feeding. I have yet to menstruate so it’ll be interesting to see what happens first, weening or fertility.

  14. Jeanine
    February 28, 2013 | 7:14 pm

    This is an interesting read and something I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately as we contemplate having a second child. I have been talking to my family about how it always seems to be the second child who has more health problems. This article is sure to hit a nerve with many people, but it’s something we need to take into consideration to ensure the health of our future generations while simultaneously ensuring that children who aren’t genetically “superior” aren’t unfairly stigmatized or shunned. I think it’s incredibly cruel to shun a family because they had their children too close together, but I do think we need to do more to raise awareness of the problems children can face as a result of getting off to a tough start due to being born too soon after their sibling(s).

  15. Brittany @ The Pistachio Project
    February 28, 2013 | 7:51 pm

    While I understand the logic of this and the obvious benefit our bodies have (and our baby’s body) from child spacing, I disagree with it to some extent. I had my first two kids only 1 year apart (not intentional but that’s what happened) By second child is not effected at all which the exception of dealing with eczema and that probably has more to do with what happened to him once out of the womb and not in it. I also feel like we shouldn’t stop having kids if the time is right just for the sake of optimal timing. Yes, we want our babies to have the best utero environment and health possible but I wouldn’t want to not have a baby who “should have been” just because it might have been better to wait. Does that make sense? In other words, I wouldn’t avoid trying to conceive a child if we felt it was time just because it would be better to wait longer for possible health reasons.

  16. Leah
    February 28, 2013 | 7:59 pm

    I do think that spacing out children to allow a mother’s body to heal and replenish itself is ideal, but things don’t always work out the way one plans. When my daughter was nine months old I found out I was pregnant. I beat myself up at first wondering if I had given this baby a disadvantage because it was too soon after my first. The truth is that I eat and take care of my body very well. We do the best we can as mothers and I wish we were less judgemental of each other and more supportive. I have no doubt that I will have a child as beautiful and as smart as my first, despite the information in this article.

    • marcin
      February 28, 2013 | 8:20 pm

      I completely agree with you. And congratulations!

    • Emily @ Holistic Squid
      March 1, 2013 | 2:58 am

      Hi Leah – My intention with this post is to provide support for those trying to make the best decision possible on birth spacing in regards to the health of themselves and their children.

      For those (like yourself) who find themselves pregnant before the “ideal” time, the message here is not that all hope is lost, but that a nutrient-dense diet is even more important than ever.

      It is most probable that you will produce a healthy baby despite the close spacing of your births because of the care you have taken to for your own health.

  17. Michelle
    February 28, 2013 | 8:19 pm

    completely leaves God out of the equation.

    • Mae
      March 8, 2013 | 11:45 am

      Not really. God gave us the responsibility to care for ourselves and our children. Knowing how to give our children the best chance at health and happiness (even if this includes family planning) is totally following the responsibility that God intended us to have.

  18. Debbie
    February 28, 2013 | 8:32 pm

    My two younger sons are 17 1/2 months apart, and perfect in every way. Both thrived in school, the younger one learning as the older one learned, helping him reach #1 in his class in high school and now a chemical engineer. They are each other’s best friend. And, both incredibly handsome. And, the younger one didn’t have his first cavity until he was 27 years old.

    • Emily @ Holistic Squid
      March 1, 2013 | 2:59 am

      That’s wonderful, Debbie! Can you share with us… How was your health and diet before and during your pregnancies?

  19. Prairiebabymama
    February 28, 2013 | 10:17 pm

    I was beating myself up for NOT having my kids closer in age. This makes me feel better. I had a miscarriage when my son was 22 mos. and sort of knew that it was because my body still wasn’t ready after my first pregnancy. Everything happens for a reason!

  20. Leah
    February 28, 2013 | 11:10 pm

    I gotta be honest, I read Deep Nutrition and just have not been able to prove out the “second sibling” theory very well in my first-hand observations. I am the middle child: my brother was born 4 years before me and my sister less than 2 years after me. Of the 3 of us, my sister, the youngest, has the best health. No need for glasses, no need for braces. My brother and I both had to have braces, and I have the worst vision of the 3 of us. The only thing I can think is that I was formula-fed after I was about 4 weeks old because I had lost way too much weight. Not sure for how long, but I believe my sister was exclusively breast-fed. All this to say that I think there is much more at play here. I am sure that spacing pregnancies improves your body’s ability to produce a healthy child; however, I think there are so many other things we can be doing such as eating a healthy diet and breastfeeding for as long as possible, regardless of how close or far apart our pregnancies are.

    • Emily @ Holistic Squid
      March 1, 2013 | 2:05 am

      Hi Leah – I agree. There are certainly no absolutes, but I find this information so fascinating nonetheless. Do you know if your mom ate a diet high in sugar, processed foods, and/or vegetable oils? If so, it is possible that for you and your brother her uterus was not functionally optimally, but since your sister followed so closely to you, she benefited from an established uterine system. Just a thought. Thanks for your comment!

  21. The Provision Room
    February 28, 2013 | 11:10 pm

    This may be the first thing you’ve ever posted that I have not agreed with! Usually I’m in lock-step with you. But on this point, I have not found that there is a perfect space between children. I think we can trust the way God has made us and trust nature. If we are well-nourished, getting enough rest, nursing, and living a healthy lifestyle, I think we can trust the child-spacing to be perfect. If we conceive close together it will not harm us (if all those other things are in effect, of course!). And if our bodies are requiring more healing, then nature will also allow for that.

    I find arbitrary child-spacing and birth control to be contrary to the natural lifestyle we are trying to live. If a couple mutually decides to abstain from intimacy because they don’t want to become pregnant for other reasons, that’s different. But birth control is harmful to our bodies and rhythms. To deliberately prevent one’s fertility for “health’s sake” when you are otherwise extremely healthy (eating nourishing traditional food, breastfeeding, etc.) seems counter-intuitive.

    (We have eight children. The closest in age is 12 months. The longest is almost three years. It’s been my experience that nature will space them as they are supposed to be.)

    • Emily @ Holistic Squid
      March 1, 2013 | 2:00 am

      “Otherwise extremely healthy” is not the case for the general public. As I explain in the post, the main reason for birth spacing comes down to the fact that if a mother is not sufficiently well-nourished, the placenta of her unborn child will draw resources from the mother’s own body and she will not have the resources to do this over and over. In the case where a mom is healthy and eating a nutrient-dense diet, baby spacing may be less of a concern.

  22. Melissa
    February 28, 2013 | 11:51 pm

    I”m curious as to which cultures shunned people for spacing less than 2 or 3 years? It seems to me that most cultures 100 years ago even people were having often up to 10 children. I’m sure they didn’t space it out every 3 years.

    • Emily @ Holistic Squid
      March 1, 2013 | 1:55 am

      Hi Melissa – According to Sally Fallon (in her new book coming out this month) there were many traditional cultures that encourage baby spacing including the Ibos of Nigeria, the native people form Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, Melanesians, Polynesians, Trobriand Islanders, pre-colonial Africans, and Russians.

  23. Krazedmuppet
    March 1, 2013 | 12:12 am

    So that’s whats wrong with my brother… >:D

  24. Megan Alton
    March 1, 2013 | 12:45 am

    This post resonates with me, instinctively. My body and health reserves were totally depleted after having my son and his first 2 years of life. I’m taking a whole year to prepare my body for a second child before attempting to get pregnant again for my own health. Bonus if it’ll help my second child too. I love provocative posts and this one rocks!

  25. Jaime
    March 1, 2013 | 2:32 am

    I know there are a lot of comments to this same tune, but I’m going to chime in . . . I’m usually a fan of what I see on here, but I think this TOTALLY missed the mark. I can think of all kinds of examples, especially my own, that don’t bear out any of the information in this post. I think it sounds like it’s all based on someone’s lame theory that they’re grasping at straws to try to prove. You just can’t put everyone in this kind of silly box; it’s senseless.

  26. Diana
    March 1, 2013 | 2:51 am

    There is even more involved. There are also psychological studies done on the effect of child spacing. The more time in between the better for the long term psychological health of the children. Anything under 3 years space is traumatizing for the first born as it is not ready to be independent from his / her mother.
    I have myself first 3 years, then 6 years and then 4.5 years between mine and the 6 years were the best. The child before was independent, I was completely there again and could just be there for this child. I always recommend to mothers to think about all the consequences. Culturally 2 years seems long already. You know career and stuff. For some it helps that I lay it out for them.

  27. Andrea
    March 1, 2013 | 4:41 am

    I have to say, this type of article scares me. It inflames all of my mama guilt and worry without giving me much to go on. I have two sweet girls, 28 months apart. I hope for more. My youngest is breastfeeding at 20 months. I’m not pregnant. I’ve been eating a sugar and grain free, nutrient rich diet for over a year and a fairly wholesome diet previous to that. Really, I’m FOLLOWING this type of advice to a T, but reading this article, I am terrified of ever having children again.

  28. Dimidy
    March 1, 2013 | 4:54 am

    Wow!! People get really defensive! Maybe we should all start popping some amino acids before typing! I didn’t get that using abstinence when the most fertile meant total abstinence and if you read “Deep Nutrition” she clearly states that she does not look around and see people as ugly or pretty, she is saying that certain bone structures, or height, or hair or nail thickness is an indicator for something amiss in our genes. It’s not meant for you and I to go around judging people on their looks. Also, just because you can get pregnant doesn’t mean your body is ready for a child. I’ve known plenty of people who miscarry. I’m pretty sure that’s a good indicator that they were not ready, or that they have some health problems. I’m not writing any of this out of insensitivity either. My husband and I haven’t been able to get pregnant since we were married five years ago. There have been many tears and depressions over this, but ultimately I am glad we haven’t gotten pregnant because I believe the infertility is a good sign that something in our health is not ideal and I want to pass the best on to my children. I love research like this because, after five years it’s given me plenty of time to glean and learn from others. It’s my choice if I want to follow it, but at least I have the choice. Knowledge is choice.

  29. Ann
    March 1, 2013 | 7:25 am

    The link showing the celebrities seems to suggest the second sibling will have inferior genetic traits regardless of birth spacing. They call it “second sibling syndrome.” Wouldn’t they be the second sibling regardless of the length between births? Am I missing something?

  30. Melissa
    March 1, 2013 | 8:42 am

    This article is hilarious. Yall have taken things a little overboard here. Your children might be more attractive if you space them out properly- choking on my coffee with laughter. My boys are 18 months apart, and both will be equally attractive, successful, and adequately adjusted into the modern world even though I might have had them a little close together. I mean REALLY!!! lmbo!!!!

    • Emily @ Holistic Squid
      March 3, 2013 | 7:31 pm

      Hi Melissa – I can certainly understand why this concept seems amusing at first. I would encourage you to check out Deep Nutrition if you are interested to read the research that backs my brief article here.

  31. Genevieve
    March 1, 2013 | 10:20 am

    I’m always amazed when people get their backs up about fertility planning and God. Last time I checked God gave us free will, and that includes the free will to decide when it is the best time to conceive a child.

    • Jessica
      March 2, 2013 | 10:24 pm

      You are right that we have free will, but just because we have free will doesn’t mean every decision that we make is “right” in the eyes of God (i.e. stabbing your brother can be done out of free will, but that doesn’t make it right). I agree with you that family planning is a discernable issue, but to say that our bodies were not “designed” to have children less than 2-3 years apart is a lie. If that were the case then we would not have been “designed” to have a menstrual cycle every month.

      • Helena
        March 4, 2013 | 12:13 am

        Interestingly, I just learned that humans used to have a heat like other mammals, until our neo-cortex was formed. Once we became capable of higher thinking, our bodies changed as well. We are no longer servants of our mammalian and reptilian brains, and have the capacity to make more logical decisions. This is definitely applicable to choosing a mate, choosing timing and other aspects of reproduction.

  32. Leah
    March 1, 2013 | 10:28 am

    What about twins? Do they have any of the second child syndrome effects from having to split the reserves of the mother?

    • Julie Johnston
      March 2, 2013 | 12:23 pm

      I thought the same thing. Guess 6 minutes apart means my baby girl twin is less attractive? Ridiculous.

  33. Erin
    March 1, 2013 | 11:57 am

    Have you done any posts on how birth control affects the body going further into the gut flora and nutrient deficiencies? If so could you link me to them, I’d love to read what you have to say.

    • Emily @ Holistic Squid
      March 3, 2013 | 7:53 pm

      Hi Erin – This is on my short list to write soon on my blog. I will try to hop back here to let you know when it’s up. :)

  34. minu
    March 1, 2013 | 11:57 am

    I ABSOLUTELY AGREE with this post. Such an informative, well written post. It is true that ‘traditional’ people did not want babies year-after-year. There might be accidents though and of course there was no family planning concept taught to them. I know of a family of 8 who still follows the traditions of their ancestors and all the children are spaced between 3.5 to 5 years. They say it is ideal to do this for the same reason as this post – mom has the best reserves in her body for baby making and for bringing healthy babies. Cheers to this post!! I am glad there are people who think otherwise. I am really not very happy when i see kids spaced 1 year apart (just my personal opinion).

    • Anna
      March 2, 2013 | 3:22 pm

      Do you happen to know how they are spacing their children?

  35. bekabug
    March 1, 2013 | 6:57 pm

    Eh. This post is probably well meaning but all it does is add further (and, IMHO, mostly unnecessary) anxiety to women who are in an already high stress situation such as mine. After a perfectly healthy and text book pregnancy…on Sept 4, 2012 our very much wanted and longed for, perfect and healthy son was stillborn at 34 weeks (cord injury). I am, as of today, 8 weeks and 6 days pregnant with his brother or sister. No other child will ever replace what we lost. However, I cannot tell you what things like having your milk come in and having no baby to give it to OR having the things ready for a new baby that will never come home from the hospital does to a mother and father.

    Some are able to wait. Some need to wait like we needed to try again. There was no way we could have waited a single second longer than we did, let alone 24 months, to start trying to conceive.

    • Tiffany
      March 2, 2013 | 10:41 pm

      thank you for posting Bekabug. I posted above – you may have missed it. I lost a baby at 5 1/2 months pregnant on June 16th 2012 after my water broke spontaneously. It made no sense because I had 4 perfect pregnancies prior. I am aching to get pregnant again. and yes having your milk come in with no baby to feed is down right traumatizing. :o(

      • Tiffany
        March 2, 2013 | 10:41 pm

        i meant frowny.

        • bekabug
          March 3, 2013 | 2:01 am

          I’m so sorry about your baby. It really is one of the absolute worst things that can happen to a person. Sometimes there’s no good reason other than life can be cruel and sh*t happens.

          I really do believe that we know when we’re ready. Whether that is internal intuition or being led by a higher power I can’t say. I do feel if you’re listening for the memo, you’ll get it at exactly the right time. Best of luck to you!

  36. Julianne
    March 1, 2013 | 8:14 pm

    I agree with this as an ideal… but here’s my situation. I had an unexplained stillbirth in August. She was 28 weeks old. I donated my milk for 3 months, and now we really want to try again. I know that since I didn’t complete the pregnancy, it isn’t exactly the same as if I had gone full term, but I also did lactate for a time. I’m 40 years old, and I don’t feel like I have much time left before it gets too risky. I’m considering every single food item I put in my body like it’s gold, and we are trying again.

    • bekabug
      March 3, 2013 | 2:11 am

      I’m so sorry about your baby. That’s so amazing you were able to donate your milk. I did not have the mental or emotional fortitude to even contemplate it. I just wanted it to stop because it was breaking my heart.

      Forget these studies. You have my all my best wishes for a peaceful pregnancy with a healthy, screaming baby at the end of it.

  37. Colleen B
    March 2, 2013 | 12:50 pm

    Thanks for writing this. I am guessing you knew you were gonna hit some hot buttons, but I am continuously grateful for traditional food writers who are willing to take on these kinds of hot button topics and put yourselves out there, on purpose, to the wrath of others.

    I will be honest, I didn’t love the talk about being more or less attractive, because that isn’t why we should be having children. However, I think that as moms we often put our health behind the health of our families, even or especially when it comes to having babies. It is hard enough to grow a child (though our culture makes it seem like we should still be able to work full time, parent full time, be available to our husbands on demand, and do it all while being pregnant…) while being in the best health possible, but then you add in the things you maybe can’t see, or are too busy or tired to notice, and it makes it all that much harder. I don’t think any woman who has chosen to have children closer than 3-5 years needs to feel judged. It might have been right for your body and your life, but let’s all admit we have all done stuff that wasn’t in our best health interests but we did it anyways (for financial, relational, hormonal, spiritual reason …whatever the case may be). We make choices and need to re-prioritize at times, and thankfully many of our choices work out great. But if you are a healthy, or trying to get healthy, woman who wants to give your babies the healthiest chance YOU can (I believe God is in control but he gave us a brain and free will to make choices) then why would you not want to consider this for the future?

    I thought I would have my 3rd baby 2-3 years after my 2nd, and we are at 4.5 years and I feel like God keeps putting up road blocks (it isn’t fertility issues…things like a parent dying, just life). When I allow it to be, it can be a source of feelings of failure for me (like I can’t even handle 2 some days, how can I handle 3?). But I have to acknowledge I am not quite ready. Though I FEEL physically healthy enough, I wonder what He knows that I don’t! I don’t feel emotionally ready to have another (and this article doesn’t even touch on that…or how sleep plays into our “health”). And I find myself wondering if I am not emotionally ready because God knows if I felt like I was, I would have another, but my BODY isn’t ready so that is what He uses to hold me off. Who knows but it is an interesting thought. But I know many women who would say (to themselves AND to others) “you’ll never feel ready…just do it.” Then I get judged for listening to the still, small, voice that says wait (that one is decidedly less popular in our society, btw.). So, I encourage you to just read this with an open heart to what God has to say to you, and then LISTEN and TRUST. Maybe He put this article in your path for a reason. And the children you already have are here so it doesn’t apply to them. For them you just have to love on them and do the best you can with the food and nutrition He gives you! No judgement, just information to help us be the best that we can be!!!

  38. Marilyn Moll
    March 2, 2013 | 1:09 pm

    So sad we have to turn to science for “birth spacing” instead of trusting Almighty God who knows best and says children are a blessing, and to be fruitful and multiply. My children are spaced much further apart than recommended by this article, but that is a God thing and I’m grateful.

    • Tiffany
      March 2, 2013 | 10:42 pm

      amen

  39. Elizabeth
    March 2, 2013 | 2:56 pm

    Wow! Makes sense. My mother and I have tried eating a healthier diet since I was in high school. Of course, there have been phases in my life when I’ve been less healthy with my choices, but always come back to my foundation of a good diet. I am now 38 and going to have my first baby in less than 3 weeks. I would love to have another child and know I don’t have many reproductive years left, so I’m torn. We planned on waiting a year before trying to conceive our next. I plan on breast feeding for 9 months, then continuing a healthy diet until we do conceive again. I will be 40 in the summer of 2014. You don’t think a 21 month space between children is too close, do you? With a healthy diet… We’ve been trying to include raw foods in our diets and green smoothies.

    Thanks for all the information!! After all my mom passes onto me from your website, I just signed up for the newsletters myself!

  40. Anna
    March 2, 2013 | 3:31 pm

    I just looked at the source recommending 3-5 years. It seems to be predominantly based on developing countries. I also cannot tell if it takes diet and general support during pregnancy or lack thereof into account. Fallon’s book will probably be more pertinent to those reading this article.

  41. catz
    March 2, 2013 | 6:04 pm

    The basic message here is comical, and a little bit insulting. Okay a lot. You’re insinuating “If you want your kids to look like Paris Hilton, you’d better space them at least 3 years apart. If not, they’ll be ugly, stupid, and be sickly, sad little humans who will only go on to procreate (if they live that long) and make even sicker, sadder little humans themselves. and you will ultimately be the cause of your descendant’s misery, because you just wouldn’t space your kids 3 years apart.”

    this is yet another form of mommy wars. ridiculous.

  42. tracy
    March 2, 2013 | 6:37 pm

    I find the amount of people offended by this post kinda funny. someone shared a study. so what, i am sure it has merits but the human body has so many variables that no one thing is going to be true for everyone. Especially when you factor in the backgrounds and diets vary so much around the globe. I am the 13th child of 14 children. The closest of us is 11 months and the furthest apart is 2 yrs. Our mom breastfed but it didn’t stop the fertility. Having babies that close worked for her, she is almost 80 and can just about outwork me in a day, but for many woman to carry 14 children would have been a tremendous toll on their body. Mom didn’t have the greatest diet back then but neither was it the worst but somehow it was enough. We are all smart and sucessfull. I think now a days it is much more of a challenge to be healthy. Chemicals everywhere, high stress, political upheaval. EMF. We are surrounded by unhealthy things every day all day long. It takes a toll on the body and we pass it on to our children.

  43. Sarah
    March 2, 2013 | 7:09 pm

    Definitely a hot button topic! My shackles were all up after I read this (5 kids in 6 years, with one twin pregnancy). My kids are all “fine”. There are so many variables that go into it, but one that people don’t talk about much is the mother’s age when bearing children.

    There seems to be (in my entirely un-scientific observations!) kids with “issues” (whatever one may assume those are) to moms who have them later in life.

    As I said, there are so many variables, and no right answers, are there?

  44. Jessica
    March 2, 2013 | 10:16 pm

    I have three questions for the author:

    You say: “Thriving traditional societies throughout the world have honored the importance of prenatal nutrition as well as proper birth spacing of at least 2-3 years.”

    1. Will you please specify the names of the societies that you are including in this category?

    You also say: “Among many of these cultures, having siblings closer than 2-3 year was considered taboo, it was encouraged to practice abstinence or use folk medicine for birth control to aid in proper family planning. If children were born in too close together, their parents were often disgraced and shunned.”

    2. Will you please specify which cultures among that list you are referring to?

    You say: “The general recommendation among modern health and family planning professionals is at least two years in between the birth of siblings.”

    3. Will you please specify who (or what organizations) you are making this statement from?

    Thank you.

    • Emily @ Holistic Squid
      March 3, 2013 | 7:44 pm

      Hi Jessica –

      According to Sally Fallon (in her new book coming out this month) some of the traditional cultures that encourage baby spacing (who also disapproved of babies born too closely together) include the Ibos of Nigeria, the native people form Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, Melanesians, Polynesians, Trobriand Islanders, pre-colonial Africans, and Russians.

      As for the general recommendation to space children at least two years apart, I quote the New England Journal of Medicine here in this post (link provided above). This is also the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO). You can read their official report here:
      http://www.who.int/making_pregnancy_safer/…/birth_spacing.pdf

  45. katie
    March 2, 2013 | 10:51 pm

    My 2ยข
    This is nonsense.
    I am 1 of 6. 4 babies in 4 years and then my parents adopted 2. We’re stair steps.
    I think it’s silly, just another internet article to ignore.

  46. me
    March 3, 2013 | 10:13 am

    it might be just me but, the girls in the picture at the top don’t look like they were spaced ‘properly’

  47. Heidi
    March 3, 2013 | 5:45 pm

    I think nutrition and love after birth can correct a lot of deficiencies. My adopted daughter was the 3rd born to the biological mother in 2 years. She was born early, had cocaine in her system, and only weighed 4.5lbs. She was a foster child for the first 2 years of her life, so we had no choice but to feed her regular formula. As soon as she was old enough to eat solids we fed her lots of nourishing “real” foods. She’s six now and is a beautiful healthy girl who rarely gets sick. Now, I don’t recommend the cocaine and alcohol diet to pregnant mothers, and I am very careful about eating a nourishing diet when I am pregnant, but I just don’t see how the distance between siblings could significantly affect the health and beauty of the child.

  48. zoe
    March 3, 2013 | 7:52 pm

    What a horrible article to post. How many of us have been blessed with being able to have more than one child close in age (and that’s a LOT of us) and to suggest that our choice(s) are dangerous to ourselves and our families is just hideous. Shame on you, Squid.

  49. lauren
    March 3, 2013 | 8:47 pm

    Plain and simple- your blog is great but this article is without enough fact to back up your argument. It creates a profound sense of negativity in Mothers who have done nothing but tried their hardest to be incredibly healthy like myself, maybe too healthy which led to an increased fertility creating baby #2 who was born at 24 months. The women who read your blog care deeply about health and nutrition- this unfortunately is not from a place of actual fact. If you were to write about the mother who had 10 children and did not have enough jing to pass down so the last 4 kids were stricken with allergies and chronic illness that would be one thing. But for the mother who is beautifully healthy and births her second child a few months before the 18-24 month cut off, if only creates negativity and guilt.

    • lauren
      March 3, 2013 | 9:35 pm

      p.s and as for Sally Fallon- I am wondering where she got her information.. I was a medical anthropology undergrad and traveled a great deal in places where traditional culture is still culture – it was when the woman once again became fertile did she get pregnant. Ideally time would have its way and at least a couple of years in between would occur but naturally this is not normally the case and most commonly children are born when their siblings are 1.5 years.. as for beauty and intelligence – these are always so dependent on perspective even with an IQ – again what really degraded the article were those celebrity photos! PLease continue writing articles that empower instead of those who create fear and judgement

  50. Helena
    March 4, 2013 | 1:07 am

    I am mother to one boy who turns two this month. I have yet to have my period return, and he nurses very frequently. I hope to conceive again within a year or two, but I can tell you that I am not yet ready, physically or emotionally.
    I am a fan of Sally Fallon. I used Nourishing Traditions extensively in the two years before my husband and I conceived. I know that our diet is better than average, but I was so overwhelmed for the first year and a half of my son’s life (thanks to anxiety and probable PTSD) that I know I could have done more to keep myself at optimum health.
    Prior to reading Nourishing Traditions (and so much more since then), I always assumed I’d have kids fairly close together. It just hadn’t occurred to me to do otherwise, as my brother and I are sixteen months apart and we were very close when we were young. That closeness became problematic when we were teenagers and started fighting over friends, but that’s another topic.
    I am a second child. My brother was not breastfed, but I was. We are both reasonably attractive people, but I have by far better teeth and a wide palate. I have always been curvy but muscular. He is overweight. He drinks a ton of cow’s milk, which I do not. He is bright and got good grades in school because he worked for them. I got excellent grades without much effort at all and it was a source of contention for us when we shared classes, which ended up being about fifty percent of the time once we reached high school.
    I know my mom smoked and drank while pregnant with my brother. It was the seventies. I know margarine was a household staple in her childhood. I’m reasonably certain she didn’t change her habits before I was conceived.
    I don’t feel offended by the concept in this post. We all had advantages and disadvantages before we were born, and in the years since. My takeaway of this is not that all children without adequate age between siblings will have poor health (because clearly that is not true), but rather that if there was something that you knew you could do to improve the CHANCE of giving your baby optimum health, wouldn’t it be worth a try?

  51. Elisha
    March 4, 2013 | 2:14 am

    Thank you for bringing up this topic. I don’t believe you were trying to stir up controversy in your post, or create judgement, but I can’t help but notice how the title of the article is asking for it. Could I recommend a new title? What about: “Birth Spacing may Affect the Health of Your Children”. Ok, that might sound boring, but I guess I just think that the title should reflect a true statement. The current title is just asking for emotional reaction keeping people from interesting and valuable info. I can’t possibly believe you might think that the success of a person could be dependent on their birth space? That’s a pretty extreme statement that is simply not true. My son is much closer to my daughter than I planned. It wasn’t ideal and learning I was pregnant with him was a shock. I didn’t even realize it until I was 20 weeks along because not in a million years did I suspect I could be pregnant. I had no period between my older daughter and son, breast fed exclusively on demand, used a condom (uggg, but just wanted to be extra safe), and in general to be honest, we were at an all time LOW for frequency of intercourse. I attributed my “bloating” to what I thought must be old IBS issues returning. Ha! I joke that it was an immaculate conception (well sort of joke… I’m still baffled:). Two in a row has taken a toll on me, my son’s birth weight was low but I’m glad not dangerous, and his immunity seems a little less strong than his older sister’s. So far he has great facial features that seem to be just as good as his sister’s. He has a great smile and wide roomy pallet. Would I do it that close again? No. Do I worry a little about the effects of getting pregnant back to back? Yes. But, frankly I’m just not worried about my son’s success. He has everything going for him with a family that nurtures him, and an awesome example of a father, as well as my care for his nutrition, and so so so much more! Not to mention, the gift of a unique bond and friendship that he has with his sister just 15 months older is very special! I know that bond will be a source of joy and strength for both of them into old age. The quality of life, the chance for success… it just can’t be measured by a few criteria. It’s so complex, there are so many factors including role models, opportunities, emotional well being, might I also mention a loving God who cares for us… We ALL have set backs. Maybe it’s the air we breathe from living in a city like LA (where I live), so we try to combat that with antioxidants, omega 3s, and avoid exercising on busy roads where there is more air polluiton, etc… Who knows what the disadvantage?… but everyone has something to overcome (especially with so many environmental factors these days). I think my son may have a few set backs from being spaced so close to his sister, and as I mentioned I’ve suffered some, but everything will be just fine. It won’t define my son’s life to the point that he is not successful. I do think it’s a good idea to space, but if things don’t go as planned, just do the best you can nutritionally to make up for it, and move on. Thank you for bringing this up. It’s good to be aware. Just like being aware of any disadvantage a child may have is important so you can help them make up for it. Maybe just change the extreme wording of your title?

  52. Shannon
    March 4, 2013 | 8:16 am

    This argument is so flawed I’m not even sure where to begin.

    The New England Journal study, the study of mothers in Utah is the most relevant to your readers (who are presumably primarily in the US). This study concluded, “we found that infants conceived 18 to 23 months after a live birth had the lowest risks of low birth weight, preterm birth, and small size for gestational age; both shorter and longer interpregnancy intervals were associated with higher risks.”

    So, the first source you quoted actually resulted that LONGER interpregnancy intervals than 18 to 23 were associated with HIGHER risks.

    I could go on, but I have children to care for! This article is an opinion piece and should be read as such.

  53. Karen
    March 4, 2013 | 10:58 am

    I wish this article had been written with a little more grace. I am currently pregnant with my second child, and my first will be 21 months when I give birth. Maybe it’s based in fact, but things happen in life. Like trying to do natural family planning for the first time while breastfeeding and then ending up (joyfully, but unexpectedly) pregnant. A little grace would have been appreciated. Instead, I felt some mounting hysteria while reading this article. Not so good for a mom-to-be.

  54. Brandi
    March 4, 2013 | 1:28 pm

    I am another of the mamas who found this post to be a bit harsh. I had three children in three years (although it was almost four years because my oldest son turned 4 when the baby was only a month old). My children (1, 3, and 5 now) don’t suffer from the lower IQ scores, health problems, or less attractive appearances and having 3 to 5 years between children seems excessive to me (2-3 years is much more reasonable at least). I agree with a couple of the other posts that suggest that you might have gone with a different title.

  55. Abby Winship Hoyos
    March 4, 2013 | 4:15 pm

    Thanks for this post. I don’t have kids yet and am planning on having two fairly close together. This information has prompted me to reconsider my birth spacing.

  56. Ashley C
    March 6, 2013 | 12:27 pm

    Its comical that people with many children that have yet to grow up are calling this ridiculous and that theirs are all perfectly healthy etc. Wait twenty years and get back to us on their health! I can guarantee you that unless they’ve all been blessed with a very nourishing diet that entire time that at least a couple will have some concerning health issues. Yes, there is of course many other things to take into account (environment, lifestyle choices, etc) but you cannot look at a child and say that they are just fine, as plenty of things do not manifest until much later. My first was formula fed and he is “just fine” too, but that is not a logical argument against this information.

  57. Emily
    March 7, 2013 | 10:57 pm

    I always find this discussion provocative as I’ve been hearing about “spacing” since I was 11 years old and my own parents ended up with 6 children in 20 years. People were always commenting.

    Healthwise, there may be some wisdom to what you have recorded here. I cannot argue with optimal health and the depletion of nutrients, etc. that comes with closely spaced pregnancies. I have five children myself – all born within less than 8 years time (3 singletons, 1 set of twins). My twins survived TTTS, and I had terrible morning sickness with all of my pregnancies. . . both TTTS and morning sickness have some nutritional implications. For example, the need for high levels of protein to combat both morning sickness and TTTS is common.

    What I will say is this: culture should not dictate to the individual what he or she should choose. Let’s be countercultural. Let’s let people decide for themselves what works best for them. Yes, we can give them “facts” and make recommendations, but at some point in the past, “facts” from the “experts” have failed us. . . We have to admit that “facts” don’t always equals success or optimal health.

    What concerns me more than “spacing” of children is the number of men and women WAITING until later in life to have children. . . and the number of births that are being spurred by fertility meds. With the rise of autism, sensitivities, and various disorders in the population, holy cow, how come we’ve spent more time on nutritional treatments as opposed to warning people not to wait until middle age or later to have babies? Even now, we are saying, “Watch your spacing” as opposed to, “Your age may be contributing to the unhealthiness of your children”?

    My oldest two are 20 months apart. They are both in excellent health, have no sensitivies as far as we can tell, were both breastfed and have IQs of astronauts (or so we were told by the psychologist who did their testing).

    My second is 3 years behind them, and she is healthy. But she does have dental issues. . . lots of cavities. She was also breastfed and never had a bottle at all. She has “soft” teeth and had to take many antibiotics for ear infections as an infant.

    My twins are 19 months behind her. We had no clue we’d end up with twins. They suffered from TTTS ( a disease of the placenta which affects only identical twins. . . they were monochorionic, diamniotic – which is believed to be related to the number of days following conception that their shared fertilized egg split. . . I was still breastfeeding their sister when I became pregnant with them). My twins survived, thankfully, and one is incredibly healthy while the other is healthy but has developmental speech delays (barely).

    Beyond health is something, I believe, worth risking their “spacing related health” for. . . that children in larger families tend to grow up to be less selfish. My husband is one of two sons in a planned spaced situation (he is four years older than his brother), and in every situation I’ve ever observed like this, the kids grow up somewhat selfish and thinking the world revolves around them. This makes a hard spouse to live with really, haha!

    And also, I’m of the mind that trying to control so much is not really our domain. I believe in our efforts to perfectly control these scenarios, we actually are doing ourselves, our children, and the world at large a great disservice. Why do we manage to leave God out of the equation? I do not buy the statement you make:
    “Women are not designed to have babies in close succession.”

    Women are individuals and different from one another. What one may be equipped to do, another may not. You do not allow for individualism in such a statement. Yeah, some women have no business having children at all. But that’s not for me to say, is it? I would encourage individual parents to be careful in getting into the business of “making babies” and “healthy individuals” by the book.

    We’re not all alike. Thank God.

  58. Emily
    March 7, 2013 | 11:10 pm

    Also, I see no mention of genetics which is very scientific. Some people are considered more attractive than others, and no matter what kind of nutrition they did or didn’t receive in utero, they turn out looking quite attractive. Then there’s the genetics in teeth. Some people have wider bone structures based on genetics. Genetics. . . where’s mention of that? Genetics even affects the intelligence and even “talents” of individuals. There have been plenty of malnourished babies/children who have grown up to be VERY successful and attractive people in life. For example, let’s look at Audrey Hepburn. . . what a lovely, successful lady! She suffered malnutrition and great distress in her childhood (WWII era). She’s just one of many examples in history I’m sure we can think of together.

    And I’m sure we can probably put together quite a list of successful, attractive people who had mothers who were malnourished during their pregnancies.

    Yes, it would be optimal for a mother to have optimal health during her pregnancy, but good grief, to what lengths do we go to be healthy? Face it, we’ll never be healthy enough for our children. . . mothers already face so much guilt.

    Again, I beg individuals to be counterculture: think of what God may be calling you to, what you feel is right for your family, to take cultural messages with a grain of salt when making these decisions, don’t beat yourself up in fear of what you did to your child by not consuming a particular diet. . . and remember, yeah, do what you can to be healthy BUT the body is amazing machine that can compensate and even be healed.

    There are some things about your own children you cannot control. Including some health and intelligence issues.

  59. Caitlin
    March 8, 2013 | 12:22 am

    I think its important to note that a lot of the studies, and Price’s observations done on child spacing were all a long time ago when the groups studied ate optimally and had been doing so for generations. Their idea of what constituted a sickly child may be different than ours because they had different examples to judge from: they all experienced full expression of their genetic potential. How can you know your child will express her/his full genetic potential unless you try everything in your power to combat the obstacles our modern society presents, and which make this difficult? Until we are all truly nourished, perfect about adhering to WAPF principles, and not exposed to chemicals and other toxins, I think it would be wise to make sure your baby will get as much and more of the nutrition it needs. I think mothers can ensure this will happen by spacing their children.
    This is not meant to be a judgement, we all do the best we can, especially when presented with conflicting information from science and religion. I believe that every mother does what she thinks is best for her children,. By following WAPF principles, you are already doing amazing things for your children and setting them up for happiness and health.

  60. Emily
    March 8, 2013 | 7:31 am

    I suppose what I am questioning is this:

    What is “attractive”?
    And what is “intelligence”?
    What is “success”?

    What is the goal of nutrition? Is it attractiveness? Intelligence? Quality of life?

    The emphasis on “attractiveness” and “intelligence” is what leaves one scratching one’s head. As a mother with 12 years experience, having been around babies and children in my family constantly for 40 years, and having observed and interacted with other parents of all ages. . . I have noted parents pushing and pushing their children to be the cultural idea of “success”. Parents try to achieve this through every means possible. . . any sort of advantage they perceive they can push for their child, they push it. And I cannot see at all that some of this pushing is achieving a truly more successful child or a happier society, more peaceful society.

    I’m not against nutrition or even considering the spacing of your children for optimal health. I just think we need be careful before we make decisions based upon nefarious ideas of “success”, “attractiveness” and “intelligence”. I’m afraid these characteristics become things upon which we judge others as having worth, and that is NOT in keeping with a the belief that we have a creative Creator who loves and has purpose for all of the people He has made.

    • Mae
      March 8, 2013 | 11:52 am

      Quick response here, but my take is that, based on the findings of WAP, healthy children typically exhibit certain physical features, such as a broad face, high cheekbones, good teeth, good bone structure, which are also usually considered to be “attractive” qualities. I think the focus is on giving your child good health, which one would hope and assume has the additional benefit of “attractive” features. Personally, I’m with you in that God has a purpose for everyone of all levels of intelligence, health, beauty, etc.! But, if as a parent you knew that you could likely give your baby a good chance at being smart, good looking, and most importantly healthy, wouldn’t you chose to give them that? I think that’s well within the realm of the responsibility God gave us as parents.

  61. the Ma
    March 13, 2013 | 12:38 am

    I was shooting for three year spacing between my children because I felt from everything I was reading way back in the early 80s, that emotionally it was best for all of us. Who knew that I was so prolific that I would end up pregnant first shot out each time. My first three are 2yrs 8mos apart, and yes, it definitely IS perfect spacing. The older one was ready to go out and play and tackle the world, ready for playmates, preschool ONLY 2x a week or playdates, ready to Not cling to me. The older child was also at a very helpful age and could easily be sent to grab me a diaper or container of wipes, and liked to help amuse “their” baby while Ma ran to the bathroom ALONE! :D

    By the third child, the oldest one at just over 5 years could be trained to change diapers. My fourth child was a surprise. I would have had him earlier, but the timing never seemed right for us financially. He was born after a 5yr 4mos space. So now I had three helpers! All of my children were and still are very “tight” together. The oldest lives in another state with his family, but it’s nothing for any of the others to take a drive there and visit him, their SiL, and their niece and nephew. My daughter lives six hours away, but we all see each other frequently along with her new baby, my granddaughter, their niece.

    Emotional closeness has nothing to do with how close together your children are born, it has everything to do with how well you did as a parent to make them learn to love and appreciate the gift of one another.

  62. Anna Marie
    March 22, 2013 | 3:28 pm

    Seeing some very defensive comments here from those who had children close together. I would like to share my experience. I am two years apart from my sister who is the oldest, and I have another sister who was born 3 years after me.
    My mother ate a poor diet, and was nutritionally deficient during her pregnancies. Of my siblings, I definitely have suffered the poorest health, including Fibromyalgia, asthma, scoliosis and IBS to name a few. I have been very lucky to have wonderful wellness practitioners and have been able to treat all of my health problems with diet, supplementation and essential oils, but I need to do much more to maintain my good health than either of my sisters.
    I wanted to share this because my symptoms were not very apparent until I was older. Just because your children have not shown any problems at a young age does not mean that they won’t be affected in the long run.
    It may also be a very good reason for parents to consider the diets of their children very carefully, and choose a whole food, unprocessed diet for any children that were born soon after their siblings. (or better yet, for all of their children)
    I wish everyone the best in their health and parenting!

  63. Vanessa - Natural Family Today
    March 23, 2013 | 4:56 pm

    I agree with this in a sense, but only for women who are not getting optimal nutrition during pregnancy and postpartum. The Brewer Diet is a good place to start researching proper nutrition during pregnancy. If the mother is not getting very good nutrition (which, let’s face it, most are not), or has other health problems, then I agree.

  64. Lindsay
    May 22, 2013 | 8:04 pm

    I can appreciate the information shared in this article and find it interesting, however I am not sure how accurate the findings are.

    I have two children as of now, 6.5 years apart. The first pregnancy was a at a young age without a lot of knowledge and a very poor diet. She had a myriad of health issues, such as ear infections, asthma, allergies, etc (thankfully has outgrown at this point). She is extremely bright at the age of 13, labeled as gifted in school and I never have to worry about her behavior-wise.

    The second pregnancy was better maintained and more prepared for, yet he still had a few health issues, which he has also outgrown. He struggles in school however, staying on task and staying out of trouble at the age of 7.

    This is where I don’t think the scientific theories hold water with the “second child syndrome” and the perfect spacing between births. No matter how ready your body is or how nutritionally sound you are, there are too many factors that play into your child’s genes and environment that can affect their personality and growth/development.

    At this point in their lives, I still ensure they have proper nutrition and adequate sleep and exercise, but I don’t have control over everything that goes on inside their bodies.

  65. Darcie
    November 28, 2013 | 1:06 am

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention breastfeeding as part of step #1. Women who practice “ecological breastfeeding” (feed on demand day and night, no artificial nipples) will not be fertile until the child is 14 months old, on average. Many breastfeeding mothers report much longer periods of no cycles. Not only can this prevent pregnancy (although not a reliable method of birth control), it is also a good indication that child #1 is not yet independent enough to add another child to the family.

  66. Kayla
    December 10, 2013 | 9:28 am

    First and foremost, I believe that fertility is a blessing and my womb is open to God’s will for whatever souls he brings forth through it. This, in my opinion, takes priority over what may or may not seem to be “optimum” through society’s eyes. However, I do believe that this conviction should go hand in hand with another; being a good steward of our bodies, especially during these childbearing and nursing years. This includes eating nutrient dense foods and avoiding processed junk and sugar. Although I disagree with the suggested advice in tho article, waiting 2 plus years to conceive between children, I do appreciate the information and it was such a good reminder to me how important nutrition is. I am also an advocate for exclusively breastfeeding mostly the first year and continuing into the second year with nutritious solids, which typically helps create a natural space (I realize that’s not always the case). Thank you for being bold enough to remind women that carrying a child is a high calling that requires sacrifice and commitment from the start. God bless you and I love your blog, holistic squid!

  67. Meredith
    December 10, 2013 | 9:34 am

    Shanahan’s theory is interesting, and it feels like sound logic that a mother’s body needs adequate time to restore its resources for a second pregnancy.

    Yet somehow, I am one of ten children spaced 2 years or less, and my mother is one of eleven children spaced 2 years or less. Every member of my family and hers is successful, kind, healthy, and THRIVING — without exception. And, since I’m relatively anonymous here, I can humbly say that we are a beautiful bunch. :)

    So I wonder, scientifically, what made the difference for us? My mother and hers did not have above-average nutrition.

  68. jaime
    December 10, 2013 | 12:08 pm

    i always intended to space my kids out 2-3 years . . . i ecologically breastfed my first and ended up pregnant when he was nine months. so far they are beautiful and healthy, but more importantly, they have the best relationship. it has changed my heart and soul completely to see the bond these two are forming. while i agree that it is optimal for the mother’s health to have a bigger gap, i cannot imagine my older son or our family without our “unplanned” baby. he is almost three now and it still easily brings tears to my eyes that if i had had “my way”, we would not have him, ever. it is goodnto be prudent but God/nature sometimes have other plans and we should not be afraid or judgmental of them.

  69. Regan
    January 29, 2014 | 2:11 pm

    I’d like you to cite your sources ” children spaced closer than two years, parents were disgraced”. I have 7 children, I had them in 6 years. All children were born vaginally, I ate organically while pregnant and feed my children organically now. We take a probiotic and a vitamin. My children do not get vaccinated. We do not get sick. None of my children have been hospitalized and none of then have sibling issues. I too am still healthy ad haven’t seen a doctor since the day my last child was born. I think you are way wrong and to tout yourself as some expert and tell women to use condoms to prevent children too close together is absurd!

  70. Jessica
    March 25, 2014 | 2:45 pm

    Interesting info. My experience is this: I had my first two 11 months apart- very VERY unplanned. My first one was born with trisomy 9 and tiny and adorable, the second was a normal, chubby gorgeous baby with no issues. After her, my stress level went way up and my health SUFFERED horribly. BAD. Again, I became pregnant less than a year after her birth and after three months I miscarried. I had suspected my body simply had nothing left. I learned about better nutrition (Brewer Diet) and started progesterone cream, a plant based one. About 6 months later I conceived again and had another healthy baby girl. That all happened in 3 years. I had developed IBS after the second one, and I got my hands on the book Nourishing Traditions when my third one was about 1 year old. My body finally started healing. I had another baby 3.5 years after the last one, another girl, and she is so smart and beautiful. She has really outshined her siblings at her age (now 4.5) and I think it was partly because of the diet I ate and continued to feed her even though breastfeeding didn’t work. (she did have reflux, and she would not eat the breastmilk) After switching her to the raw milk formula she was reflux free at 5 months, and demanded egg yolks at around 10-11months! Anyways, I think there is definitely some truth in this article and I WISH I would have read it 12 years ago :( My children that were fed plenty of fat and probiotics have wider faces, and the youngest especially has more than enough room for teeth.Dr. Weston Price knew what he was talking about!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.