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.
The 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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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?
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, private health insurance, delicious, nourishing food, and whatever else blooms from her neo-hippy existence in Southern California. Dive in and have some fun at HolisticSquid.com!
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.