Deciding whether or not to have a child can be complicated, and that doesn't necessarily change if you've already had a baby. We're often told we're "never really ready" to have a baby, so how exactly does one know when to have another child? Are there things to consider the second (or third, or fourth) time around, that you didn’t consider before you had your first? What questions should you ask yourself before having another child?
The answers, of course, will vary depending on the person, their medical health, and their unique family dynamic. But there are a few universal factors to consider before expanding your family that experts say will help you make the best decision possible.
Romper spoke with Dr. Carly Snyder, MD, a reproductive and perinatal psychologist based in New York City, Susana Marquez, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapists and specialized maternal mental health clinician at Wellness Para La Mama, and Shana Averbach, LMFT, PMH-C, a perinatal mental health therapist, as well as other experts, to better understand the physical, mental, and emotional considerations one should have before deciding to bring a new baby into the world.
"Is This Actually What I Want?"
Mercedes Samudio, a mental health provider and parenting coach with Maven, suggests people considering another pregnancy begin with a very simple question: Why do you want another baby? It sounds simple enough, but before you even begin to dive into all the other details, you really want to be clear with yourself on your reasons. Samudio offers some follow-up questions to lead this conversation with yourself (and/or with your partner):
- Is it to give my other child a sibling? If it is, does the child really want to have a sibling?
- Do I just have baby fever?
- Do I feel pressure from people asking when I’m having another?
- Am I doing it because I think I won’t be able to soon, and don’t want the option taken from me from infertility?
These questions might help you figure out whether or not your reasons are coming from a sincere place of actually wanting another child, versus feeling compelled due to outside reasons or pressures.
"Is My Body Ready?"
Every pregnant-capable person’s body is different than the next, and if you’re opting to birth a baby (as opposed to adoption), you’ll need to consider whether your body is ready for it. Some people take quite well to pregnancy while others struggle to conceive and/or to stay pregnant full term. Snyder suggests that you ask whether or not you’ve given your body enough time to recuperate and heal since your last pregnancy. “Speak to your OB-GYN and confirm from a physical standpoint,” she tells Romper, adding that you may want to allow a certain amount of time to adjust to new motherhood the first time around so as not to “feel as if you have lost yourself to being a baby making machine.”
Asking whether you’ve been cleared to be able to conceive again is an especially important question to ask oneself if you’ve been through one or more pregnancy losses, or if you’ve been labeled high-risk for other reasons. Marquez says that anyone considering another pregnancy should discuss their past pregnancies, high risks, and pregnancy losses with their doctor.
How Is My Relationship With My Partner?
For couples and/or co-parents raising a child together, it’s important to be on the same page before moving forward and adding another baby to the mix. Averbach tells Romper that one question to ask yourself is, “Are you able to connect with your partner and make decisions together?”
Averbach says that while adding a new baby to the fold "may be wonderful in so many ways, it will come with additional demands and diminished resources (like sleep). Strengthening your relationship during times of relative stability is more workable." She recommends couples create space to really hear one another’s thoughts, wishes, and fears before proceeding any further.
Dr. Snyder agrees, reminding couples that relationships remain strongest if enough time is carved out to still connect as adults and partners. “Figuring out how to do this while also raising a family can be tricky, and often requires some trial and error before finding a sweet spot as a couple,” she says, adding that couples should always make these types of decisions together so they both feel good about trying for another child.
Can I Handle A Bit Of Jealousy?
No matter what, your first child is always going to struggle a bit to get used to their new sibling. But are you ready to handle how your child is going to feel? Dr. Richelle Whittaker, LPC-S, NCC, LSSP, a licensed professional counselor at Providential Counseling and Consulting, tells Romper that she recommends parents ask themselves whether their current child(ren) have any attachment issues.
“How will (you) handle those issues?” she asks, especially of those parents who adopt—which can cause sometimes feel confusing to young children.
Snyder says another question to ask yourself is, "Have you had enough time with baby number one?” adding that while the answer will always feel like a "no," it’s up to parents to figure out whether they’ve been able to give their first child enough undivided attention before bringing another into the world.
“Having more children is a blessing, and each child brings joy and love beyond your wildest dreams," Snyder says. "But hold onto the moments with your first born and cherish them."
Alena Gerst, a psychotherapist specializing in women and reproductive issues, tells Romper there is one helpful tip to combat the likely jealousy that will arise: planning out special one-on-one time with your first child in order to stay connected.
"How Is My Support System?"
It’s always important to consider what your support system looks like when bringing a new child into the mix. Marquez suggests parents ask themselves whether their support system looks similar or different from their previous pregnancy. Moving, the loss of a relative, or a change in profession can all alter the dynamic of your support system.
“What changes do [you] need to make this time around?” Marquez asks, adding that you may need to reach out to friends and relatives to see if they can offer any help, or find a regular nanny or sitter for your eldest child, prior to having another child.
Gerst also feels that parents need to figure out whether their current support system will hold once the next child arrives, especially when considering the lack of sleep involved in caring for an infant. Other questions she recommends parents ask themselves include:
- Will family be coming to stay and help?
- Will my first child go to school or daycare, full or part time?
- What backup can I put in place if I feel myself starting to get exhausted or overwhelmed? (Sitters on call, overnight help, a non-judgemental friend to text, etc.)
- Will my partner take leave, and for how long?
“Is the partner mentally and emotionally prepared to take care of their child if mom is not able to physically?” Whittaker asks. Considering how many things can go wrong with a pregnancy and during the postpartum period (from any needs the baby has, to the physical and mental health of the mother), it’s especially important to ensure that the partner also has the ability to take on all these responsibilities, or is at least able to delegate them.
"How Are My Finances?"
Almost every expert Romper spoke to brought up whether or not the parents feel financially prepared to have another baby. Samudio recommends looking into how your finances have changed since you last had a baby, and how adding a new one will affect your financial burden. Whittaker also suggests that the parent who will carry the pregnancy consider whether their partner is financially prepared for the expense of the pregnancy. They might be put on bed rest, have complications that make it difficult for them to work, or they might even lose their insurance. Having a partner who can and may be willing to take on the burden of these costs is especially helpful.
“Do you have room for baby number two? Where will [the] baby sleep? It’s a lot easier to move to a bigger home or a bigger apartment sooner rather than later," Snyder says, who often reminds parents about the amount of space babies take up and how that can relate to finances. "If you will eventually need more space with another child, consider making the move now or early in your pregnancy."
"What Does My Medical Team Look Like?"
“Do you have an OB-GYN you trust and feel comfortable with?” asks Snyder. She reminds moms-to-be that they need to have confidence that their medical care team will do everything to ensure there’s a healthy mom and baby at the end of and throughout the pregnancy.
“If you had a traumatic first delivery for whatever reason, if you didn’t feel heard or felt somehow victimized in any way, then either first speak to your OB-GYN about your feelings and the experience, or opt to find a new [one],” she says.
"How Is My Emotional & Mental Health?"
A parent’s mental health is of utmost importance, not just for themselves but also for their children. Whittaker recommends that moms truly consider whether they’re ready to juggle the needs of more than one child. She also suggests that any moms who previously experienced postpartum anxiety and depression think carefully about how they will manage it. “[Are you] emotionally and mentally ready to go through that process again?” she asks.
Gerst says that parents should have a treatment plan in place in case a postpartum mood disorder arises. She says it's also important to have your medications and/or therapy in check, as well as additional resources like a support group to turn to.
Moreover, things don’t always go as planned when it comes to pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Averbach wants to caution parents seeking to have another child to ask themselves whether or not they’ll be able to handle any unforeseen complications or outcomes, and urges parents to treat any previous trauma before jumping back into pregnancy. “Do [you] feel mentally and emotionally ready to have another baby after [your] previous loss, or are [you] trying to fill the void?” she says.
Snyder also reminds anyone about to experience another pregnancy to heavily focus on self care. “Obtaining adequate sleep and proper nutrition, exercising regularly, socializing and having a strong support network are additional ways to improve mood during the postpartum period,” she says.
"Do I Feel Ready?"
At the end of the day, having another child is an extremely personal decision. If you’re raising your family with a partner, you both want to be on the same page. You’ll want to make sure you (or whoever is carrying the pregnancy) is prepared in every single way, and if you’re adopting, you still need to make sure you’re emotionally and financially prepared as well. Most importantly, it's OK and often encouraged to take your time with this life-changing decision. While there’s never a perfect time to extend your family, only you will know when the time is right for you.