How to Decide Whether to Have Another Baby

baby number 3, another baby?, deciding on another baby, how to decide on another baby, questions to consider before new baby,How do you decide whether to have another baby? This is an intimately personal choice, everyone and every circumstance is different, of course, but the kinds of things that go into this decision are often quite similar.

Even though this is such a private choice, often outsiders offer unsolicited input. Nick and I always knew we wanted three children. We had a girl and two years later, a boy. Then when I was pregnant with our third baby, someone actually said to me, “Oh, why would you do that? You have the perfect family!” Um, seriously? You have your perfect family, I’ll have mine.

There is so much that goes into family planning decisions. It’s tough to sign up for another pregnancy when you look ahead at going through sleep deprivation, being tied down for nap schedules and managing babyhood, all while ALSO dealing with the needs of toddlers and school-aged kids.

Maybe you feel that things are going smoothly now, well, usually. Your kids are walking on their own, maybe they’re all even going to the bathroom by themselves. Nap times are extinct, diaper bags have been donated and you’re sleeping through the night (most of the time). So it’s hard to think about going back to square one just when you’ve really got a rhythm to your daily life.

My younger brother once said of growing families to Nick, “Everyday, you guys are moving closer to freedom and everyday we’re further away.”

If you’re struggling with this decision, you’re not alone in your conflicted feelings. I’d venture to say that most women and couples explore the idea to have another baby at some point. It’s a modern day battle between head and heart, between practicalities and emotions.

pucker up, baby kissing face, baby blowing kisses, have another baby, babies and brothers, third baby, last baby, A friend of mine wrote to me: “The question looms in our hearts and our heads….do we have a third baby? If I could create a cartoon to depict myself I would literally be pulled back and forth from two extremes …. suffering from whiplash! I literally feel like I change my mind within minutes of each and every day.”

So what do you consider in deciding whether to have another baby?

You already know the basics, you’ve thought about the cost of raising children and wonder logistically how you could possibly handle all you do now with another baby.

You’ve thought about the size of your home and how to configure beds or roommates. Do you need a bigger car? A new stroller?

I believe in living within your means and being fiscally responsible, and I’m sure Suze Orman would disagree with me, but budget isn’t really the biggest factor, is it? It must BE a factor, to what extent is individual.

Times are tough, many families’ incomes are static, costs are rising, only you can evaluate if you truly cannot afford another baby, or if it might be tight but doable with some creativity. What weight should money have in your decision to have another child? What else is in the pie chart?

Juggling another child will be challenging at first, but eventually another new normal will fall into place. You’ll learn tips and tricks like baby-wearing to chaperone a preschool field trip and having older kids hang onto your pocket to stick with you in the store.

You’ll figure out how to pack lunches in five-minute intervals while the baby’s content, how to pay bills while the baby nurses and how to host a playdate during the baby’s nap time (you’ll also discover the incredible value of a white noise machine if you haven’t already!)big sister and baby, siblings and baby, should I have another baby, sleeping siblings, sleeping with baby, sister kissing baby,

The older kids will adjust to a new family member, kids are so very resilient, and you will find and make time to hold and love each of your babies, big and small.

These things will come. They are natural to worry about and plan for, but they don’t last long enough to give them much voting power in this decision. With each addition to a family, everyone’s roles shift and change, there is always a transition. There is transition without a new baby as your child/children grow up.

This is the practical stuff. The thinking stuff. You need to add these into the equation, but in the end, the decision runs deeper.

What ELSE do you consider when deciding if you should have another baby?

How many kids did you always say you wanted?

Think about how you visualized your family. Have you envisioned four kids your whole life and are suddenly contemplating stopping at two, but something’s still gnawing at you? Take time to listen to your gut.

This is a trivial example to illustrate. If I go into a restaurant with the idea of having salmon, but then someone else orders the butternut squash ravioli and since it sounds good, I switch my order when the waitress comes, I’m almost always disappointed. Sometimes sticking with your initial desire matters and this is certainly more important when we’re talking babies vs. entrees.

Do you FEEL like your family is complete?

Women understand this question. Maybe you feel settled and satisfied with your two little guys even though you thought you’d want three. Sometimes your ideas change once exposed to the reality of what having kids means or simply because what you have feels right. Other times, you’re waiting for the finishing puzzle piece.

Ask yourself, “How will I feel looking back in 10 or 20 years if I don’t have another baby?” A few years ago, at a dinner party, a group of us were discussing the to-have-another-or-not question as one Mom was sharing her struggle to decide. A woman in her 70’s told us, “You’ll never regret having another baby, but you may regret NOT having another.” Though my family was whole by then, those words struck me, I pondered them and can see their wisdom.

Are you and your husband/partner on the same page?

When one spouse is adamant and the other wishy washy, when neither one can commit either way, when each partner is on opposite sides of the question, or when it changes from one day to the next, how do you handle it?

pregnant couple, dad in pink shirt, guessing baby's gender, baby moon retreat, childbirth education, young pregnant couple, cute maternity dress,Talking. There’s no way around it, you need deep, long, nothing-held-back talking. It won’t happen over one discussion, but through continuing communication. Probe feelings and fears, take a walk into the future together, what do you each see? Ask questions without judgment, actively listen and hear one another. Create a safe and open space to share what having another baby, or not having another baby, means to each of you. Talk and talk some more, seeking clarification and ultimately, an in-sync decision to have or not to have.

Be patient with yourself and one another as you navigate your decision-making. While you can read articles and personal accounts, while you can be open to others’ insights and look up research on scientifically ideal family spacing, no one can make this choice for you. No one can tell you what’s best for your family. This is a precious decision and I suspect that you already know what to do.

Some resources

Are you ready for another one? The research and other considerations.

A site for those who have three, want three, or fear three.

11 questions to help you decide – You could use some of these in your talks with your spouse, or journal about them.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2013

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23 Responses to How to Decide Whether to Have Another Baby

  1. This is a great resource! My husband and I are at the stage where we definitely want our first child, so we’re going to be starting that “trying” process soon! And a lot of these tips apply to deciding when it’s time to have your first child, too (finances, being on the same page with your spouse, etc.). We know we want kids; we’re just not sure how many yet. We figure we’ll start with one and see when we feel we’re “done.” 🙂

    • Leah DeCesare says:

      Jane, I’m happy to hear you were able to apply this to the first time around decision-making, too! LMK if you need any local or online baby resources! I’ve got lot’s to recommend!

  2. Sharon Couto says:

    Beautifully written, comprehensive, thorough piece. I’m now a grandma of 9, going on 10, but I remember this question, this conversation, these decisions vividly. I do not ever regret not having “that” baby, but it’s interesting all these years later to think, HMMMM… “that” baby would probably be around 30 now!

    • Leah DeCesare says:

      🙂 Thanks for your insights, Sharon! I met one of your babies last night! Hope to get a chance to meet you soon, as well!

  3. We have 4 and at the end of last summer learned that SURPRISE! we’re going to have a 5th. I’ve always said I will take as many as God wants to give me. Having 4 kids close together brings a lot of unsolicited comments my way. I cannot tell you the number of times in the last 5+ years (my 3rd is 6 yrs old) I’ve had a senior citizen tell me “I always wanted one more but…” Usually it’s a man saying his wife wanted another and he said no. And always that wish they had said yes.

    I think it’s also important to remember that we’re talking about another person who will eventually be grown and that we can enjoy a relationship with. It’s not just dirty diapers, sticky finger prints and endless school fundraisers. It’s another relationship. With a real person. I’ve never met anyone who regretted having another child but I’ve met lots of people who regretted that they didn’t.

  4. Brook says:

    This is the topic of the day in my head and my heart…. do we have another baby? This post made me dig deeper, ask the tougher questions and engage my husband in a different aspect of the conversation. We always knew we wanted children, so when we started our family there wasn’t as much discussion as there is now that we have two. I loved the sentiments shared by other commentators…..all of which helps us on our family planning journey.

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  8. Anaina says:

    Oh I wish I read that few years back! As a mum of a 12 and a 7 year old and at the age of 39, I truly feel my days of having a third one are over! It has caused so much stress to me that its beyond explaining. I feel when my kids were little we could not think of it because of our responsibilities financially and towards our families. Now when there is a time to think, I have missed the boat! Seems like every one I know has gone or going for three kids and I feel bad for not providing my kids another sibling. I regret it now God knows how will I be in 10 years time when both of my kids will probably be out of the house! Someone pass me the tissues!

    • ldecesare says:

      Oh, I feel your sadness. I’m sorry. I was inspired to write that post because of friends who were struggling to decide for many of the same reasons you mentioned. I’m a big believer in gratitude and appreciating where we are right now AND in the fact that you made the best choices for your family with what you knew and felt at that time. I’m sure that’s little comfort but go enjoy those two great kiddos! Fun ages!
      Thank you for your comment.

      • Anaina says:

        Thanks for the reply Idecesare, yes what I have is amazing indeed as it easily could not have been! Sometimes we take decisions like these for granted and think its only matter of our choice and convineance. I am trying to get back to my normal life and I am sure in few years time will be able to cope better when my kids will be truely in their teen years! Then perhaps I will be too busy to think about anything else! Take care and all the best with your life.

  9. dreamer says:

    I have a 2 and 4 yr old and as much as I want a 3rd one I fear about the future about my ability to provide for them and to give them a quality life. When they are little it is much easier. however having no help around I don’t see how I could handle a 3rd one right now especially when I’m taking them places and the 2nd one is running away from me in glimpse. I don’t work never did having enough money to go around is important health issues education always are there. I do want a 3rd one but is it a smart move for us right now or should I wait a bit? Wouldn’t it be too late? Worried about a big age gap. Also you never know how the 3rd will turn out. Ahhh wish I could see the future so I could make the right decision. Hate regrets!

    • ldecesare says:

      I wrote this post for a friend struggling with this decision, too. There are NO right or easy answers. And until we can see into the future, we have to check in with our heart, gut, and head and make the best possible decision with what is before us now.

      Regret is painful but if we use the information and act on what we have to work with, we can look back knowing we did what was right and true for us in that moment, at that point in time.

      So often, the answer is sitting in front of us but we may try to justify it away or try to turn it to something else we think we want it to be. If you listen deeply – I’d bet you know.

  10. Jade says:

    I love this post, well said! I am now 30 and have 4 year old b/g twins. They are the greatest joys of my life, they bring me so much happiness. From the moment they outgrew their first onesie I started to grieve. I always felt that since I had only planned on 2 kids that it would be done and over with all at once for me and that made me sad. I also felt that I missed out on some things that moms of singletons got to enjoy like one on one time, baby wearing, breastfeeding and single strollers. I know some of those can be done but for the most part did not work out for me. I hate that I won’t get to experience the excitement of taking another EPT and seeing that positive result and preparing for a new baby. All those things being said raising twins has been very challenging at times which is honestly my biggest deterrent of having more, I also fear I will have twins again and sometimes wonder if I could do this all over again but I can’t brush off that urge. I also change my mind quite a bit, one minute I am positive I could never do this again and another I have myself half convinced to do it again. I wish knew what to do. Maybe I am looking at this all wrong…

    • ldecesare says:

      I don’t think you’re looking at it wrong at all – I can completely understand what you’re saying and feeling … you have to read my post from last summer: 44 and pregnant? on The Huffington Post.

      I’m pushing 46 years old and still privately wish for an “accident” sometimes even as we are in a COMPLETELY different life phase now with our oldest nearly off to college. In my head and heart I’m happy, good and complete, and then I long for a kick in my belly, a newborn at my breast and a toddler grasping my finger … I’ve shifted to looking ahead to grandbabies (not too soon, though).

      Bottom line – whatever you decide will be the right thing with how you feel and what you know right now. AND – you may always feel a bit of longing for another one …

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  12. 4 Things To Consider When Growing Your Family says:

    […] your partner are on the same page or not, it’s important to have multiple discussions about it. Mother’s Circle suggests that you each share your feelings and fears. Ask questions, listen with an open mind, and really […]

  13. Michelle says:

    So I was wondering what happened after your 44 and pregnant story. What happened?

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