Deciding how long to wait between kids


July 30, 2000|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL FEATURES

Q. My wife and I are the happy parents of an 8-month-old daughter, Karina. Each of us stays home to raise her by working opposite shifts. We would like another child by Karinas second birthday, but a doctor friend recommends we hold off until Kaina is 3. In his view, Karina's inner-directed needs would not be fully met if she has a sibling too soon. At 3, she would be more outer-directed and ready to handle a sibling who gets a lot of attention. I like to think I have enough love and devotion to satisfy both, or all, of my children. However, I respect my friend's opinion. What are your thoughts? Would I be depriving Karina by not waiting?

A. Your first decision had better be a practical one: Will you be able to manage your shared work lives and nurturing with two children? Raising two children is more difficult than raising one -- and becomes increasingly complicated. If you have to resort to child care, it can become more expensive than you may have expected. Although I agree with your doctor friend's analysis of your daughter's developmental needs, I feel that they can be met in other ways. It's important at any age to respect your child's need for an adjustment period to get used to having a sibling. Don't rush her through this. A two-year gap between children is a common one, and if you are patient, you will be able to help Karina with the adjustment. Don't expect her to feel grateful for a sibling at any age. But you should know that having a second child can be a gift for the older one. It means she will have to learn to share with and nurture the second one. This is an important experience for either a toddler or a 3-year-old. I'm sure you will all be able to make it together.

Q. I have to nurse my 16-month-old to get her to fall asleep, and she wakes up rnany times wanting to nurse. To make things more complicated, we have a family bed, which I would prefer to maintain for a while longer. She has not developed an attachment to a 'lovey." I'm my daughter's lovey. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

A. Your daughter needs to learn to become more independent at night. When she rouses to a light sleep every three to four hours during the night (as we all do), she needs to develop an independent pattern for getting herself back down to deep sleep. As you say, you are it now. I suggest you introduce a lovey in the daytime and help her learn to rely on it when she falls down or is bored. When she can accept this lovey in the daytime, you can encourage her to use it at night. Maybe you have more trouble than she in separating at night. Try to face your own issues first. You don't need to give up nursing or the family bed, but you do need to be more decisive in helping your daughter become more resourceful at night.

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