We all know that having a family at the right time is paramount to our success as parents. There are a few things to consider when you begin asking yourself ‘am I ready for a baby?’; with us all being different people with different life goals and values, we’ll inevitably each have our own version of what constitutes that elusive ‘best’ age to have a baby.

For most of us, being financially secure and in a stable relationship are imperatives; for others, our position on the career or housing ladder may take priority. But more than ever, there’s another matter that’s vying for precedence above all else, one with which I have a continual struggle to get my head around…

Many of the above factors are, of course, inescapably related to experience – and thus age. But not in every single case. And just as there are exceptions in all matters in life, likewise there will be anomalies in when it comes to the best age to have a baby.

Is There a ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’ Age to Have a Baby?

Besides which, what criteria determine whether parents have achieved success? And at which point in their child’s life is the measurement of those parameters taken? These questions are, of course, rhetorical, since it’s nigh on impossible to make a fair assessment.

And though there will be cases of parents in less than perfect situations ‘failing’, there will also be children from seemingly ideal circumstances who go on to become addicts, or convicts, or imperfect in some other way; just as there are children from all walks of life who go on to accomplish great things, triumphing ‘challenging’ backgrounds.

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So what is the right age to start your family? And if there is such a thing, does that mean that there’s also a ‘wrong’ age? Perhaps a better question might be whether or not you feel ready to start a family.

Am I Ready For a Baby?

If I had a penny for every time I heard the catchphrase ‘you’ve plenty of time yet; people are having babies later in life now’, I would be writing this piece from the sun lounger on my yacht instead of the chair at my dining room table.

Are you the wrong age to have a baby? Too young? Too old? Does age even influence how capable you are as a parent? #parenting #firstbaby

The Biological Best Age to Have a Baby

I have long been challenging these well-meaning intrusions. Okay, perhaps not in the case of strangers, who are more likely to elicit a polite, well-rehearsed smile and nod of faux assent. But it needles: it’s well-documented that geriatric pregnancy, ie. leaving motherhood until our late thirties, forties – and even our fifties – carries many risks, both to ourselves and our babies.

I recently caught a piece on the radio which made me want to fist-bump the doctor speaking. She said that medically speaking teenage pregnancy is not bad. When the interviewer incredulously repeated the sentiment, the doctor confirmed that she stood by it – medically speaking teenage pregnancy is not bad.

Society versus Biology

While I in no way advocate teen pregnancy (it’s not in my life plan to see either of my daughters fall pregnant while still a child themselves), I believe there’s a new issue facing society that we need to acknowledge and address:

The socially respectable and endorsed time to start a family has gained ten years in a generation, yet evolution takes millennia – our biology has not caught up!

While I recognise this to be true and find justification of excessively late pregnancies alarming, my instinctual reaction to teen pregnancy is still one of disapproval. And so I find myself questioning my own judgement about the subject.

Though I like to think my reaction stems from concern – and in some cases I’m certain it does – I fear it may actually be the case that, as with so many other harmful subjects, societal attitudes insidiously become our default proclivities.

What’s the ‘Best’ Age to Have a Baby?

Having done some soul-searching, I wonder if perhaps there’s some defensiveness at play here too, to mask a feeling of inadequacy…

If I sometimes struggle to cope as a mother at my very acceptable age (twenty-nine when my first daughter was born), then it’s a personal affront if somebody younger – and therefore less equipped insofar as experience is concerned – can manage better. Far easier to tell myself that they are naïve/ignorant to the demands of parenthood. Which will sometimes be the case.

But not always.

So I’m trying to recognise this unattractive trait in myself if/when it appears; and if I must (privately) judge at all, I try to do so based on merit rather than age alone.

Ultimately, if there’s a pregnancy and the parents are joyful, to do anything other than sincerely wish them well is shameful, regardless of their circumstances. And, you know, if one can afford the time, some support wouldn’t go amiss either. I know first-hand how valuable that is.

What do you think the ‘best’ age to have a baby is?

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An award-nominated blogger and author, Kate is an experienced breastfeeding advocate, and expert baby sleep chaser. Her writing has appeared on Mothercare, Huff Post, and BritMums.

12 Comments

  1. Ooo interesting topic. I actually don’t feel as strongly as you about teen pregnancy. I think the media have sensationalised a very negative portrayal of teenagers and with shows like Jeremy Kyle I’m sure we can all instantly conjure up a certain image.
    However I know and am friends with some mums who indeed had their children as teenagers.
    One was/ is still nearly 10 years later married with a beautiful house and more siblings. Yes she was a teenager at the time and I remember thinking ‘rather you than me’ but actually they’re a really lovely family and for them it was absolutley the right choice.
    Another was a single mum at the time, just 16 years old. Not settling for less she is now a childs nurse and has recently married.

    Just because we perceive them as too young doesn’t mean they are. I think no matter what your age we all grow into the mothers we are. I certainly didn’t think I would be anything like the gentle parent I am now, I have very strict parenting ideas in my mind. The old me would of loved the 3 day nanny…!
    I can only guess this is the same for alot of women.
    I do think being financially secure and having a stable relationship are extremely important and can make parenting far more enjoyable but it’s not the end of the world. Some people get find their own way there a little later x

  2. Kate Reply

    Being a mother is a massive learning curve. I think we should all be supporting each other, no matter our circumstances. The idea of fate taking a hand is a nice one – it removes our responsibility for getting it ‘right’! x

  3. Polly Sharpe Reply

    Really interesting topic. I was 35 when I had my first; 37 when I had my second. Although I ‘felt’ old enough, in fact I feel that I grew up and learnt so much that in fact, pre-children, I was pretty immature. So teenage mothers have my absolute respect and, as you say, it is such a massive learning curve that we really just need to support each other.

    • Kate Reply

      Hi Polly,

      I can relate to growing up after having children! Maybe young mums are forced to grow up quickly and that’s how they manage. I think I’m more unsure now than before I wrote the post!

  4. We got to know the neo-natal nurses at our hospital quite well after spending 3 weeks there, and would have many interesting chats about parenting (and other things) deep in the night when we were up to pump milk and feed the baby. I still remember one of them telling me she thought young parents often actually do quite well, because they’re more willing to go with the flow whereas older parents are more inclined to try and fit a baby into an established lifestyle.they don’t really want to disrupt. Interesting post, definitely food for thought…!

    • Kate Reply

      Very interesting point, and I imagine that would have been true in my own car actually!

  5. Kate Reply

    You’re right, of course. If the parent has the ability to give those things to the child, then they will do a good job. X

  6. Kate Reply

    I actually completely understand where you’re coming from! I wish we’d had a couple more big holidays. But of course I wouldn’t change my life now.

  7. Kate Reply

    That seems a nice way to have done it. I think I’ll always wonder what it would have been like if we’d fine it different, but I think we got it about right for us with our first. Still figuring out the right time for number two…

  8. Kate Reply

    Hi Laura,

    Seems our views are quite clearly aligned. Thanks for commenting x

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