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Does a 'perfect' age gap between your children actually exist or are you better off making your first your last? We quizzed four mums to find out...

They're not babies for long, it's true, but how much time should you let pass before you start thinking about giving your firstborn a brother or sister?

Some women want to get their childbearing over and done with as quickly as possible, while others think a big age gap will help spread childcare costs and avoid sibling rivalry. And there are more and more mums deciding to have just the one. So what do you think?

Philippa Bennett, 35, got more than she bargained for when she decided to opt for an 18-month gap between her first two babies! She's now the proud mum of Harry, 4, twins Jemima and Max, 2/, and Toby, 9 months. 'I love children and always wanted a busy house,fullof fun. I also planned to return to my job as a divisional director for an electronics company, so it made sense to have a small age gap between my first two children and take a career break for a few years.

'I only had one period in between Harry's birth and conceiving again and, as I stillfelt pregnant while breastfeeding, my body didn't have a break. But I was so keen to have another baby, it didn't worry me. 'I had a scan eight weeks into the pregnancy, which is when we found out I was having twins. I was gobsmacked. I didn't know how we'd manage financially. If I went back to work before three children were at school, my entire salary would go on

childcare. I knew then that I'd have to g i ve up work i ndefin i tely.

'As the pregnancy progressed, physical activity, particularly picking Harry up and getting him into the car, became difficult. I couldn't run around the park with him either, which was frustrating.

'When the twins were born, changing three sets of nappies could take up half the day so, unlike the fi rst time when I constantly changed Harry, I only changed the twins when they really needed it. I soon realised that I had to get help, so we contacted a student on a childcare course, who came to do her work placement with us when the twins were 2 months old. She was a godsend.

'People thought that having k i ds so close i n age was a n i ghtmare - but i t wasn't! The ch ildren all enjoyed the same entertai nment, so i t was easy to keep them happy, and I'm very organi sed. I even d i d some voluntary work w i th the Nati onalCh ildb i rth Trust at the same ti me. Our fourth child, Toby, was born 9 months ago. Although my husband, Adam, has reservat ions about hav i ng more, I'd love fi ve.'

Bridging the gap

IT'S LIKE HAVING TWO ONLY CHILDREN/

'HmltWJ v10years;

Denise Ives, 42, from Woking; is a full-time mum. Her two children, Stephen, 12, and William, 2, were born 10 years and one day apart. 'The first t ime I got pregnant - w i th Stephen -1 was 29. I'd been try ing for just over two years and was del i ghted when I found out. But when he was 3, my husband and I spl i t up. I met my new partner, Darren, soon after. He's 13 years younger than me, and he told me he d i dn't want ch iIdren. I'd have been happy to have more, but I already had Stephen, so i t was okay.

'Seven years later, I became pregnant by acc i dent. I was on the P illat the t ime. When I told Darren, he was overjoyed. He'd already changed h i s m i nd about wanti ng to become a dad, but he d i dn't say anyth ing because he was concerned about the anx i ety often assoc i ated w i th 'try ing'. As soon as I knew I was pregnant, I was really exc i ted about becom i ng a mum agai n.

'I enjoyed my second pregnancy, although the var ious tests I had were scary, and I was more t i red. Stephen was so exc i ted about

-Stephen, 12, lOaks out for his baby brother William another baby now and obv iously i t w illbe a smaller gap, but that's due to my age. If I wasn't over 40, I'd go for a 1 0-year gap agai n!'

'ADAM IS LUCKY BECAUSE HE HAS MY UNDIVIDED ATTENTION'/«

-Stephen, 12, lOaks out for his baby brother William the new baby and even helped us choose a name. He carr i ed the scan p i cture everywhere and told us he wanted a baby brother. Now he's very proud of W ill i am. I'm so grateful for the gap because Stephen doesn't need my constant attenti on and can amuse hi mself i f I'm t i ed up.

'I'd forgotten how bad sleepless n i ghts are, but I d i dn't go back to work th i s ti me, wh i ch made li fe eas i er. And I d i dn't breastfeed.

'I thi nk the 1 0-year gap i s perfect. It's l i ke hav ing two only ch ildren. We're try ing for another baby now and obv iously i t w illbe a smaller gap, but that's due to my age. If I wasn't over 40, I'd go for a 1 0-year gap agai n!'

'LUCY'S LIKE A MINI-NANNY TO HER SISTER !'

Four-year-old Lui ■mTTmrfl-eoHeiTa!

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New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

For many years, scientists have been playing out the ingredients that make breast milk the perfect food for babies. They've discovered to day over 200 close compounds to fight infection, help the immune system mature, aid in digestion, and support brain growth - nature made properties that science simply cannot copy. The important long term benefits of breast feeding include reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, and some forms of childhood cancer. The more that scientists continue to learn, the better breast milk looks.

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