It’s Science: having the ‘right’ number of kids is different for every family

There's plenty of research to support whichever side of the equation you happen to be on. 👶

family-with-kids
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It's Thursday night. Having just settled on the couch after a long day of wiping noses, counters and bottoms, feeding small humans, and cleaning up or tripping over their toys, you're feeling maxed-out and wondering how you made it through the day.

You're desperate for some downtime—catching up on Netflix is in order— but then there it is… the tiny, plaintive, "Mom-my?" from down the hall. You try to pretend you didn't hear it, and with a small prayer, you hope that little feet will patter in the other direction and leave you to your bliss. "Ma-ma….?"

Nope. Not gonna happen.

Up off the couch and down the hall you go to determine which of your two kids is in need, only to find them both standing in their doorway, saucer eyes watching for you in the dark. "Sweetie?" you muster. Giggles accompany, "We wuv you, mom mom mom mama mam!!" followed by squeaks and shrieks as they run and jump into their beds on either side of the room.

It's that last burst of joy and energy that has begged to be spent. You comply with a chase and a tickle, and you think, this. This is bliss. 😊

Another round of good-night kisses and kiddos all snuggled in, you find your way back to your partner on the couch, only to restart that conversation that never seems to end, "Should we have another?"

Some families are complete with one child, and some with two or three. For others, it can be four, which seems like a lot, yet some families feel compelled to add more.

The decision to have fewer or more kids is as individual as each family—there's no "one-size-fits-all." And there's plenty of research to support whichever side of the equation you happen to be on.

Is less more?

When deciding whether to have more children, parents must consider: Will their bank balance, careers, lifestyle and relationship be able to take the strain? Limited time and money, the high cost of childcare, student loans, and lost income and opportunities from an interrupted career can all take a toll.

And large families can be stressful. Extra noise in the home and needing to sharing clothes, books, toys and rooms can negatively impact kids if their individual needs are not met. But mostly, studies indicate the biggest effect comes in the from of less attention from mom and dad, which is critical to a child's development.

In the study, The Quantity-Quality Trade-off and the Formation of Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills, data was drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics database that has surveyed more than 12,000 young men and women between the ages of 14 and 22 over the past 39 years. Questions like, "How often do you read stories to your child?" and, "How many times in the past week have you shown your child physical affection?" helped to provide insight into who got more resources from their parents: singletons or kids with siblings.

In the study, researchers found that having additional children reduces parental investment—defined as resources (money, books and other material goods), time spent with children, affection, and the location and safety of the home environment—with kids of larger families ending up with less education and earnings as adults.

"A lot of what happens in early childhood has lasting impacts," says Chinhui Juhn, lead researcher and Professor of Economics at the University of Houston. "In many respects, this matters more than a lot of things that happen later in (a child's) life."

But it's not all bad news. A growing body of research indicates that children with siblings tend to be healthier, happier and more well-rounded.

Some say a large family is one of the best things you can possibly be a part of. Influenced by the writings of Swedish researcher Therese Wallin, journalist and father of six, Colin Brazier, wrote Sticking Up For Siblings: Who's Deciding the Size of Britain's Families? to ensure that those who would like to have more children are aware of the advantages.

Brazier states, "Siblings have been shown to be a protective influence against three of the great epidemics of modern life: obesity, allergies and depression."

There are many reasons why kids with more siblings are less likely to be obese than those without from comparable socioeconomic backgrounds. From smaller meal portions to greater calories burned, children with more sibs tend to reach motor milestones, like walking and running, sooner than those without older sibs to emulate.

Siblings naturally create opportunities for more physical activity. One U.S. study even purports that with each extra brother or sister, a child will be, on average, 14% less obese.

And it's been shown that children with more siblings are generally less susceptible to allergies because the germs they share at a young age boost their immune systems. In fact, a second-born child is 20% less likely to develop eczema than an eldest or only-child, and 50% for a fourth-born child. Additionally, several epidemiological studies have revealed that the protective effects of siblings are even better for hayfever and more serious autoimmune conditions, like multiple sclerosis and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This immunological protection can only be partially replicated when young children share germs with non-siblings on playdates or at daycare.

Happiness is sewn into the fabric of large families.

A large family is like a built-in community, with shared experiences providing the glue that keeps siblings connected over a lifetime. Unconditional love and support from many siblings can make kids less prone in life to mental health problems brought on by family crises, like marital divorce or parental death. And the benefits can carry into old age.

During middle and old age, indicators of well-being—mood, health, morale, stress, depression, loneliness, life satisfaction—are tied to how one feels about their siblings. In one Swedish study, satisfaction with sibling contact in one's 80s was closely correlated with health and positive mood— even more than was satisfaction with friendships or relationships with adult children. And loneliness was eased for older people who enjoyed a supportive relationship with their siblings.

In the book,The Sibling Effect, Jeffrey Kluger states, "Sibling bonds (are) the longest-lasting relationships we have in our lives. Nobody affects us as deeply as our brothers and sisters—not parents, not children, not friends. From the time we—and they—are born, our siblings are our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models...they teach us how to resolve conflicts and how to conduct friendships and when to walk away. Our siblings are the only people we know who truly qualify as partners for life."

From greater empathy to learning to take turns and share, sibs make each other more likely to be well-rounded. Boys who have sisters learn the dignity of women and how to treat them with respect as they consider how they would like their own sisters to be treated. And sibs with lots of brothers and sisters have to figure out ways to stand out to be different.

With less parental supervision, kids have the freedom to explore their own path, making them more creative, according to a study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The limitations that can come with a large family may be mitigated by parents intentionally employing the benefits of a small one.

Though children in small families may have fewer sibs to bounce around with and learn from, some of the upside is that they have more individual time with their parents and more resources afforded to them. According to some researchers, these advantages result in more schooling and slightly higher test scores, enabling them to achieve more academically and occupationally than kids from large families.

In a 1988 study, Ohio State University professor and Stanford Fellow Douglas Downey found that by controlling for parental resources—meaning conscientiously spending time, giving affection, and providing a community for their children—parents can greatly reduce the negative correlation between the number of siblings and their respective outcomes.

This finding is echoed in Judith Blake's 1989 study, Family Size and Achievement, where she concludes that, indeed, highly educated parents of multiple children tended to still provide above-average parental resources to their kids, resulting in better outcomes for them.

"One reason for this pattern," Downey suggests, "may be that a child in this type of community has a larger group of adults nearby who have an interest in the child's well-being—aunts, uncles, older cousins, grandparents, and other adults—and this feature buffers the (resource) dilution process occurring within the nuclear family."

To sum it up, many studies indicate there is not necessarily a trade-off between the quantity of kids and the so-called "quality" of those kids. By distributing resources like time and attention to their many children as they would if they had fewer, it is possible for parents to minimize the impact of fewer resources on a child's well being.

The research shows that by developing and maintaining a nurturing connection with each child, parents can mitigate other potential hardships and their lifetime ramifications.

So, how can a parent of many parent like a family of few?

  • Be organized. Make lists. Plan ahead. Be flexible. By doing so, you make room for those moments that allow you to connect with each child.
  • Spend some alone time with each child every day. Even if it is just running errands or letting the older ones stay up later, one-on-one time counts. And be sure kids have time with Dad.
  • Don't burden older kids with too much little-kid responsibility. Everyone has their chores, but relegate them to the normal stuff. And if the older ones babysit the younger ones, pay them to show respect for their individuality and to avoid resentment.
  • Be creative with space. Share bedrooms and move non-bathroom activities out.
  • Buy in bulk and be choosy with what you purchase. Define what's really necessary and keep in mind the value of hand-me-downs.
  • Keep it simple—from the lists to the chores to your home—and don't fret a mess. Hugs and laughter are more important.
  • Build your village. Enrich your brood with alloparents.
  • And be sure to make time to keep the love fires burning with your partner so you can stay warm long after the kids are gone. 😉

Ultimately, how we parent our children—no matter the number—extends beyond the parameters of family. As world-renowned economist, Gary Becker, said, "(T)he people of the world are our greatest resources." So, with diligence, love and attention, we can fulfill our responsibility to bring up our little charges to realize their full potential and very important roles in the world.


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The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

Conz Preti

Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


Belly oil

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

$58

Belly mask

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

$42

Nipple + lip ointment 

HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

$28

Belly tattoos

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

$18

This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

The Motherly Birth Class

pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

$79

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This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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New line of Barbie dolls includes a COVID vaccine developer

Six female scientists and global frontline workers are honored in Mattel's latest Barbie line.

Mattel

Barbie celebrates role models in a variety of different careers—over 200 to be exact—and their newest line is no exception. The continuation of the "Play it Forward" platform (that Mattel, Inc. uses to give back to communities in times of need) will now honor six real-life female scientists who have been integral during the pandemic, including a COVID vaccine developer.

It was announced today that Barbie will donate $5 for each eligible Barbie doctor, nurse and paramedic doll sold at Target to the First Responders Children's Foundation (FRCF), a charity that benefits the children of first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.


"Barbie recognizes that all frontline workers have made tremendous sacrifices when confronting the pandemic and the challenges it heightened," said Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls, Mattel in a statement. "To shine a light on their efforts, we are sharing their stories and leveraging Barbie's platform to inspire the next generation to take after these heroes and give back. Our hope is to nurture and ignite the imaginations of children playing out their own storyline as heroes."

One of the one-of-a-kind Barbie dolls is created in the likeness of British vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert, who helped lead the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. How cool is that? And what an inspirational toy for kids!

Gilbert told The Guardian she hopes the dolls inspire other young women around the world to work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers (STEM).

"I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into STEM careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realize how vital careers in science are to help the world around us," she said. "My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist."

The other five women recognized by Barbie and Mattel, Inc. are also role models amid the ongoing pandemic: Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz, a U.S. healthcare worker and advocate for anti-Asian racism, ER nurse Amy O'Sullivan, Canadian doctor and anti-racism advocate Chicka Stacy Oriuwa, Brazilian biomedical researcher Dr. Jaqueline Goes de Jesus, and Australian doctor Kirby White, who helped develop protective gowns for healthcare professionals.

Mattel's #ThankYouHeroes program was created in 2020 to honor those who have led the fight against COVID-19, as well as the everyday heroes who keep our communities up and running.

Cheers to the new line of Barbie dolls, and may all the Barbie-lovers in our families find inspiration from these real-life heroes!

News + Trending

Car seat safety isn't a gray area: Why one mom's story is going viral

She texted her husband to remind him to tighten the straps. Minutes later, he was in a car crash.

This story was originally published on August 01, 2018

For most parenting tasks, there's more than one way to get things done. This is important to remember if you're parenting with a partner who has a totally different laundry system than you do or packs the diaper bag in a way that makes no sense to you. It's not the end of the world if the onesies are hung instead of folded or if the bottles are in the wrong pocket. We have to give our partners room to do things their way, too.

But when it comes to buckling our kids in their car seats, there really is only one way—the safe way—and one mama is thankful that she reminded her partner of that just in time.


Rebecca Tafaro Boyer is a new mom and nurse at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. On her first day back at work after maternity leave she asked her husband to send her hourly updates on how her 3-month-old son, William, was doing on his first day without her.

When her husband texted her a photo of William in his car seat, Tafaro Boyer knew she had to let her husband know that there's really only one way to buckle a baby in. "My nagging wife reply was to correct William's position in the car seat—the straps were too loose and the chest clip was way too low. And because I know my husband, I'm sure that he laughed at me and rolled his eyes before tightening the car seat and fixing the chest clip," she wrote in a now viral Facebook post about the experience.

Just 15 minutes after her husband fixed the straps, he and little William were in a collision.

According to Tafaro Boyer, an unlicensed, uninsured driver pulled into oncoming traffic attempting to make an illegal left turn, and although her husband slammed on the brakes at nearly 50 miles an hour, he just didn't have enough time to stop and hit the other car.

"My precious little bundle of joy was so well restrained in his car seat, THAT HE DIDN'T EVEN WAKE UP. Even with the impact of the two cars, William only received a minor jolt - so insignificant that he was able to continue on with his nap," Tafaro Boyer wrote.

Her husband was injured, but baby William was snug in his Britax B Safe 35 car seat. Had the straps been left as they were, it could have been a different story.

"I am so thankful that my husband took the extra one minute that was necessary to put William in his car seat safely," she Tafaro Boyer explained. "I truly believe that the reason my family is at home sitting on the couch with a pair of crutches instead of down at the hospital is because of my annoying nagging mom voice."

Fellow moms are all up in the comments of Tafaro Boyer's post tagging thier partners and leaving notes like, "This is why I nag."

It's not nagging if it's a safety issue.

Sometimes our partners (or our child's grandparents or babysitters) just don't know that something isn't safe. We've got to tell them when they're doing something we know could hurt our child. That's a text worth sending. The ones about the way your significant other folds the laundry wrong, those are the texts you might want to keep to yourself.

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    Car Seat Safety