Is your family complete or are you broody for another baby? Here’s how to work out what’s right for you
MEET THE EXPERT
Professor Melinda Mills is head of sociology at Oxford University and has led research into reproductive behaviour and family sociology.
Years ago you probably had your future all mapped out: perhaps you always imagined yourself as a parent of four, or presumed you’d be content with one child? But now you’re a mum and immersed in your very own baby bubble, chances are you’re thinking differently. You might think it’s the practical factors such as money, childcare and health that are influencing your options, but all sorts of other elements are at play too.
According to Professor Melinda Mills, feeling broody is not an exact science, and there are a whole heap of factors that could be swaying you towards or away from wanting another baby. “It’s best to see it like a puzzle made up of individual pieces,” says Melinda. “These include genetics, hormones, your personality traits, and the family you grew up in.” So what’s your magic number when it comes to planning a family? Let’s find out!
It’s in the genes
The desire to have another baby could be something that is out of your hands. If you have lots of brothers and sisters, the urge to continue growing your own family could be in your genes. “Children of large families often replicate that and have big families too,” says Melinda. “Some people are biologically programmed to have more children and have that genetic drive. And for these people, a higher rate of fertility, coupled with the desire to have more children, means they can easily act upon their impulse to have another baby.” So if you’re part of a big family yourself, your genetic make-up could mean history is about to repeat itself.
Your biological make-up could also be behind whether, or how strongly, you feel broody for more babies. Scientists are still struggling to pinpoint exactly why some of us crave having more babies, while others don’t. “While we haven’t seen many studies into broodiness, we have studied how some women are more motherly than others,” says Melinda. “This means that some women are naturally more inclined—due to their biology—to have children and have a bigger family.”
Melinda explains that whether or not you have the ‘motherly’ trait isn’t altogether something you can choose: “Wanting more children can be a personality trait that is out of your control. Some women are more prone to wanting the role of a mother because of their genetic make-upand personality.”
If you have a strong motherly trait, then you’ll feel more broody. And this is a natural feeling that comes and goes while you are capable of having more babies. “Motherliness is connected to the reproductive clock,” explains Melinda, “so it’s a feeling that will wear off as you get older and go through hormonal changes.”
End of an era
Could it be that, rather than wanting to have another baby, you’re feeling nostalgic about what you might be leaving behind if you don’t? If folding tiny babygros are now a distant memory, it’s worth considering that you might simply be yearning for that emotional newborn stage. While it’s hugely rewarding to watch your toddler wobbling off to gain more independence, the feeling is bittersweet as you realise he doesn’t need you in the same way he did as a baby.
It could be that the thought of not feeling another little
baby kick inside you, of never feeding a tiny newborn again, or not being at the centre of a youngster’s world also makes you consider having another baby. The experience and emotions of pregnancy and motherhood are unique, and almost impossible to replicate. So if you relished every moment of being pregnant, then closing this particular chapter in your life could create feelings of sadness. And thoughts of having another baby are what lift this cloud of emotion.
To work out if a yearning for the past, rather than a wish for the future, is behind your broodiness, make a list of all the special moments to come that you might share with your little one—his first morning at school, his last day at college, the time he brings his partner home to meet you, the moment he tells you he’s going to be a dad. This can help you to see that you’re still at the start of your parenting journey and, while there’ll be changes, your bond will remain.
For many mums, making the decision to have a second, third or fourth child often depends on how family life can be balanced with work. “We’ve seen there’s a tipping point in the workforce,” says Melinda. “One or two children seems manageable, but with three or more, we see women leaving the labour market.” How strongly you feel about your career and your family will pull you in one direction or the other, but consider too that negative feelings towards work might be at play. Perhaps you’re not over the moon with your current work situation, and a baby brings the welcome thought of another maternity-leave break on the horizon. Or perhaps, like many of us mums, you’ve lost a little of your confidence during this big life change, and your sense of who you are, and who you were pre-baby, has become clouded. These situations are best solved not with another baby, but with pro-active change. By all means have another baby, if that’s what you want, but think about whether a change of role or company, or a course to acquire new skills, would be a good solution right now too.
Shut your eyes and picture your family sitting around the dinner table at a special occasion in the future, such as Christmas Day. What dishes are on the table? What can you smell? Now look around at the faces you can see. The table may be full with the family you already have, or there may be a few extra faces!
Think back to your last pregnancy and be honest: did you love it or endure it? Imagine yourself being back in your pregnant body again and capture how you’re feeling: are you overjoyed to be pregnant again or surprisingly underwhelmed?
It takes two Understanding that feeling broody can be down to factors such as your genes, personality, nostalgia and your reproductive cycle, as well as these other factors in your life, can help you make an informed decision about whether to have another baby.
And don’t forget that Daddy may be under the influence too. Less research has been done into the reproductive urges for men, but Melinda is adamant that feeling broody isn’t just a female trait. “There is currently hormone research being done to look at whether men have reproductive cycles like women,” she explains. “Men can feel desire to have another child too, and this often stems from him coming from a large family and wanting to subconsciously replicate that situation.”
So is it time to have another baby? “Think with your head and your heart,” says Melinda. “There is no right or wrong way to make the decision, but knowing all the factors at play will mean you’re armed with all the right knowledge to make it well.” |MB