January isn’t normally a month when we find much to celebrate in the short, cold days. But for Jo O’Connell, the start of a new year eight years ago was cause for excitement — as it marked the long-awaited end to a month of sexual abstinence.
As the PR business owner planned a New Year party at her Bournemouth home, she and her husband, also called Jo, looked forward to a night when they could finally be intimate again.
The reason they had put lovemaking on ice for so long? Jo was determined her second child would be born in September. ‘We had deliberately waited and not had sex during December,’ she says.
Full-time mum Daria Jordan, 34, pictured with baby Alina, was firmly advised by her mum to give birth during September. She says: ‘Mum is a primary school teacher and she has seen a big difference in children according to when they are born’
‘I’d done the calculations and in order to ensure my son was a September baby, we needed to hold off. I wanted it to be a January conception. Luckily, the evening was such a success our son was conceived that very night.’
Jo is one of a rising number of women who aim to conceive in January, or just before, to guarantee their children are born in September — at the start of the academic year — in the hope it gives them a head start in life.
She says: ‘I did my own research and learned that summer babies often have a hard time keeping up in school, as they are often the youngest in their year. Just as some parents hire tutors so their children get ahead, I’m open about my rationale for ensuring neither of mine were born in July or August.’
On average, 2,000 babies a day are born during September, compared with 1,800 a day throughout the rest of the year — and the month has been the most popular in the calendar for two decades now.
While statisticians ascribe this quirk to parents having more sex over the Christmas and New Year period, education specialists confirm the academic advantage of being one of the eldest in the class.
Katie Howell, 34, says her partner, Miles, is a summer baby and believes his birth date has cast a long shadow over his life. Pictured with their daughter Aurora, now four months old
Georgina Durrant, a former teacher and author of 100 Ways Your Child Can Learn Through Play, says: ‘A September-born child has had almost a whole extra 12 months practising motor skills, social skills, emotional regulation and communication before they start school.’
Academic researchers call this the ‘birthdate effect’ and, in 2010, the Institute for Fiscal Studies found ‘a significant penalty associated with date of birth’ in the results of national achievement tests — one that persisted to the age of 16 and beyond.
A 2013 report found autumn-born children were 25 per cent more likely to get an Oxbridge place. Little wonder, then, that so many mums go to eyebrow-raising lengths to ensure their child is born in September.
If this is your goal, now is the perfect time to conceive. Dr Ellie Rayner, an obstetrician and founder of The Maternity Collective, says: ‘If you are hoping for a September or early October baby, the ideal time to try is from the middle of December to the end of January.’
Jo, now 52, firmly believes her children — Bethany, nine, and Bo, seven — have both benefited from being among the eldest in their classes.
Mature student Carmen Antohe, 27, pictured with her son Patrick, three, is another proud mum who has noticed how advanced her September-born son
‘I did notice a difference between Beth and her friends when she started nursery,’ she says. ‘You could tell who the younger ones were and those who struggled.’
Spa consultancy director Katie Howell, 34, feels the same. Her partner, Miles, is a summer baby and believes his birth date has cast a long shadow over his life.
‘He was very anxious that we didn’t have an August baby,’ says Katie. ‘His confidence wasn’t great at school and that’s because Miles was born in July. He found it incredibly difficult to keep up with his classmates.
‘His friends born in September were so much more confident and physically stronger, too. It took Miles years to gain confidence.’
In December 2020, Katie and Miles, who live in Chelmsford, Essex, conceived their daughter Aurora, now four months old.
‘We booked a weekend staycation to Southampton. We had some lovely, stress-free date nights and I fell pregnant that weekend.
‘We discovered our due date was September 3. The following nine months were an anxious time because it was so close to our daughter being an August baby.
‘When we passed September 1, we breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, I wanted a healthy baby — but I also wanted to give her a good start in life. Miles was genuinely happy she’d be the oldest in her year. It’s why I would try for a September baby again.’
Full-time mum Daria Jordan was firmly advised by her mum to give birth during September.
She says: ‘Mum is a primary school teacher and she has seen a big difference in children according to when they are born.
‘I also found out being pregnant during summer was a good thing for both mother and baby, as the body gets more vitamins, especially vitamin D, via sun exposure.’
In one 2015 study from Cambridge University, scientists discovered that getting more sun in pregnancy can lead to higher birth weight and later puberty for girls.
‘The other advantage is that children born in September are faced with all the bugs that surface during the colder weather and so they develop strong immunity early, which lasts for life.’
Daria, 34, gave birth to daughter Alina 16 months ago in September 2020. She says she and her husband, who live in Leicester, tried ‘especially hard’ in the window that would mean having a September baby. ‘We got married in November 2019 and that same month, I stopped taking my contraception,’ she says.
‘In the end, I conceived my daughter on Christmas Eve. My husband was happy he was going to be a father and that it would be a September birth. I was given a due date of September 15 and she arrived a day early.’
Daria Jordan said she found out being pregnant during summer was a good thing for both mother and baby ‘as the body gets more vitamins, especially vitamin D, via sun exposure,’
Already Daria feels her plans have paid off. ‘Alina is really advanced for her age. Her communication skills are better, too.’
Mature student Carmen Antohe, 27, is another proud mum who has noticed how advanced her September-born son Patrick is: ‘I can see already that he is very intelligent. He’s only three, but recently my car broke down and Patrick piped up that I needed tools to repair it.’
She says it was her husband, who works in construction, who pushed for their child to be born at the start of the academic year. ‘He and his father are September babies and they are both very smart. My husband was keen for our child to be born in the same month.
‘We conceived in December 2017, the first month we’d started trying. I was only 23 and my husband was more aware of the days we needed to have sex than I was.
‘He went into seduction mode and was very charming, knowing just what to say and do to flatter me and get me into bed.
‘On our first scan, the doctors told us the due date — September 14, 2018, the same day as my husband’s birthday. We were both shocked. It was like winning the Lottery.’ In fact, Patrick arrived on September 20.
‘Before Covid, I could see how advanced he was in comparison with other children. Just watching him at birthday parties — he is articulate and confident when he plays with his peers.
‘Recently, he was mixing flour with water at nursery and was the first one to have a go, and also to finish it.
‘I did check his astrological sign, too. Virgos are healthy and successful; they rarely take medicine and are typically a star sign that doesn’t often go to hospital.
‘Patrick is smart, loyal, practical and organised. He puts his toys away unasked and gives me a lot of love. It’s why we’re now trying for another September baby.’