The risk of being small for gestational age increased by 0.8%
The researchers, led by Dr Agustin Conde-Agudelo, said the risks associated with short intervals between pregnancies might be explained by the mother's body not having enough time to recover from the physiological demands of having the first baby and breastfeeding.
The effect of a very long gap could be a gradual decline in the capacity of a woman's body to bear the demands of pregnancy - similar to the state seen in women in their first pregnancy.
The outcomes for babies born a long time after their sibling and for first babies are similar, the researchers said.
They add that the effects of short or long gaps on maternal and child health should motivate health professionals around the world to increase their efforts to provide family planning advice.
"The results of our systematic review could be used by reproductive clinicians around the world to advise women on the benefits of delaying a subsequent pregnancy for approximately two to five years to improve the health of both mother and the next infant."
Mr Patrick O'Brien, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "This is a huge study, providing more reliable data than any we have seen before."
He added: "Most couples will think carefully about subsequent pregnancies.
"But women and couples will take this paper into account when making their decision.
"Already, women don't want to have babies too early because of their careers or too late because of declining fertility.
"This suggests women and couples will also want to leave space between pregnancies of about 18 months."
But he said women who fell pregnant after either a very short or a long gap should not worry, as doctors could provide the right care for them to ensure the baby was healthy.