Continuing my blog series on the Our Baby Class Guiding Principles, this post focuses on principle 2, you can’t spoil a baby.
“If you pick her up every time she cries you will spoil her”
“If you hold her all the time you will spoil her.”
“If you feed him every time he fusses, you will spoil him.”
“If you feed him to sleep, you will spoil him.”
“If you let him sleep on you, you will spoil him.”
“You will spoil that baby if….”
Most likely you’ve heard one of these comments, or something similar.
We are very focused on the idea of spoiling a baby and it goes hand and hand with our cultural focus on pushing babies to be independent as early as possible. But here’s the thing, you can’t actually spoil a baby.
Babies have needs, not wants. A need to be fed, loved, and held close. A need for connection and contact. A need to be responded to and shown their value. A need to have their needs, both physical and emotional, met.
As they grow older wants start to slowly sneak in, and sorting out the needs from the wants can become more challenging.
An infant, particularly a newborn, is entirely dependent on their parents and caregivers. They have very few ways to communicate with us besides body language, facial expressions, and crying. Spending time with your baby, engaging with them, holding them, wearing them in a carrier, helping them fall asleep…these are all parts of getting to know the new person in our life and helping them adjust to the outside world. Even if you only hold your baby for 12 hours a day, that’s half as much as the constant closeness they had while inside their mother.
My husband and I were fortunate that our parents didn’t really use the “you’ll spoil that baby” phrase. They were more of the “let me cuddle that baby when you need a break please” mentality. Add in the fact that most of our friends didn’t have kids yet and were smart enough to know they didn’t know what they were talking about, and we were mostly insulated from the worst of the spoiling obsession. It can be hard for new parents to be doubted by immediate family or close friends, even when you know what you are doing is right for you.
So, ignore the fuss over spoiling an infant. Hold, snuggle and respond to your baby. Try and understand their needs and meet them as best as you can. Know that an infant is not manipulating you or purposely trying to drive you crazy. Closeness and connection, responsiveness and love will not spoil a baby.
Now, when you get to those toddler years….. All bets are off and sorting out those wants and needs are a whole different exhausting challenge!