Babies Don’t Spoil

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I did it. I tried to resist the urge, but I just couldn’t. Perhaps my willpower isn’t strong enough. I began typing and deleted, but then I resumed and hit return before I could turn back. You see, I used to be a constant commenter. I assumed that if anyone put something out there on social media, they wanted to dialog about it. They wanted other people’s thoughts. They wanted my opinion. But over time I came to realize that most people just want to see their own voice on the screen. So, I cut back. I joined a 12-step social media program (not really, but those should exist), and soon enough I began drastically reducing my amount of social media interaction.

But this time I just couldn’t let it go.

Babies Don't Spoil: why holding your baby matters

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I happened upon a post from a “friend” who is the mother to a one-and-a-half-month-old baby. I should qualify this statement by saying she is someone I knew when I was growing up, but life took us in different directions and, outside the online world, our paths haven’t crossed in many years. So, given my lack of real-life relationship with her, I would typically not comment on her posts unless it’s a “congrats” or a “happy birthday.” But today, I went further when I saw this post:

My baby is so spoiled. I hate hearing him cry so i constantly pick him up. MISTAKE!

Here’s the thing that I wish EVERY parent knew about babies: You CANNOT spoil them. Babies are not manipulative. They are not vindictive. They simply want and need to feel secure, comforted and loved. And that sometimes means holding them. A lot. Just ask me. I should’ve known my firstborn would prefer to be held when he was born 10 days past due and was eventually vacuum extracted after a long and exhausting labor. Apparently he was comfortable where he was and did not want to let go.

That didn’t change much as a newborn. He wanted to be in my arms at all times. He was a champion sleeper as long as he was being held. It was a rude awakening for me, a new mom who had previously entertained visions of him sleeping peacefully in his bassinet in my office, while I wrote the day away. Reality hit when I birthed a high-needs, colicky, comfort-seeker.

The thing is, he didn’t cry because he was spoiled. He didn’t cry to be difficult or demanding. He cried because he was a baby and that’s what they do. That’s how they communicate. That’s how they alert us to their needs. And, when we touch our babies, we are actually encouraging their brain development. But, don’t take my word for it; take a look at what science says:

Researchers in the UK found that loving touch, characterized by a slow caress or gentle stroking increases the brain’s ability to construct a sense of body ownership and plays a big part in creating and sustaining a healthy sense of self. [Psychology Today]

And, this:

Every time you hold and gently touch your baby, a message is sent to his brain and a connection is made between brain cells. These connections make it possible for your baby to talk, see, feel, move, and learn.
When you touch your newborn baby, you are teaching him that he is loved and wanted. Studies show that gentle touching helps to calm a baby and reduces stress. A baby who is calm can take in the sights, sounds, textures, and smells around him. And these experiences build connections in his brain. [University of Notre Dame]

In other words, we are not spoiling our babies when we hold them. We are actually helping them feel secure and loved as their brain makes important connections between cells. So, don’t fear spoiling your baby. I know it’s not always easy to tote around a little one, but don’t ever think that when you answer his cries and meet his needs that what you are doing is spoiling him. You are loving him. You are building into him. You are strengthening the bond between you. You are comforting him as you were designed to do.

So, that’s why I couldn’t just not comment. That’s why my fingers couldn’t resist the urge to type a short message of encouragement for the mom. It wasn’t that I wanted her to feel judged or guilty about her choice (and I hope my comment didn’t sound that way at all). Because it’s not just her. I’ve heard this statement from many other parents of various generations. And I want them all to know that babies don’t spoil, so don’t ever be afraid to hold them and don’t ever fear holding them “too much.” Those words don’t exist in a baby’s vocabulary.

A gift for my {awesome} readers… get your FREE copy of my eBook “Motherhood Doesn’t Come with Sick Days…and other lessons from parenting”

Motherhood Doesn't Come with Sick Days

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{Photo credit @iStock.com/molka.}

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4 thoughts on “Babies Don’t Spoil

  1. This should be told and re-told to the families of new babies. So many old-school parents just let their babies “cry it out” and give you a hard time because you give your baby what she’s asking for. Let the new momma do what feels natural, comforting your baby.

  2. Parents should be reminded of this over and over. So many old-school parents just let their babies “cry it out” and give you a hard time because you give your baby what she’s asking for. Let the new mom do what feels natural, comforting your baby.

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