Find out why it's impossible to spoil a newborn with your love and attention.
Whether it’s from a family member or a well-meaning neighbor, almost every new mommy has heard the same warning at some point or another: “If you keep picking up your baby every time she cries, you’re going to spoil her.” Or “Watch out — you can spoil a newborn by feeding her whenever she wants.” To those who say you pay too much attention — don’t pay them any attention (true for much of the unwanted baby advice you’ll be getting). The truth is, it’s impossible to spoil a newborn. That’s right, impossible! And the experts agree. Here’s what the research shows:
Newborns cry because they have basic needs — to be fed, held, comforted, and loved. Their needs are actually the same as their wants at this age. And it is your job to listen to your instincts and respond to those needs and wants as best you can. If that means toting your infant around in a sling while you do the laundry or getting up every few hours throughout the night to nurse, so be it. That won’t spoil a newborn. Far from it. When you respond to your newborn’s cries and try to meet her needs, you’re teaching her to feel secure and confident. And that security and confidence will result in less crying and more independence in the long run. That’s because young babies who feel a deep trust in their parents tend to develop a secure sense of self that helps them self-soothe later on.
Newborns aren’t manipulative. Worried that your baby may be using her whimpers and tears to manipulate you? Even your precious angel isn’t smart enough for that kind of complicated thought at this young age. Newborns’ needs and wants are much more straightforward. So each time you or your hubby quickly responds to your infant’s cries for food, a cuddle, or help nodding off to sleep, you’re reinforcing the notion that you’ll be there for your little one and that she can count on you. This notion will not spoil a newborn but will instead help her develop a healthy bond with her parents. Of course there will be times when you can’t get to your infant as quickly as you might like (hey, mommies have to pee, too!), but responding to your infant’s needs as best you can will let your infant know she’s loved. And guess what? A baby who’s secure in her bond with her parents is a happier, less-needy baby — and becomes an older baby who has the courage to take on the world without clinging to you.
It's a little different with older babies. Once your baby gets to be about six months old, however, her wants will get more sophisticated and they may not be the same thing as her needs. For instance, an older baby may want to pull your hair or earring or she may want that TV remote with all the interesting buttons. In cases like that, it’s good to set some limits and teach discipline — that way, your baby will be more capable of understanding the concept that Mommy doesn’t always give me what I want, but she still loves me. For now, though, while your little one is still so young, remember that you can’t spoil a newborn — but you can teach her to trust in you and the world.