If you’re a parent, you have no doubt been chided by someone for “spoiling” your baby (like an older gentleman at the grocery store, or your mom, or a friend who doesn’t have kids… ). Maybe it was because you were carrying your baby in a baby carrier, or because you rocked your baby to sleep, or (and this actually happened to me) because you picked your baby up because they were crying. Because what a terrible thing it is to respond to a crying infant, right!? Spoiling a baby? Let’s talk about it!
I have always responded to comments like this in exactly the same way: It’s impossible to spoil a baby.
In fact, when we look at childhood development, most kids don’t figure out how to “manipulate” their parents until they’re nearly teenagers. Somehow there is this idea that babies who cry for attention or to fulfill their needs are spoiled and manipulative. I’m here to tell you that, actually, they’re just doing what works. Babies’ brains have not yet developed to the point of being able to understand that they can make people do things for them. They do learn that there is some cause and effect with crying and having their needs met, but that can hardly be called manipulation. Crying is the only way that they can communicate effectively, and going to them when they cry is how we tell them that they are safe. Studies show that responding to your baby fosters more independent and confident children, because they grow up knowing that they have a solid support system behind them.
I love to tell people who talk about “spoiling a baby” that for the first three months of my babies’ lives, I almost never put them down. Why would I? They’re tiny and squishy and perfect, and they need their Mama.
But what about sleep?
Here’s the thing with sleep – sometimes you can snuggle a baby to sleep and that baby will sleep like an angel for hours on end. Other times, you get a baby that needs to be rocked back to sleep every 2 hours and you’re left feeling like a zombie every day. If you’re in the second category, let me be really clear here: you did not spoil your baby and now she’s a bad sleeper. You did what worked for you at the time and that was exactly what your baby needed. It’s also worth saying that if you do rock your baby to sleep every night and it’s working, that’s completely fine. Don’t change a thing if you don’t need to!
If you happen to have a baby who wakes frequently or is taking hours to get to sleep at night, you can make changes to their sleep habits without sacrificing your responsiveness. The best thing about infant sleep is that there is no one-size-fits-all method. You can absolutely be responsive to your baby and still teach them to sleep independently. For example, in a Mama Coach sleep plan, we use “check ins” for infants who are older than 4 months. This could mean that you leave the room for 3-5 minutes at a time, or that you stay with baby in the room so that they know you’re still there, or it could be a combination of several techniques that work best for you and your family. You can be a responsive parent, raise a child who is not spoiled AND get a good night’s sleep!
Not convinced? Book a consult call with your local Mama Coach to talk about sleep solutions that allow you to keep on “spoiling” your baby!