You Can’t Spoil a Baby.

You just cannot. There is no such thing. Unfortunately, plenty of parents believe otherwise. They try very hard not to “indulge” their babies and end up creating a lot of misery for everyone. Here are some of the actions that worried parents believe can spoil a baby but cannot:

•         Picking her up every time she cries.

•         Rocking her to sleep.

•         Feeding her whenever she’s hungry.

•         Playing with her when she’s in the mood.

•         Carrying her around a lot, even when she’s not asking you to.

When people say these things spoil a baby, what they really fear is that these actions will create “bad habits” by raising high expectations of Mom and Dad that you will eventually be too exhausted to meet. The concern is that the baby won’t learn to be independent. You’ll always have to rock her to sleep. She’ll grow up to be a cry baby, etc. The truth: She is less likely to grow up to be a cry baby if you accept that right now that’s exactly what she is supposed to be. Babies are wired to cry to get you to feed and hold them because these activities are necessary for them to grow. Look at it from the baby’s perspective. One minute you’re in this nice womb, the climate control works perfectly, you’re never hungry, you get carried everywhere, you can sleep whenever you want. And then, suddenly, you get booted out into a netherworld full of strange sensations. It’s hard to process all of these experiences because you don’t yet understand that you are a “you” much less perceive that what you’re feeling is pain in your tummy because you’re hungry. So you do what you’ve been biologically programmed to do: you cry. What happens next is going to go a very long way in determining your opinion of the new world. If suddenly something soft and warm is put in your mouth to suck which miraculously soothes your stomach, you’re going to feel pretty good about this new place. But if your cries are not often met with food, comfort and attention, you’re less likely to have a positive attitude. This is the difference between getting a child off to a good start and a shaky one. And as momentous as this is for a baby, it’s relatively simple for parents to accomplish.

Don’t worry about habits. You can ease a baby out of a habit when you need to–as long as you don’t need to until he or she is old enough. As the baby grows, his face won’t turn an appalling shade of purple just because you’re five seconds behind schedule delivering his milk. He’ll be able to fall asleep peacefully without being rocked (he may not want to fall asleep this way, but he can do it without feeling traumatized). No one can tell you when this will happen for your baby. It certainly won’t be at two days, and it will probably be before six months. The point is that there’s no need to stop rocking him at three days because you’re worried you’ll still be doing it at three years. You won’t because you will know better. You can’t spoil a baby. But you can spoil a toddler.

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