The idea of spoiling a baby is widespread, but is there any truth to that idea? And if so, is it possible to unspoil a baby?
How many times have you picked up your baby when he or she was crying, just for someone to say: “You’re going to end up spoiling that baby”? That comment can really get your mind wandering and make you think maybe you shouldn’t be tending to your baby every single cry.
Before you start listening to uneducated comments and thinking you’re going to ruin your baby by spoiling them, you need to know the experts’ advice on this topic.
Is It Possible to Spoil a Baby?
A child is considered a baby until they are one-year-old. During the first six months of your baby’s life, it’s impossible to spoil him or her. Babies can’t talk, so their only way of communicating when they need something is through crying.
When you go to your baby when they cry, you’re not spoiling them – you’re simply caring for them. In fact, experts don’t like the concept of “spoiling infants” because it’s widely believed that it’s not possible.
David Elkind, a professor of child development at Tufts University, says that babies will cry when something is wrong.
“Infants cry when they need something, and it’s hard to spoil them because they’re not trying to manipulate or maneuver,” says Elkind.
He goes on to say that it’s hard to spoil them because they are not trying to manipulate their parents. Peter A Gorski, MD agrees and says that the idea of spoiling a baby is a myth that needs to be addressed.
According to research, the parents of infants who respond to their needs, even every cry, is happier and even more independent by their first birthday. Babies learn they can trust their parents when parents are there for their baby’s needs.
“Babies who are the most connected early on have such strong trust in their parents that calm reassurance from mom and dad gives them the comfort to try new things or explore unfamiliar territory, knowing that help will be there if they need it,” says Dr. William Sears.
Focusing on care and direct contact with your baby can have tremendous benefits, and shouldn’t be avoided for fear of spoiling your little one. A study published in Pediatrics found that parents’ skin-to-skin contact with premature babies helped the babies not only develop early on, but created positive effects for years to come.
“This study indicates that KMC [kangaroo mother care] had significant, long-lasting social and behavioral protective effects 20 years after the intervention in adolescence and young adulthood,” the researchers found.
Worrying less about spoiling your baby and more about healthy bonding will help you focus on what matters most: your little one’s growth and development.
Tips to Avoid Spoiling As Baby Gets Older
David Mzarek, MD believes that during the first six months it’s impossible to spoil your baby.
“Meeting an infant’s need to be comforted, held, and fed in a predictable fashion helps him feel secure and builds a loving relationship between parent and child,” Mzarek says. “It does not lead to spoiling.”
He believes that it’s not until the second half of your baby’s first year that the risk of spoiling can occur. This just means with a few adjustments and tips in mind, you can avoid the risk.
“Of course, your baby still needs your care and love,” says Dr. Ester Schaler Buchholz. “But he also needs to start figuring things out for himself.”
1. Break The Habit of Holding Consistently
Once your baby reaches seven months old, he or she is now in their second half of their first year, meaning the risk of spoiling can occur.
Of course, you’ll still want to hold your baby as necessary, but try to reduce the amount of time you spend holding your little one. When they cry, try to entertain them with something else before you resort to holding them – unless they are sick, hungry, or need to be changed. Baby toys or a play mat can help with this transitory time.
2. Stop Co-Sleeping After a Certain Time
Each family has their preference on co-sleeping and room sharing. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics explains that around six months or up to one year is a good time to transition your little one into their room.
If you let your baby sleep with you beyond this, you’re risking spoiling him or her. It’s going to make it harder for the transition in their room if the guidelines aren’t followed.
3. Avoid Feeding Every Time They Cry
While you want to ensure an infant isn’t hungry, you don’t want to jump to feed your older baby every time they cry. For example, they could have a wet diaper, belly issues, or just need your attention.
If you go to feed them every time they cry, you can condition your baby to be dependent on food when they need comfort as they grow older.
4. Tantrums Before Toddlerhood
The dreadful tantrums usually begin during the toddler years. However, some impulsive babies will throw a tantrum when they want to do something, but their feat is greater than their ability to do so, according to Dr. William Sears.
Some babies tend to be more frustrated than others, which causes these tantrums. Dr. William Sears states that babies will give warning signs before they go into a full blown tantrum.
The signs include arching their back and stiffening their arms and legs. If something is happening to make your baby frustrated, try to get their mind on something else to redirect the tantrum.