I was walking through a crowded flea market with my baby snuggled close in his carrier when I heard a woman whisper to her friend, “She’s spoiling that baby.”
I was sharing a story about how my baby kept me up all night because he wanted to be held when I was told, “You’re spoiling him so much.”
I was sitting through a class aimed at teaching new parents how to care for their babies when the teacher warned her students, “Don’t pick up your babies when they cry; you’ll spoil them.”
Here’s a spoiler alert for you: I’m tired of it!
I get fired up about the “spoiled baby” debate. Not only does research show you simply can’t spoil a newborn, it also suggests that some severe disorders can form if you fail to meet your tiny one’s needs.
Because here’s the thing – babies don’t cry to manipulate you. They don’t know how to do that. Instead, they cry because they have basic needs just like you and I do. They get hungry, they hurt, and they get sleepy or overstimulated. Since they can’t take care of themselves, they rely on us to do it for them.
I’ll be the first to admit that when babies reach a certain age, you actually can form habits that may lead to what your grandma considers “spoiling.” By this age, babies usually have some sort of cause/effect understanding and they can, in fact, use that to their advantage. But before then, they just don’t.
If I had believed everyone who told me that tending to my newborn’s cries would spoil him, he would have been in terrible pain from the very first day of his life. My son has severe acid reflux that prevents him from sleeping, gaining weight, and being comfortable. Letting him cry it out would have left him in immense pain he could neither understand nor bear.
Does it really sound like I spoiled him by helping him get some sleep, providing him with cuddles, and feeding him whenever he wanted?
For me, it’s simple. Babies are only babies for a very brief time. They grow like weeds, and they’re gone really, really fast.
Babies just don’t keep.
And parenting isn’t meant to be convenient.
So I will continue to rock my baby to sleep. I will wake up with him in the middle of the night. I won’t sleep train him. I’ll pick him up when he’s hurting. I’ll wear him as much as I want.
And, I’ll cuddle him for as long as he’ll let me.
Because that’s just it – he’s not going to let me forever.
If I’m “spoiling” him, so be it. That’s my issue to deal with later. I just don’t need to listen to another lecture while I’m shopping for groceries.
I’m doing the best I can at motherhood, and this is the way I’ve chosen to do it. Besides, if anyone is spoiled here… it’s me. I’m the one who gets to cuddle him whenever I want.