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Can you Spoil a Baby?

Contrary to popular beliefs, no, you CANNOT spoil a newborn!

How many of you have been guilted into not responding to your baby’s cries because “you’re creating bad habits” or “you’re holding them too much”, and (my personal favorite), “they need to learn to self-soothe”.

These are all so wrong! Research on child development tells us that babies don’t even have the ability to understand cause and effect until about 9 months of age. They are biologically unable to connect the dots and realize that their cries will elicit a response from you. They are simply and innocently trying to have their needs met.

Letting a newborn cry it out at this early stage won’t teach them to solve their problem on their own: they are still developing the ability to do this.

Why do babies cry?

Crying is the main way that your baby communicates with you. Usually, they have a need, and are trying to get it met. Some things your baby might be trying to tell you through their cries include:

– I’m hungry
– I just want to suck (this can be a very soothing behavior for them)
– I’m tired
– It’s too noisy/stimulating
– I’m too hot/cold
– My diaper is wet and/or soiled
– I just want to be held
– I want to move around

Sometimes, you will have addressed ALL of the above needs and your baby is still crying. This can definitely happen and yes, sometimes babies cry for no discernible reason at all.

While you can continue to go through the cycle of cuddling, feeding, removing noise and stimulation, bouncing, diaper changing, and more, it sometimes become necessary to step away…

On the other hand…

While you should never let anyone feel guilty for responding to your baby’s needs, you should also know that it is completely acceptable if you need to let your baby “cry it out” on occasion. The newly postpartum phase is a delicate time, often filled with stressors (hormones, sleep deprivation, and the physical and emotional recovery from birth). Your baby’s cries can be incredibly triggering, so if you need to walk away, call a friend, and distract yourself in any way, please do it. Self-care and self-preservation during this time is incredibly important.

Unfortunately, there is no hard data on acceptable frequencies of using the “cry-it-out” method. Every baby, every household, and every parent is totally different. As a rule, try to respond to their cries as consistently as possible, but feel free to reach out for support, take a break, and walk away for a few minutes whenever you feel you are getting overwhelmed.

In short

It is important to take breaks and reach out for support when you are feeling overwhelmed at any time during parenthood. Early postpartum can be a delicate phase, so be conscious of your triggers and feelings. Overall, though, infants who have their needs met calmly and consistently develop secure and confident attachments to others.
As babies go through life, they develop healthy and secure emotional bonds and relationships. This is one of the main goals of parenting: for your child to develop into a mentally and emotionally healthy adult! They are incapable of manipulating you.

Toddlers, though….are manipulative as hell.

– Sheena