Monday Advice: Can I spoil my baby?

Sandy Bailey
certified family life educator

No. Young babies are completely spoil-proof. Your baby needs all the care and attention you can give. Ignore the advice of well-meaning relatives who think babies need to learn independence. Instead, listen to your parental instinct — that inner voice that tells you to comfort your baby when he cries.

"Spoiled children" have learned to use negative behavior to get what they want. But your baby is too young to purposefully manipulate or annoy you. He cries to communicate his needs, whether they're for a snack, a dry diaper, or a little cuddling with Mom or Dad. When you respond quickly to your baby, you're building his sense of self-worth. You're also establishing a foundation of trust that can last for years to come.

If you give your baby prompt attention, he'll feel more secure and less anxious, giving him the courage to explore the world on his own. And once he understands that you take his cries seriously, he'll be less likely to cry for no reason. In the long run, responding quickly to your baby's needs will make him less clingy and demanding, not more.

By the time your baby is 6 to 8 months old, he'll be paying close attention to cause and effect — noticing, for instance, that his bowl falls when he drops it from the highchair. He'll also start to see a direct link between his actions and your responses. At this point it's okay to set some limits. If your baby starts crying to get something he doesn't need, hold your ground and give him a hug when he calms down. Similarly, give hugs and praise for good behavior and gently redirect him when he's doing something hazardous.

The right blend of love and guidance will eventually help your child understand his place in the world. But for now, your focus should be on giving him as much attention and comfort as you can. No matter how much you give, it's not more than he needs.

Member Comments:
Im glad I read this because I have been told over and over that im spoiling my baby and I feel as if i am sometimes...because he cries for me to pick him up...once i pick himup he stops and start smiling. how can I break him out of that habit early before it gets worse.

Balance is the key. Don't ignore a baby who is full-out crying, but don't be afraid to let them fuss a little either. Tummy time frustrates my girls, but I do it so they will build their strength up. I also let them fuss a few minutes at night before picking them up as sometimes they will put themselves back to sleep.

SPOIL PROOF may not hold true for all babies, but YOUNG BABIES, such as newborns ARE spoil proof. They cry to get your attention because that's the only way they can tell you what they need. As they get older, they will be more effectively able to communicate what they need without crying. I pick up my baby and I hold him plenty. If making my baby feel safe and loved and having him trust me that I am going to take care of his needs means he's spoiled, then I'm gonna spoil him rotten. As they get older, space out the time that you answer their cries. Go to them and talk to them to let them know you're there, but don't pick them up. Then gradually start increasing the time that you respond. But as far as babies about 3-4 months and under, I think responding is appropriate because they can't say " Hey mom, my diaper is wet, could you give me a change" OR " Mom, I'd really love to spend some quality time together" And your chances of hearing that doesn't increase as they get older.

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