Can you spoil your baby?

  • Published
  • By Laurie Ekert, RN
  • 341st Medical Group New Parent Support Nurse
With all my years of providing parenting education and support, I have seen many parents, especially dads, worry that picking up a crying baby too much will spoil them and not allow them to become independent or start to meet their own needs. 

Actually, if you give your baby prompt attention, your baby's brain comes to life and full functioning through the connection of brain cells. There is only one way the connections are made and that is by being held. 

It has been shown that if you ignore your crying baby, they learn not to trust you. A baby learns that his crying doesn't help get his needs met, so he will give up trying to help himself, which could lead to depression and anxiety as time goes on. How do we feel when we are being ignored? Love and attention is never spoiling, for any of us. 

Researchers from John Hopkins University did studies that showed babies who were securely attached and received responsive parenting were far more independent as they got older than the ones who were parented in a more restrained way with a set schedule and given less nurturing responses to their cues. 

Babies are too young to purposefully manipulate or annoy you. Defensive parenting would be if you felt the baby was crying just to upset you when it really doesn't have anything to do with you. They cry to communicate their needs, whether they need a snack, a clean diaper, or some cuddling and reassurance they aren't alone. 

A baby has a five-second attention span, so communicating with them quickly only helps build their self esteem and I.Q. levels. As your baby matures and reaches around 6 months, you can consider building their independence by slowly delaying coming to the rescue to certain cries like overstimulation or frustration. 

Another developmental stage is separation anxiety that usually sets in about 7-12 months. Babies know you can leave them now, but they don't know that you'll always come back, so they usually cry when you leave their sight. Be sure to play peek-a-boo and say goodbye so they can see you leave. This will help them develop trust that you will come back, even though they still may cry. 

It is okay to let your baby cry for a couple minutes when you bring them home from the hospital and when they are getting use to their cribs, but they need you to come to their rescue during their adjusting process. 

So, to answer your question, no, you cannot spoil your baby... babies are spoil-proof. Love and enjoy the time you have with your infant as they will be independent soon enough and not wanting your cuddling, hugs and kisses.