3.20.2015

is my baby spoiled?

I've seen a lot of brand new mommies wonder if they are spoiling their babies because they hold them constantly, don't want to leave them with a sitter, and because their baby cries when they put them down or leave the room. It's a legitimate question, because parenting will make you second guess yourself over and over, and a quick Google search will convince you that anything you are doing is wrong for some reason, even if that reason is not legitimate. Most like, if you are following your instincts, you are not doing anything wrong. Your instincts are not going to tell you to give your 3-month-old french fries from McDonald's or drive with them in your lap. Do what feels right in your heart.

The answer to the question is a resounding no. You cannot spoil a baby! Experts say before the age of two, infants do not need discipline, but their needs to be met so that they can learn trust. I love this article by Dr. Sears. My favorite quote: "A baby's wants ARE its needs." There's absolutely nothing wrong with holding your little one constantly and being with her all the time. Here is what I tell myself when my arms are weary and I just want two.minutes.to.myself.

1. We have evolved holding our babies. Thousands of years ago, the only way a helpless baby or toddler did not end up in the belly of a hungry tiger is by being held, probably in some sort of carrier, by their mamas and constantly surrounded by capable adults. Your infant has been programmed, whether you believe by design or nature, to want you to hold her.

2. She's learning that when things disappear, they don't just cease to exist. She's learning distance and time.This is why babies get a kick out of peek-a-boo! She's learning that even if she can't see you, you are still there, that you will come back. Everything that we already know, she is learning! She has to start from scratch, and it's hard to fathom not knowing those things, because as far as we can remember, we have known them.

3. She loves you! You are her favorite person. While her whole little life, she's "known" she needs your care, she is getting to the age where she actually loves YOU. Not just your smell, your warmth, your boobies or bottles, but she is learning that you, this woman, this mama, that she actually loves you and feels affection toward you. That's why she lights up when they see mama. That's why she cries when you put her down, why she hates to be alone in a room. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

4. She's human. Not only does she not quite understand that you will come back when you leave, but she simply doesn't want to be alone because she is a sociable human being. Humans have basic needs: food, water, shelter, and companionship. Yes, we actually need to be healthfully attached to fellow humans in order for our brains to develop properly. You might actually look at this as another way nature helps out. Babies cry when we put them down because if they didn't, we may never hold them, never connect! Of course, that's a little dramatic, because a good mama is going to love and connect with her baby even if she is "perfect" and never, ever cries. But it makes sense that one of the reasons they cry is so that their emotional and psychological needs can be met as well.

Babies are totally, completely, 100% innocent. They are not manipulative. Heck, they are just learning that when they move their hand to swat a toy, it rattles and moves. They don't understand the concept of manipulation! They don't think, "I'm not really that sad, but I'm going to fake cry to get what I want. Ha!" Their intentions are completely innocent and positive. Even though their "problems" to us are simple, to them, the only sorrow they know is being away from mama, being put down, etc. That is their reality. If they are upset when they are put down, does it matter to them that they are changed, warm, fed? No. Their emotions are real and true. Just because they are little does not mean their emotions aren't valid.

Here's also something to keep in mind: it's totally normal to become frustrated, exhausted, and worn if your baby does not want to be put down. (Colic is a completely different story, and I offer a giant hug all you mamas with colicky babies. Phew.) It's totally okay to put your baby down and catch a break. It's totally okay to cry with your baby, stare at them and say "WHAT DO YOU WANT?!" as they look up at you with that sad, pathetic face full of snot and tears.

One grace parenting gives us is that often these difficult times are phases. Even if it lasts for a few months, it won't last forever. Chase is my easy baby and usually I put her down for a nap by simply putting her in her bed; but now and again, she screams when I put her down (she has learned that her bed means sleep!) and wants to nurse to sleep or fall asleep in the carrier instead. I always do, because I know that one, she won't be tiny and need this forever, and two, more than likely she will go back to "normal" in a few days, or at most, a few weeks. Yes, some days her need to be held all the time can be tiring. There is no way around that. But I know I am not alone in this, and neither are you. This behavior is normal.

But please know that you are not spoiling your baby by holding them all the time. It is normal for her to want you constantly. Remember that your mama instincts trump any parenting book out there, and keep doing what you're doing! Then, when you can get a sitter, go have a latte and take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for all the hard work you are doing as a mother!

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