So, you have a new baby and, for one reason or another, you find that you're pretty much holding him all. of. the. time.You have it in your mind that you're doing what's best for your little one, because nothing that makes that screeching, wailing sound can be healthy, right? But what if picking her up whenever she cries is hurting more than helping? What if holding your babe all the time causes problems down the road. Is that even possible?
Can You Spoil an Infant by Holding Them Too Much?
The majority of experts will all agree that the answer is NO. Babies cannot be spoiled by holding them too often, feeding them on demand, or in general, fawning over them non-stop.
At this stage in your child's life, your main responsibility is to build a loving, trusting relationship that is built on responding to your babe's needs. When he's hungry, you feed him. When he needs to burp, you pat his back. When his diaper is dirty, you change it. When he's cold, you cover him with a blanket. When he's fussy, you rock him to sleep. Get the picture?
Your baby is completely incapable of deceit or manipulation, so, in the infant stage, a baby is unable to become spoiled.
So then, what is everyone always going on about when they say your babe is supposed to self-soothe, or cry it out, or get on a feeding schedule, and on and on and on. Are they just straight up wrong? It would help mamas everywhere breathe a sigh of relief if they could just blow off everything their mother-in-law/aunt/college roommate/grocery store produce lady has every told them about spoiling their baby, that's for sure!
What Does the Research Say?
Science is your friend if you're on the side that says you should hold your babe whenever and for whatever reason. Studies show that carrying your babe more often has been shown to decrease the amount of crying for normal, everyday things like when they're hungry. And, it increases their overall contentment and mood. Certain studies show that not responding to your child with cuddles and carrying could result in more crying, crying for longer periods of time, and could even result in colicky babes. No thanks, mama.
Another great example of why it's always a good idea to hold your babe is the research done on breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact. Going skin-to-skin while feeding your baby has actually been shown to have incredible positive benefits in physical, mental, and emotional development in later life.
Your child's brain is going through unreal amounts of development in the first three years of life. In the infant stage, they are experiencing a critical period where love, trust, and comfort are all playing major (like major) roles in their future relationships and emotional well-being.
How Should You Respond?
So, what if you're at a point where babe is six months in and you don't get enough sleep to make it through the day without a coke (okay, well, for me that amount of sleep doesn't exist). How do you find the balance? This is around the time when parents decide they're going to let their babe cry it out-- a method of sleep training where you try to get your babe to self-soothe by letting them cry themselves to sleep.
So how do you get away with letting your babe cry it out when all you want to do is pick them up?
My mama advice? Listen to your gut. Your mama instinct is gonna be a better indicator of whether or not you're doing something beneficial for your babe. If you're doing your best to get your babe to sleep on her own in a crib, or transition to her nursery, start by giving yourself a max cry time (for my first, I started with 20 minutes) and go in there to soothe her (whether you choose to feed at that time, totally up to you) and then try again. Stick with that max cry time for a couple of days and then increase the time by 5 minutes. In theory, your babe should be able to get the hang of it after a few days. Every babe is different, and sometimes you'll be able to hear just from her cry if you need to go in there immediately, or if she's faking it.