When we brought our newborn baby girl home from the hospital, we noticed immediately that our daughter was particular about one thing: all she wanted was to be in our arms. She didn’t care much for her bouncy chair, swing, or playmat; she had to be held. We developed a precise routine to get her to sleep, and we followed it daily to the letter. My daughter needed to be held close to my body and rocked to sleep before being swaddled and placed delicately into her bassinette. She didn’t like being on her back for long periods of time. So the moment she started fussing, I would be by her side rocking her back to sleep.
During the day, my husband and I would take turns letting her sleep on our chests. Our life’s purpose at the time seemed to be to make her as comfortable as possible. At one point,I remember wondering, was I spoiling my baby?
To my relief, I learned that it's impossible to spoil a newborn baby. In fact, studies show that the more attention we give them during the newborn stage- from birth until about two months of age- the less dependent and clingy they will be as children. Newborn babies need to feel safe and loved, and we can do that by responding as best we can to their every need.
Keep in mind that newborn brains aren’t sophisticated enough to understand cause-and-effect, so they don’t even realize that their cries are what bring us to them. They aren’t crying because they want something; they’re crying because they need something- and that's a very important difference. They cry when they're hungry, when they're uncomfortable, or when they need to be held. Letting newborn babies “cry it out” doesn’t teach independence or self-control. Instead, it causes them undue stress because their needs aren’t being met. In contrast, responding to our babies’ cries strengthens our bond with them because we show them that we're there for them when they need us. They learn to trust us unconditionally.
For some reason, many people wrongly believe that indulging our newborn children’s every need is disadvantageous in the long run. Other young mothers warned me against spending so much time with my newborn in my arms, and dutifully informed me about the negative effects it would have on her for the rest of her life. Listening to their “wisdom” made me worry that I was establishing bad habits that would be tough to break later on. I was concerned that she wouldn’t ever want to held by anyone besides my husband or me, and that I would be soothing her to sleep well into her teenage years. Learning that my coddling was actually helping her grow emotionally and strengthening our relationship was a godsend. I knew that she wouldn’t be a newborn forever, so I spent the next few weeks snuggling my tiny daughter as much as she would let me.
So go ahead and spoil away- it’s actually a good thing.