One Cyberparent surfer wrote, "My husband spoils our nine-month-old son more than I do. And he already knows to turn to dad when he is not getting his way. It seems to be getting worse. Can you spoil a baby?"
Until a baby is six months old, studies have shown that picking her up when she cries, and indeed, catering to her every need will not spoil her. In fact, she till turn out to be happier, more self-reliant, calmer, than if she does not receive attention when she cries. She will probably cry less in the long run and be more trusting of the person who comes to her when she wants or needs attention.
However, a periodic 15-minute break from a fussy baby will not hurt your baby. Neither will letting him cry while you go to the bathroom, finish a phone conversation, or put the clothes in the dryer.
Remember that crying is your infant’s only way of getting your attention. If you normally go to your child when he cries and attend to his needs or hold him for comfort and warmth, most experts agree you will not spoil the child under six months old
Between six months and twelve months, however, we begin to find some disagreement between experts on the subject of "spoiled."
Bob Carver, Texas psychotherapist told CyberParent, "On the subject of spoiling, studies show that if parents respond consistently and lovingly when their baby cries for attention, he tends to be more secure and cries less often by the end of the first year. If you are not consistent or rarely respond, the baby tends to be more clingy and tearful by the end of his first year. His appearance of being spoiled is actually insecurity.
"However, babies must also become independent for their own self-esteem. When they are left to entertain themselves for short periods of time, they learn that they are pretty good company even without mom or dad to pull the strings. This is an important concept babies need to develop for self-esteem."
Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi Murkoff, and Sandee Hathaway, authors of What to Expect the First Year write, "By the seventh month babies are already expert mommy manipulators; mothers who play ‘baby taxi’–picking their little ones up the moment they are hailed by a pathetic wave of the arm–can count on being ‘on duty’ throughout their baby’s waking hours."
J. Ronald Lally, a founding member of Zero to Three feels children under the age of one year are not capable of the abstract thinking it takes to manipulate other people. He says, "Many people think you can spoil young babies by giving in to their cries for attention or feeding them on demand. But giving babies what they ask for in the first year of life is not spoiling; it’s good parenting."
Carver stressed consistency by saying, "Even at this young age, consistency is important. If she gets her way once, she’ll try again. Twice, and she will try all the harder."
Carver also stressed, "Be calm when you are not catering to your child’s every whim. If he senses that you are flustered or anxious, this will make him anxious, too. His appearance of being spoiled, therefore, may be only mirroring your anxiety."
Guilt is a big part of manipulation. Whatever you decide to do, don’t take a guilt trip. The Editors of Prevention Magazine in Women’s Encyclopedia of Health and Emotional Healing say, "It’s no wonder so many mothers feel stressed, especially when you consider their susceptibility to guilt. It’s easy to feel guilty that you’re not doing enough for your children, or feel you’re not doing the right thing."
The authors of What to Expect the First Year agree and write, "Don’t feel guilty or anxious about not picking him up or playing with him every minute of the day. If you do, you’ll be transmitting the message that playing alone is punishment and can’t be fun, that there’s something wrong with solitude. As long as you do spend plenty of time playing with him, some time apart will actually benefit both of you."
Carver reiterates, "On some days, it will be hard to tell who wants to cry more, you or your child. It doesn’t hurt to cry together when that day comes."
Note: The opinions expressed herein areexclusively those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the position ofCyberParent. They are not intended to take the place of advice of a health orother professional whose expertise you might need to seek.