What You Need to Know About Spoiling a Baby

It’s an age-old question: Can you spoil a baby? For example, if your baby cries for attention for the tenth time this evening, should you rush in to “fix the problem” or is there a benefit to waiting a minute or two before you do? The answer seems to depend on the age of the baby–and who you ask. There is clear consensus, however, that there is no such thing as spoiling a newborn: parents should definitely respond to cries of infants 3 months and younger as soon as possible.

Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block, was interviewed for an article called “When Does Discipline Begin” by Parenting.com. About infants Dr. Karp said:

“Holding him for 18 hours a day may seem like a lot from your perspective, but to a baby who was being held 24/7 in the womb, it’s still a 25 percent rip-off.”

Yet there must be some point before the kid is off riding a bike around the neighborhood when moms and dads can stop the round-the-clock Florence Nightingale care. Exactly when is it? Many pediatricians advise that once past the infant stage, parents can begin differentiating between their baby’s needs and wants.

In the kidü parenting course called Lullaby and Goodnight for Newborns, Dr. Laura Jana discusses the distinction between wants and needs when it comes to breastfeeding a baby to sleep:

Many times I’ll see parents who have fallen into the routine of nursing or bottle-feeding a 9-month old back to sleep because they assume all nighttime crying is due to hungerIn reality, though, this sort of nighttime feeding in older infants and even toddlers strongly suggests that it has become about habit and soothing rather than nutritional need.  

Interestingly, research does show the benefits of lots of parental affection and quick parental response time during childhood. A  TIME Magazine article titled “Why Spoiled Babies Grow Up to Be Smarter, Kinder Kids” looks at three major studies that investigated the question of spoiling babies:

Researchers found that kids who were held more by their parents, whose cries received quick responses in infancy and who were disciplined without corporal punishment were more empathic — that is, they were better able to understand the minds of others — later in life.

Check out the kidü collection called “Can You Spoil a Baby?” In it, you’ll find articles, videos, and activities that will help you clarify your parenting approach to raising a baby who is confident and attached, yet unlikely to grow up to become a spoiled kid.


Shana Burg