Babies Can’t Be Spoiled

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.


From the moment Dylan was born, he liked to be held.  He was happy and would sleep soundly as long as he was in someone’s arms.  During the first few weeks, I’d spend hours on the couch at home with him nursing on my nursing pillow.  He’d slowly drift off to sleep and would have long, lovely naps as long as he remained on the pillow close to me.  As soon as I tried to move him and put him down, he’d immediately wake up screaming.

Peacefully sleeping on My Breast Friend
Peacefully asleep on My Breast Friend

I was very confused!  We had purchased all these “holders” for Dylan.  He had 2 pack n plays, a crib, a bouncy seat and a swing. And let’s not forget the very expensive stroller!  Everyone told me that we NEEDED all of these things.  And I naively assumed they were right!  I thought that I’d feed Dylan, put him in one of these holders, he’d fall asleep and I’d have time to do whatever I wanted.  Boy was I ever WRONG!

Dylan was in my arms, in my sling, or right beside me  24/7 for the first few months of his life.  He demanded it!  And it felt natural to me.  While it may have seemed natural and right to me, it didn’t appear that way to others.  On a daily basis I’d hear comments such as:

  • You have to put him down when he sleeps.  Otherwise he will never learn to sleep on his own.
  • He needs to self-soothe.
  • Why do you carry him around all day in that sling?   He looks squished.  It’s not good for him.
  • He should sleep in his crib.   Get him out of your bed now or he’ll be in there til he’s 12.
  • You’re nursing him again?  You must not have enough milk.  Give him some rice cereal.
  • Put him down already!  You are spoiling him!

Most of these comments came from well-intentioned family members.  They truly believed that both Dylan and myself would be better off if we weren’t attached all day long!  They thought that Dylan would learn to become independent and I would be happier because I would have some time to “myself”.

I believed that what I was doing was right, but I needed some evidence to back up my beliefs.  I started poking around on the internet and realized that I wasn’t the only one who thought that holding and nurturing a baby is absolutely vital.

Dr. Sears was a great resource for me:

New parents often ask, “Won’t holding our baby a lot, responding to cries, nursing our baby on cue, and even sleeping with our baby spoil her?” Or they ask if this kind of parenting will create an overly dependent, manipulative child? Our answer is an emphatic no. In fact, both experience and research have shown the opposite. Attachment fosters eventual interdependence. A child whose needs are met predictably and dependably does not have to whine and cry and worry about getting his parents to do what he needs.

Kellymom was another:

My heart aches for the baby left alone to learn to “self-comfort”, to “cry it out”. Experts have told moms “not spoil their babies” and to “let them cry”. This is a good thing? What are we accomplishing? Babies need nurturing and it is not spoiling them to provide it. Spoiling means “ruining” and you cannot ruin a child with love and affection.

With Dr. Sears and Kellymom on my side, I began to trust my instincts.  Dylan is now 2 years old and is fiercely independent!  I guess we are doing something right!

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19 Responses to Babies Can’t Be Spoiled

  1. sami Alam says:

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  2. Great post! It is amazing that so many people genuinely believe babies ate like fruit and will spoil if they’re handled too much! My hubby and his 5 siblings were all raised AP style, so I wasn’t too worried when I was told all the same things you were (although it still annoyed me). They all turned out fine and didn’t co-sleep past 2 or 3 (basically they all transitioned to their own bed before their next sibling came).

    • Sheryl says:

      Glad to hear that your babes all transitioned to their own beds when they were ready…when people ask me how long we will co-sleep, I say we will stop before my son goes to college. LOL.

  3. Alexandra says:

    great post!!! And he sounds exactly like my son as an infant! :)

    I used to work for a sling store and people were always surprised when I told them babies learn more social cues by being worn because they can see mom’s face very clearly and how she reacts to everything. People have the idea that they will learn more by being in a stroller, when it fact that causes the baby to be overwhelmed. People are just so misinformed…it’s sad :(

  4. JDJ says:

    Today, Dylan and I were about to walk down the stairs together. He stood very tall, pointed his finger at the bottom and said, “Daddy, you go down first!” He wouldn’t budge until I was all the way at the bottom, just to ensure that he would be able to try going down himself. Yup, all that spoiling early on really created a dependant child……so much for all those friendly pieces of advice.

  5. Rachel says:

    Ha ha…I have been rocking my 1-yr-old to sleep since he was born. I nursed him for 9 months and he is also used to being held a lot. I tried to get him to get himself to sleep…and he got hysterical. My main goal was to get him sleeping all night. I found that when I let him whimper a little in the middle of the night that he would go back to sleep by himself. When I started rocking him to sleep again he started sleeping better at night and hardly ever woke at all. When he does wake up crying I rock him back to sleep. I thought for awhile this was spoiling him, but since he is sleeping so well at night now, I’m not going to let him go to sleep screaming :)

    • Sheryl says:

      It’s great that you were able to get your baby to sleep without resorting to crying…so many moms think crying-it-out is the only option. So sad!

  6. Mummatutu says:

    My daughter was not like yours but my family issues with AP were exactly the same. I held my daughter constantly. My thought with her (my 2nd) was I am doing EVERYTHING the opposite of what everyone says I shouldn’t do. They told me not to hold her so much, I held her ALL the time. They told me breastfeeding would make her colicy, I fed her breastmilk. They told me cloth diapers would cause her to get a bad rash, I cloth diaper her. They tell me not to let her feed herself, I put her whole meal and a fork in front of her. Everything I did opposite has worked out for me. She is so well behaved, confident and self reliant. Were starting to potty learn this weekend. I think it’s going to work out!

  7. Pingback: Respond With Sensitivity Blog Carnival – 2010 | Attachment Parenting International Blog

  8. Larissa says:

    I’m glad I read this. I am an AP parent and we co slept with DD1 when she needed it and slung her for her first few years (she’s now 4). I have a 3 month old son on my lap and although he is slung, BF’d on demand and co sleeps alot more than DD1 I am finding it more difficult to ignore family members who say “He’s feeding AGAIN!!” and “He’s still in your bed?!!” and “You should let him cry sometimes”. I want him to move to DD’s room when he’s 6 months but reading this made me realise… does it matter if he’s in with us a little longer? The answer is no. We have a Superking bed, him sleeping with us is not affecting our sleep / marriage and hah.. what sex life??!!! So I’ll talk to my husband and will still try and put him int he cot next to the bed but will be able to say to my family “yes.. that’s whats happenning and yes we are happy with it that way!” And Yes I will only let him cry when I simply cannot attend to myself, DD1 and him all at the same time! Not becuase I just can. My daughter is the most outgoing talkative (Sometimes frustrating) girl I have ever met. I want that for my boy too :)

    • Sheryl says:

      It can be hard when our families don’t always agree with our AP principles! Sounds like you are doing a fantastic job meeting the needs of your children in a way that feels right to you!

      • Larissa says:

        Thanks Cheryl! I don’t know how anyone slings all the time though. Esp with a little one. As soon as Tobias is strong enough I’ll stick him in a high back carry with my MT .. but till then sometimes I just have to have him in his rocker / bouncer. My arms just arn’t long enough!!

  9. mamapoekie says:

    What a wonderful and very true post. How often are youbg parents bulied out of providing the very basic care for their newborn

    • Sheryl says:

      Yes! So many parents are led to believe that they should listen to so-called “baby experts” rather than follow their instincts and common sense. It is sad!

  10. Ali says:

    This post is/was exactly my life! We also had 2 pack n plays (which have always just held our laundry or whatever else) swings, bouncy chairs, crib etc. and all I needed for the first 9-10 months was my Moby. He would only sleep on me and he was attached to me all day (and while I loved it, plenty of people had their other opinions). It’s funny, as my parents are still concerned that I don’t get enough “me time” when I’ve never expressed this need myself. At 20 months, I still nurse him (and nurse him to sleep, in our bed), he still rides in the sling at the grocery store and we are all happy and content, I think he is a good mix of independent while still needing me (and knowing I’m there). Our lifestyle drives my parents crazy, but I always say that our parenting style speaks for itself when they comment about how much they love spending time with him and how great he is! :)

  11. jenmum says:

    This is a lovely post! A good resource if well meaning friends and family start to question your approach. Thanks.

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