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Am I Spoiling My Baby? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Editorial: by Bev Hoefs   

As a mother of four, I pondered this question a thousand times - but only with my first baby.
He was quite fussy and holding him or nursing him soothed him immediately. Many times when
I would try to put him down, he would begin to wail. As I'd pick him up (again) someone would
often chide, "You're spoiling that baby!"

I tried letting him cry but it broke my heart. After all, I reasoned, if I was upset, and called out to
my husband, his lack of response would upset me further, making me feel unloved. Babies cry to
communicate. Their cry is unsettling to their parents because it is divinely designed to ensure
babies get the care they need.

The truth is - holding your baby is as natural as breastfeeding. "Colicky babies who cry for hours
may be entirely normal. It is the modern habits of parents that are often at fault, contends Dr. Ronald
Barr of Montreal Children's Hospital. Colic, he finds, is nearly absent in the world's few remaining
hunter-gathering societies, such as the bushmen of Botswana, where mothers typically carry their
infants almost constantly."(1) In fact, in Bali, babies are carried by mothers or relatives, until a
ground touching ceremony at 6 months.

Numerous studies have documented that carrying your baby promotes a feeling of security, which
lays the foundation for normal healthy development.

Dr. Spock wrote, "It seems that in Western industrial societies like ours, we have somehow
managed to remove most of the closeness between mother and baby that comes naturally in simpler
places. We've invented plastic infant seats so that when babies are moved about, they don't have to
be carried in the parent's arms. What a contrast between this and the frequent movement and warm
contact when babies are held by slings against their mother's bodies."(2) Movement and bodily
closeness are good for babies and we've been ingenious and consistent in depriving them of these

Studies by neurologist, Richard Restak, have documented that the number of brain cells continues
to increase after birth in the cerebellum. Optimal development of the cerebellum is stimulated by
motion. "Being rocked or carried isn't just soothing; it is essential for complete brain growth."(3)
As far as "spoiling" goes, you've likely never seen such lovely, self-reliant children as those of the
Botswana tribes. Because their dependency needs are fully met from birth, they are able to "take
on the world" with all confidence. Basic needs, fulfilled, allow one to move forward.

When I am very hungry I have one pressing need which eats away at me (no pun intended!) until
it is satisfied. Babies have a basic need for their mother. The dependency needs vary from child
to child, but satisfied in the early years, the "secure base" foundation will serve a lifetime.

(1) Dr. Ronald Barr, Globe and Mail, Feb. 26, 1993.
(2) Dr. Benjamin Spock "How Mothers Learn to Love Their Newborn Babies" Redbook, May 1976
(3) Paul Klein Ph.D. "The Needs of Children", Mothering No. 74 Spring 1995

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