Can you spoil a newborn or young baby?
The answer to this question is ‘No!’
If your young baby is crying or fussing, it might be because baby is cold or hungry, has a dirty nappy, is in pain or needs comfort. Or your baby might just want to know you’re nearby. Your baby depends on you and other caregivers to give them what they need for healthy development.
If you calmly and consistently respond to your baby’s calls for attention by sorting out what they need or just by being there, your baby quickly learns to trust that you’ll fulfil their needs. And this helps your baby become secure and confident over time.
Babies who have consistent and nurturing relationships early in life develop secure attachment to their caregivers. These babies cope better with stress when they’re older. They also tend to get along better with other children. And they’re more likely to be physically and emotionally healthier as adults.
Other adults can play a role in caring for and responding to your baby. And bonding to more than one person helps your baby learn about trust and closeness to people. So it’s OK to ask for help and have a break for a while.
Why you can’t spoil a baby
Young babies need a lot of attention.
You might worry – or other people might tell you – that if you give your baby too much attention, it will ‘spoil’ your baby. But babies are too young to sort out their own problems. So it’s not a good idea to ignore your young baby when they’re fussing.
So you won’t create bad habits by responding to your baby’s needs.
At 12 months, babies begin to have some control over their behaviour. This is a good time to start setting gentle limits to form the basis of teaching your child positive behaviour in the future. Helping your child understand their emotions will also help them to manage emotions when they’re developmentally ready.
Baby sleep: what to expect
If you’re worried about spoiling your baby by giving too much attention – especially if your baby won’t settle – it can help to know what to expect from newborn baby sleep.
Although newborns sleep 14-17 hours in every 24 hours, your baby might do this in short naps. During the first few weeks, while you and your baby are getting to know each other, you can introduce responsive settling techniques that can help your baby learn to sleep for longer periods in the future.
With newborn sleep and waking, the key is being flexible and following your baby’s lead, including comforting your baby when they need it.
Your baby’s cues and body language will help you understand whether your baby wants to sleep, feed or interact with you. It’s OK to go with whatever feels right at the time.
Baby feeds: what to expect
If you feel that your newborn is crying to be fed all the time, you’re probably right! In the early days, babies typically need to feed every 2-4 hours. Responding and giving your baby what they need is key.
It might help to know that most babies establish a manageable pattern of feeding over the first few weeks of life. They learn to do most of their feeds during the day and have fewer at night, so it will get easier.
A calm and happy feeding time is a great opportunity for you to bond with your baby and build the warm and trusting relationship that’s so important to your baby’s development.