Can you spoil a newborn or young baby?
The answer to this question is ‘No!’
Young babies need lots of attention, and you might worry – or other people might tell you – that if you ‘give in’ too often or give too much attention, it will ‘spoil’ your baby.
But this won’t happen. In the first few months you won’t create bad habits by responding to your baby’s needs.
Young babies can’t consciously connect cause and effect. They don’t think to themselves, ‘I’m going to cry until I get what I want!’
If your young baby is crying or fussing, it might be because baby is cold or hungry, has a dirty nappy, or is in pain. Or your baby might just want to know you’re nearby. Ignoring your young baby when they’re fussing won’t teach your baby to sort it out for themselves, because young babies can’t do that yet.
Why it’s important to respond to your young baby
Your baby depends on you and other caregivers to provide what baby needs for growth and 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 quickly 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.
Balancing routines and flexibility
You might worry that if you cuddle your newborn too much, baby won’t get into a sleeping routine. But in the early months, it’s important to help your baby develop secure attachment to you by calmly and consistently responding to baby’s needs.
Some parents find a simple, flexible feed, play, sleep routine can be calming and predictable for their baby. Others find that it helps to aim for flexibility rather than routine, especially in the first few months.
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.
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, on average, 16 out of 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 settling techniques that set the stage for helping your baby learn to sleep for longer periods.
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 demand 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.