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Newborn & baby health centre

Can you spoil a newborn baby?

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

When you first hold your baby your instincts are to give them all of the love and care you can. That’s not spoiling your baby that’s being a parent.

Friends and family can have quite fixed views on the right way to look after your baby. 'You should leave her to cry', 'don’t hold her all the time', 'don’t feed her on demand - stop spoiling her'!

Don’t listen to them! All of the experts agree you just can’t spoil a newborn baby.

Newborns need food and love

"It is impossible to spoil a newborn; those who believe otherwise show nothing other than their ignorance in basic neuropsychology," says Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of 'BabyCalm: A Guide for Calmer Babies and Happier Parents'.

"A newborn's brain is not wired in the same way as an adult's and in particular the section of the brain responsible for habit formation is not fully connected until approximately six months of age."

Newborns need contact and comfort

"You can’t spoil your newborn," says Jo Tantum author of best-selling 'Baby Secrets': "You need cuddles to bond with your baby just as much as it needs comfort from you."

"Research shows that keeping our newborns in close proximity to us as much as possible actually aids the brain to develop as well as regulating breathing and temperature and improving weight gain," says Sarah. "So hold your baby all you want, guilt free, in the knowledge that what you are actually doing is helping their development rather than hindering it."

Newborns aren’t attention seekers for no reason

Little babies are mentally incapable of manipulating you.

"Babies don’t understand the concept of being naughty. They cry if they want or need something", says Jo, "It’s only in later babyhood that they learn to get your attention through devices like the attention cough."

After six months or so babies become more curious about the world around them and then it’s good to set some limits, especially relating to safety.

Newborns and sleep

Sleep is a precious commodity when your baby is newborn. Holding your baby as he or she goes to sleep does carry certain issues according to Jo.

"It’s fine in the first few weeks but then when your back starts to hurt and you have other things to do you’ve already taught the practice to your baby. Make sure baby is used to falling asleep in the crib or cot straight away"

Jo has had parents come to her who sit in a darkened nursery holding the baby for a couple of hours until he goes to sleep.

Newborns and crying

Newborns cry, it’s their means of communication.

Dawn Kelly is a paediatric nurse and health visitor with over 20 years' experience.

"Babies do cry, it’s a natural process and how you parent your child is a natural instinct.

"If you want to give your crying baby a cuddle, do it. There’s evidence that babies who cry and are responded to quickly cry less and at not such a high pitch as babies that aren’t responded to, who tend to cry even more."

Controlled crying, which is leaving your baby to cry for a few minutes before responding, is one choice many parents make believing it’ll help their infants to settle into a better routine. However, those experts who advocate this don’t suggest starting it with newborns but with older babies.

Reviewed on June 13, 2016

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