Parents - need your help on debunking the "spoiled baby" myth

My husband and I do not see eye to eye on our child’s crying. I do not believe that you can “spoil” a newborn by holding them. He (being coached by his mom, who is pretty cold) has said a few times that I shouldn’t pick her up when she cries.

Can you please help me convince him that a two week old baby is not trying to manipulate her parents and just wants to be comforted? Specifically any studies or sites are welcome.

Try this page: at

It’s not possible to spoil a newborn baby. Have you got any baby books? Any of them should mention that, including Dr. Spock and the 'What to expect" series. Babies need cuddling and attention, and some of them need to unwind by crying.

Correct. Newborns aren’t the problem. Once the little bastards start walking and talking and testing limits is when you need to start choosing the time to fuss over them and watching for manipulation.

You cannot spoil a child by giving him too much love or affection or comfort. Period.

I don’t need no stinkin’ cites! I’ve raised three babies! And when those babies cried, especially in the first few months of life, you can bet I picked them up. Babies cry for a reason. They can’t tell you I’m hungry/crappy/pissy/sick/hurt or just plain lonely. They cry. It’s up to you, Mom and Dad. to figure out the rest. A two week old baby is impossible to spoil.

Once they hit around 6 months or so then I used to make sure everything was OK in their little world, and not be as quick to scoop them up. I’m not suggesting letting the child scream, but going in, knowing baby is dry and fed, and soothing the child without picking her up. (Got to get her to sleep on her own sometime.) Of course this could be repeated several times, and somrtimes it ended up Baby 1 Parents 0 anyway :smiley:

You’ll be amazed how quickly you will learn to pick up on your own baby’s cues. As hard as it may be to believe now, after awhile you’ll have a pretty good idea of when the baby is really miserable or just learning to see how fast mom and dad can run. AGAIN… at two weeks…this is not a worry. I would never let an infant that young “cry it out.” They need to feel safe and secure.

Good luck with your new baby!

No, but you need to be careful how you express that love. Getting worked up and fussing over your five year old every time he or she scrapes a knee is not such a good idea. You shouldn’t ignore them, of course, but you shouldn’t overreact either.

A to Z Guide to Your Child’s Behavior, by David Mrazek, M.D., should be required reading for all new parents. You can get it at or here:

“During the first six months, it’s really impossible to spoil a child,” reassures David Mrazek, M.D., chairman of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota. “Meeting an infant’s need to be comforted, held, and fed in a predictable fashion helps him feel secure and builds a loving relationship between parent and child. It does not lead to spoiling.”

At this stage crying is all about needs - food, warmth, comfort. Yes, comfort. Being held is a NEED.

I would think that would go without saying. But you’re right, it probably doesn’t hurt to clarify.

The best thing I can tell you is to read the book “On Becoming Babywise”. It’s not exactly what you’re asking, but REALLY helps to understand newborns. You’re not going to spoil a baby by picking it up when it cries, however, don’t you think it’ll be better if YOU know what the baby wants? This book says to put the baby on a schedule, some parents don’t like it, but I swear by it. My first baby, I wasn’t married, my second, I was, but my husband left for six months with the military 4 days after he was born. Without the wisdom I found in this book, I don’t think I would have survived. Also, in your situation, it’s a reference point that maybe you and your husband could agree on.

A baby that young is way too young to have any Machiavellian manipulation plans.

At that age, you can’t communicate with words. A baby lets you know it needs something; by picking it up, you’re giving some response.

I raised some very easy-going babies, and I think that was due in part to the fact that they trusted that their needs would be met. If they cried, I would pick them up (or feed them, or whatever.)

I had some tense times with my husband because at times I could hear that the baby was asking for some attention, but I wasn’t able to give it RIGHT THEN (as when I was cooking dinner or something.) I knew from experience that if I picked the kid up right then and gave a quick cuddle, then he would be satisfied, and the problem solved fairly quickly. My husband, however, would give me an “OK, in a minute” response. “In a minute” does not work with an infant who doesn’t understand English or the concept of delayed gratification. When my husband pulled that routine, it would give the child a chance to get really worked up and upset, at which point it was a chore to try and calm him down.

Make life easier on yourself. Respond quickly, and convince your child that the world is good, and his needs will be met. It makes for a much easier-going child.

(This does not go on forever, by the way. When they start to learn some language skills, then you get to begin to break it to them that they are not the center of the universe.)

Avoid that Ezzo child abuse stuff at all costs. I’m sorry but Ezzo needs to be stamped out, jumped on and weeded from the gene pool. While his babywise crap is gag-worthy, the stuff taught at some churches is heart breaking. If you can handle hitting your 9 month old to teach them table manners, then Ezzo’s your man! There’s some baby deaths associated with the Ezzo dog training method too. It would simply be ammunition for your husband and his mother to use against you.

Would he be open to Sears? His books are reassuring that you don’t spoil your baby by meeting their needs and they are easy to get hold of.

I’m sorry your time with your newborn is starting out with these sorts of conflicts. Unfortunately different opinions are SOP in a lot of marriages. One boundary I drew was that my SO had to convince me that his method was sound and useful. His mother and his ex-wife were not to be considered as authorities :wink:


We could discuss Babywise in Great Debates although I’d rather see it in the Pit. The authors of that book have few credentials in child development. That sort of parenting might be a lifesaver for someone who is shorthanded at home, and I am glad it has helped some parents. But overall I find many of the beliefs in that book to be offensive.

Back to the subject at hand…

T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., who has a chairmanship at Harvard Medical School named in his honor is yet another person you could cite. He says he does not believe it is possible to spoil a child in the first year. You don’t spoil a child by attending to her needs. That’s a quote from his book “Touchpoints”

In “What to Expect the First Year” the authors cite studies that show that answering a baby’s cries promptly makes her a more confident self-reliant child who will cry less later on. Also, she will feed better because she won’t have a bellyfull of air from screaming.

Or how about William Sears, a pediatrician and father of eight children. In “The Discipline Book” he says “responding to your baby’s cries is Discipline 101.”

Also Burton White, who has spent 37 years researching and observing children. In “How To Raise A Happy, Unspoiled Child” he cites Piaget, who found that crying in the first few months of life is reflexive, not intentional. At 5-6 months they start connecting the cry/get parents-to-come connection. Even then, White doesn’t advocate ignoring the child as a way to prevent spoiling.

Amusingly, as a gift I got a book whose very title is: “Don’t Pick Up the Baby or You’ll Spoil the Child and other OLD WIVES’ TALES” They too cite six months as the earliest you could possibly “spoil” a child.

It can be hard to gently contradict a mother-in-law. Even if that is an Old Wives’ Tale (which it is) that’s an insulting way to put it. You might tell your husband that you can tell your MIL did a great job with him, and you are going to value her wealth of experience and input on many issues in the weeks and even years to come. But on this issue, you know the conventional wisdom has changed as child development has become better understood. And you and he both want to to as good a job as you can, even if it means NOT doing some of the things your parents did. He surely wants what’s best for your baby, and on this issue, an entire phalanx of doctors, moms, nurses, child psychogists, and scholars are in agreement on this issue.

Wow. I’m really surprised at the posts about the Ezzo’s. It’s been a while, but do they really say to hit a baby? I thought they introduced a hand smack at around 15 months or so in lieu of spankings. They really did help me, being a single parent both times, I never got the chance to parent a child so young with another adult present. On the other hand, the only other parenting book I was introduced to at that time was “The Discipline Book” which called for mothers to carry your baby in a sling ALL the time. Since I had to go back to work full time at 6 weeks, this was hardly feasable.

As well meaning as Elgar may be, I cannot disagree more strongly with his/her advice, especially with regard to putting a child on a schedule or otherwise following the teachings of Gary Ezzo.

We give our pets free access to their food and water to eat and drink when they feel that they want to. We don’t demand that our dog stay up all day so that it will sleep all night. Why wouldn’t we offer that same basic flexibility to our children, whose needs change and vary from day to day, much like our own?

Similarly, think twice before accepting the ideas of people like Richard Ferber (father of the [IMO] barbaric “cry it out” sleep method) or Gary Ezzo, whose claim to expertise is that he’s a (non-ordained) Christian pastor, not a doctor or other medical authority. The advice in “On Becoming Babywise” has been called dangerous and has led to harm to children, so much so that the publishers have cancelled the author’s contract, (Cite, Cite, Cite) and that says it all. Doctors have observed children raised on the Ezzo method who are dehydrated, failing to thrive, and otherwise unhealthy and unhappy babies.

Babies have needs and the only way for them to make those needs known is to cry. Meeting a child’s needs – responding to those cries, even if it’s just to soothe the child for a moment to quiet and calm them – is what you as a parent are supposed to do. You instinctively know that, trust your instincts!

The concept of a manipulative infant simply defies logic. A newborn could not possibly have the ability to know that the loving parents who are attending to their needs aren’t doing it because they want to but because the child has forced them to? What wiles does an infant possess of their accord? It’s simply ridiculous.

You cannot spoil your child by responding to her cries. You will not “spoil” your baby even if you lavishing her love and other positive attention. Responding to your child’s needs is what you’re supposed to do. Spoiling a child (which when you think about it, is a really nasty concept in and of itself) might become an issue if you were giving the child things that they didn’t need. But one of the most important things your baby needs is your presence.

You are the center of your baby’s world. You provide her with stability, peace and comfort. You are the first person she ever knew, and the first person she was capable of recognizing and remembering. There is no way of quantifying the importance of the connection between you to her emotional and mental development. Meeting her needs for comfort, connection, soothing and physical attachment is how you will let her know that she is loved and in a safe, secure environment. Don’t believe anyone who would try to tell you that is a bad thing to do.

Unless your baby is Stewie from the Family Guy.

It seems that the AAP even speaks against the Ezzos. It’s not very reputable, from what I’m seeing from articles on Yahoo.

(Sorry, DDG!)

You can find countless popular books on the subject. That is a good indication that nobody really knows the answer.

I have a 15-month-old son, and I’m learning new things about parenting all the time. I think the only general statement that is valid is that it’s usually best to trust your instincts.

My son goes through phases when I can tell it’s best for him to be “babied”, but he also goes through phases when he needs to be pushed a little to become more independent. There’s no explaining it, but if you try to be mindful and pay close attention to how your baby is acting, you can usually tell what to do.

[annoying nitpick] (sorry)
A baby that young is too young to have any conscious manipulation plans. However, lord only knows what unconscious, instinctual plots evolution has given human babies. :slight_smile:
[/annoying nitpick]

Heck, when I gave birth, the hospital made sure to inform me TWICE to avoid Ezzo/Babywise. They gave me a pamphlet on it ad went over it in the little class.

Yeah, you spend the first year or two teaching them to walk and talk, and the rest of their childhood trying to get them to sit down and shut up. :slight_smile: