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.