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

Yeah, they advocate that, but they don’t insist on it. They’re big on Attachment Parenting but there is plenty of good advice in their numerous books for any parent. I didn’t sling my kid all the time, either (only when he was really fussy) but I still like the Sears book. The Discipline Book is really more useful for dealing with kids that are not infants, anyway.

I suggest you read Ferber, since he most certainly does not recommend “cry it out.”

You can’t spoil a baby, as long as you keep it in a cool, dry, dark place, securely wrapped in plastic wrap or large freezer bags. They can get stale, though, so watch those expiration dates!

(Gosh, I didn’t know I had such a sick sense of humor. OK, maybe I did. :smiley: )

I was on your husbands side of the equation when Baby Kate came along. But Lady Chance looked up some cites for me and I came around.

Certain ‘What to Expect the First Year’ indicates that you can’t really ‘spoil’ a child at less than 6 months. After that the kid will start being able to think about cause and effect.

Just to echo what most here are saying, from our limited experience with BabyMaeve, it’s impossible to spoil at a very young age.

As they start to move about, I’d also emphasize that you don’t need to “rush” toward them everytime they fall down (assuming it’s a minor oopsie). As a first time parent, my biggest surprise was just how much of a baby’s reaction to falling etc… is dependent on the parents reaction. While I knew this intellectually, actually experiencing it was a different matter.

Oooooh, that rotten baby! You’ve already failed as a parent because he or she has been PLOTTING to GET YOU ever since it was CONCEIVED and now it’s just whining to get you away from your NORMAL life. You never saw it coming…:wink:

Puhleeze! You CANNOT spoil an infant (I’d go as far as up to a year old in most cases). They are trying to tell you something. Cuddle all you want! I hope the little darling is feeling better!

Quite true, beagledave. The Heapette is well into the running around and destroying everything and annoying us stage, and she tends to fall down a lot.

She’ll come zooming into the living room and trip over the edge of the carpet. Not always, but sometimes she’ll start to yell. We look at her. He keeps yelling, but is holding herself up and just checking to see if we’re looking or not. Then she stands back up and makes this little piggy-snort thing she does, giggles and runs away.

They don’t need to be coddled. They do need to know you are there if they need you.

No Greater Joy by the Pearls makes Ezzo look like Dr. Spock!


I mean, seriously, if a baby has a wet diaper, he or she can’t just yell, “Um, hey, I’m a little damp here!” He or she has to cry to let you know.

shakes head

Oh, Kalhoun, my daughter was an expert manupulator by nine or ten months. Yes, you can go down the wrong path after about six months - but it depends on the child.

To a certain extent, I think my daughter was good at it coming out of the womb. She was born stubborn and intent on getting her own way. Not that I’d advocate not “spoiling” a newborn (I, too, think Babywise evil).

Another thing to keep in mind is that no baby has ever cried themselves to death in five minutes. A lot of parents read “pick them up when they cry, feed them when they need to be fed” and drive themselves off the deep end - not sleeping, not showering, not getting any personal time. If the baby starts crying when you are close to climaxing during sex - by all means - let the baby cry for a few minutes and finish.

Dangerosa, my son was pretty good at a young age too. But I thought he was a particularly evil baby;)

< mild hijack >

I have read Ferber, and I’m afraid he does. Babycenter and have just two of the concurring opinions I found on the issue.

< /mild hijack >

As have I, we must have very different definitions of “crying it out” as Ferber has you comfort your child - just not pick them up, rock them, give them bottles (after they are an age where they don’t need night feedings), or cuddle them to sleep, and he and I don’t see that as “crying it out.”

(Solving Your Child’s Sleep Problems, Ferber, page 66, on his not recommending you let them “cry it out”).

I’m a guy and I pretty much believe as your husband does.


A two week old baby is one thing - they need to be held and cuddled a LOT. Look at it from the child’s perspective: being a newborn is hard - you can’t talk, you can’t move, you can barely see and hear (and things are really bright and really loud, anyway), you haven’t the slightest idea what is going on, and your ONLY means of vocal communication is your totally untrained, unmodulated voice. Of course you’re going to cry!

Our Sophie cried quite a bit for her 1st month, but we never ignored it and we held her constantly, talking to her, making her feel safe. She quickly got over it and became just the happiest little girl you could imagine… but those first couple of months are just scary for a little baby. Imho, when it comes to “raising” the baby, it is the primary job of new parents to make sure the newborn feels safe and loved because only then do they feel secure in their world - and the only way you can communicate that safety and love is by touch, scent, and soft voices. “Toughen it out, kid” is not a message you give to a newborn.

But now that she’s well over a year old, a lot of her crying goes unnoticed because it’s not “serious” crying but “complaining” crying*. She always cries when she finishes her milk, but we ignore that (or sometimes even tell her to be quiet (which works! :eek: )) and don’t cuddle. She occassionaly cries when she stumbles, and we don’t comfort her either.

But at two weeks? You can’t comfort them enough. At 1 year? That’s really when you can begin to comfort them too much.

I hope this helps. Hell, I just hope it makes sense.

*You’ll be able to tell the difference, trust me.

“As a first time parent, my biggest surprise was just how much of a baby’s reaction to falling etc… is dependent on the parents reaction. While I knew this intellectually, actually experiencing it was a different matter.”

This is SO true, it’s not even funny. Sophie won’t even bother crying when she falls when it’s just me around, because she knows that I’ll likely ignore it. OTOH, when Mommy is around Sophie will look towards her mother, watch her reaction, and then turn on the showers if Mommy is showing empathy. If Mommy doesn’t go towards Sophie in about 5 seconds, the crying stops and Sophie gets up to continue whatever mission she was on. But, if Mommy does move towards her, the crying gets far worse.

I actually have the above on tape (I have a LOT our baby on tape), and I showed Mommy the difference between how Sophie acts around me and how she acts around Mommy in regards to falling and crying. Mommy was stunned.

  1. Check Dr. Ferber’s content. Even the guy who developed the whole ‘cry it out’ concept says that infants under 6 months should be responded to immediately, period. Always. There are medical sites that specify that use of CIO on children under 6 months is a misuse of the concept. Can’t find one right this moment, but search around - if FERBER says you can’t spoil a baby under 6 months, then you’d best believe it! (though I disagree on the over-6 months issue, that is the age where at least you can begin to interact on the issue as a two-way street).

  2. Check Dr. Allan Schore’s info on mental health and a reliable/consistant/attached response to infant (vs. the implications of less reliable/attached responses) - if you want cites, these docs are very dense, full of really cool content, and pretty substantial on the neurobiology/neuropsychology side. This is really the big thing you should toss into your husband’s lap - infants of this age are just setting up their capacity to relate to other humans, and if you don’t respond, you teach them at a neurological level that bad things are very very bad, and that relationships to others are not functional. Read that stuff, and give it to him, and give it to his mom, etc.

  3. The other thing you need as a resource is info on the fussy stages that are normally part of child development. Without that info, your MIL will make you crazy every time your baby’s brain grows. Get the book (The Wonder Weeks). It will save your sanity, I think.

By the way, that second item explains WHY the parent’s reaction to falls and such affects the child’s reaction - you are functioning as a portion of their brain, in a real sense. Here’s how it works:

A) Baby has a stressful event. Stress hormones race through their system.

B) Caregiver response that reflects the child’s response allows the child to modulate their stress level. That is, baby cries, mommy makes comforting/sad noises, baby brain says ‘ok, that was indeed a bad event, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought, I’m okay’ and stress level decreases. If baby cries and mommy makes BIG MAJOR UPSET noises, baby brain says ‘YIKES, that must be worse than I thought!’ and stress reaction escalates. *If when baby cries, mommy ignores baby, then baby has zero inputs on whether its assessment is accurate, and stress levels escalate until baby brain goes into withdrawal mode and baby brain stops accepting input -often appearing to fall asleep. In severe cases, baby brain shifts function to deal with the stress of non response (or random/disorganized response) and portions of the brain cease to develop properly (cites in links above). * In like manner, if baby makes a happy noise, and mommy makes a sad noise, baby brain says ‘that’s not as happy a thing as I thought’ and moderates its response appropriately. Hence our tendency to make SUPER happy responses to baby happiness, and gentler sad/upset responses to baby upsets. We’re instinctively moderating our child’s mood upward.

C) Patterns of response create a functional expectation of what is good and bad, what experiences can be trusted, and whether bad things end.

D) messing up now and then is not a bad thing, as long as responses re-attune. The brain learns to expect all bad things to end and thigns to be good again, which is the basis for resilience.

Hope that made sense - read the links, they should help.

Good post, hedra!

Btw, just to make myself clear, we don’t make a fuss when she stumbles and falls in the manner that little ones do when they’re learning to walk - this is, of course, when she looks for our reaction. OTOH, if she’s running across the living room and then, tripping over the dogs tail, crashes into the (in our house) padded edge of the coffee table, a disaster like that demands attention and lots of love.

Even this “she’ll be OK” father can tell the difference there!

This is a really interesting thread. Not a father now, but probably will be one day; thanks, everyone, for the information (especially you, hedra)!


When our little one cried we went through the litany of is she wet? hungry? got gas? bored? in need of love? (not necessarily in that order every time)

We learned the difference between her cries after a few weeks. Can’t explain the difference but my ears knew hungry from wet from frustrated…

You can’t spoil them when they are really little. I’ve heard you can’t spoil em under a year. Who knows? Every kid is different!

Mine slept through the night at 8 weeks and is a pleasure (at almost 2) to take to restaurants (she colors and questions the different surroundings and then eats her food. She gives quizzical looks to kids that are making a fuss – very funny!) She cries now only when she’s really hurt herself (so not very often) She does try to manipulate us but I tell her I’m onto her little game and she finds something new to do.

Obviously my answering those early cries didn’t wreck her too badly. But every kid is different and YMMV. Pick her up and love her now because when she learns to crawl she’ll want nothing to do with ya!

A more readable version of the content in the Schore articles:

Regarding ignoring infant negative affect states (crying, depression, etc., emphasis mine):

Regarding holding/physical contact:

General summary of the content (from the summary - this is not a substantive portion of the the document, BTW, well within the copyright margin):

Glad I found this version, as it is way easier to digest without a medical dictionary at hand.