You’ll spoil her if you pick her up every time she cries!
You know, she really needs to learn to self-sooth or she’ll never sleep.
If you don’t put her down she’ll never learn to walk!
I think we’ve all heard it, the warnings we’ll spoil our babies if we hold them too much.
It’s so well established even strangers in the street will stop to comment on how spoiled the baby will be if we always carry her.
With so many believing it, it must be true, right?
According to research, no, you can’t spoil your baby by picking them up, cuddling, or meeting their needs as soon as they cry.
In fact, not only will you not spoil them, research has found many benefits to picking up your child whenever they cry.
Can Picking Up Your Baby Make Them A Productive Adult?
There are many variables when it comes to how our children will act as adults. Researcher Dr. Narvaez of Notre Dame looked at over 600 adults to find out how early childhood interactions impacted them as adults. She found adults who had a lot of early interaction and affection tended to fair better in adulthood.
Narvaez said, “What parents do in those early months and years are really affecting the way the brain is going to grow the rest of their lives, so lots of holding, touching and rocking, that is what babies expect. They grow better that way. And keep them calm, because all sorts of systems are establishing the way they are going to work. If you let them cry a lot, those systems are going to be easily triggered into stress. We can see that in adulthood, that people that are not cared for well, tend to be more stress reactive and they have a hard time self-calming.”
Answering your baby’s cries isn’t a guarantee they’ll be at the top of their class, but research shows it benefits their brain and other developing systems. Being able to handle daily stress can be an important part of reaching your potential.
Why Is Picking Up And Cuddling Your Baby Important?
Dr. Narvaez found that compared to children who were left to cry, children who were cuddled grew up to be:
- Healthier overall
- Less depressed
- More empathetic
- Overall more productive.
You can learn more about her research in this video:
Is It Dangerous To Let Your Baby Cry?
Chances are you, or someone you know, was left to cry it out to learn how to self-soothe. Perhaps you’ve practiced crying it out with your child to teach independence.
Many of our parents or grandparents were still affected by the cultural impact Dr. Watson had on parenting in the United States in the 1920’s.
Watson was well known for saying, “Let your behavior always be objective and kindly firm. Never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say goodnight. Shake hands with them in the morning. Give them a pat on the head if they have made an extraordinarily good job of a difficult task.”
He believed limiting affection would encourage independence and prevent children from turning into adults needing to be “coddled”. And while not every parent aligned with this philosophy, it did have an impact on our “don’t spoil the baby” beliefs.
Similarly, the cry it out (CIO) method became known in 1913 and continues to be encouraged by some professionals despite a lack of evidence of its effectiveness or safety.
Perhaps you’re thinking you were left to CIO and you’re fine, or that your baby was left to CIO and they’re fine. However, research still shows there are risks related to CIO. And with the recent research from Dr. Narvaez, not answering a baby could mean missing out on very important benefits, such as being able to handle stress.
What About Controlled Crying, Is That Safe?
Many parents have been led to believe that controlled crying isn’t harsh like CIO and is a safe alternative which teaches independent sleep.
Dr. Narvaez’s research, and other research doesn’t support controlled crying as being without risk, nor does it show it’s necessary to teach independent sleep in this way.
One psychologist, Tracy Cassels, PhD said, “They honestly believe these methods are ‘different’ and ‘better’, and will not cause as much distress to their children. The problem is that the evidence we have would suggest they are wrong. Modified versions of ‘cry it out’ may sound nicer, but in reality, they are the exact same principles at work, only possibly more frustrating for the infant or child.”
Be sure to read Cry It Out – 6 Educated Professionals Who Advise Against It to learn more about CIO and controlled crying.