Can you spoil your baby? As a brand new mom, I was told I was holding my daughter too much and would likely spoil her. Find out what developmental psychology says on this topic. Spoiler alert, you can spoil your baby, it's just not the way you would think.

The One Way You CAN Spoil Your Baby

Posted on Posted in Parenting Babies, Positive Parenting Strategies, Posts

One of the first pieces of advice I got as a new mom was “not to spoil your baby.” Find out what research says CAN spoil your baby. It’s not what you think.


One of the best parts of where I currently live is, believe it or not, my gym.


Not only is my gym state of the art, it also has the best childcare imaginable. For one, the rubber-floored colourful playroom is fully loaded with great toys and a play structure similar to what they have at McDonald’s. Secondly and most importantly, the childcare staff is amazing. The training they go through has to be excellent. What I love the most is the genuine care they show for the children there. They love my kids and, in turn, my kids really love them. They show such heart, affection, appropriate discipline, and care. As a result, I feel great leaving my two little ones with them.


A couple of weeks ago, I entered into the playroom to experience an unusual situation. There were two very young toddling boys who were distraught. And by distraught, I mean they were completely beside themselves. Now crying children in a playroom is hardly surprising. Anyone who has worked with the under 5 crowd can surely attest to the fact there can be a lot of crying. What surprised me was this was the first time I’d been seen a child crying in the playroom that was not being held or consoled.


And since that first encounter, each time I’ve come into the gym at the same time, I’ve seen the same two boys and they’re always crying.


I finally had to ask, “What’s going on?”


I got my answer.


“The mom has explicitly asked us to ignore the crying and just let them cry it out.” The childcare giver continued, “You know, we don’t do this normally. But we have to respect the wishes of the parents. Problem is… Not only are they upset now, it doesn’t get any better. They cry the full hour each and every time.”


This exchange got me thinking. First of all, I have no doubt the mom at the gym is doing the best based on the best of her knowledge. I mean, how could she not? She must love her two boys to bits and wants the absolute best for them. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if that mom had gotten some of the same early parenting advice I had gotten. And if so, perhaps this impacting was her decision to let her kids cry it out.


Like many new parents, when my daughter was a newborn, I would hold her often. Like, a lot.


In time, some people started to notice.

And soon, I started hearing it.

“You’re going to spoil your baby.”


What my “advisors” meant was that I was holding my baby way too much. And as a result, my newborn girl would get used to constantly being comforted and expect it. Soon, I would have a child dependent on me for the most basic level of comfort. Was this true?


Can you Spoil a Baby?

Can you spoil your baby? As a brand new mom, I was told I was holding my daughter too much and would likely spoil her. Find out what developmental psychology says on this topic. Spoiler alert, you can spoil your baby, it's just not the way you would think. Attachment theory, insecure attachment, secure attachment, parenting, babies, toddlers, young kids, developmental psychology


One of the thoughts that came to mind after seeing the crying set of twins at the gym was that of attachment theory.


When it comes to understanding if you can spoil your baby, attachment theory is the best way to get your answer. At the centre of this theory is the parent-child relationship. Specifically, how a parent or caregiver responds to their infant determines whether a child securely attaches or not.


This is where our answer lies.

A parent who ignores a baby’s need for comfort or basic nurturing can lead to an insecure form of attachment. Due to a lack of responsiveness from their parents, young children either become more difficult to console or are more emotionally ambivalent. Securely attached children develop based on how reliable and consistent their caregivers are. They aren’t left to cry. They are attended to, coddled, and loved.


As a result, these infants seek their parents for comfort and know they will be comforted. To read more about the different types of attachment including the different variations on insecure attachment, click here.


The one way you can spoil your baby - and it isn't what you think! #parenting Click To Tweet

So, you can spoil your baby; it’s just not the way you would think

Taking the immense amount of research on the attachment theory into account, spoiling a baby is possible – just not in the way the old wives tale would have us believe. An infant or young child who comes to expect their parent for security – one that has been held, hugged, and soothed often – actually becomes more independent. These young children start to view their caregivers as a secure base. Because they know their parents will be there when they need them, these kids feel empowered to venture out into their environment and, eventually, the world. Conversely, a parent who backs away from their child when their child needs them creates insecurity and uncertainty. These young children are reportedly less independent and competent.


And so, spoiling your baby is possible. And, it does become possible based on the frequency we respond to their cries and the amount we hold them. It’s just the reverse of what the old wives would have us believe.  Not holding and responding to our children is proven to do more harm than help. Responding, holding and consoling our babies is, in fact, the best way to parent during this tender age.


All identifying information about people mentioned in this post has been changed to protect their identity.

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23 thoughts on “The One Way You CAN Spoil Your Baby

  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE! I can’t tell you how many times I have been told this…discovering attachment parenting was the one that that really helped me as a new mom, I finally felt justified in my decision to hold my children all the time, rock them to sleep, etc. Thank you for writing this <3

    1. I agree. I was told so many times I was spoiling my kids or to let them cry. It went against everything in me. As you know, I’m a huge fan of all things developmental psych!

  2. Wow. My husband and I practiced the CIO method at home with bedtime, but only to an extent. And we would never want someone else to do it with our kids. Those poor little ones! And now that mine are older that method isn’t really relevant (for us, anyway). R is going through an attachment phase with me and Bren so we’ve been trying different things, and hugs and cuddles are certainly a big part of it.

    1. My son was a terrible sleeper and I had controlled CIO recommended to help him learn to fall asleep and stay asleep. I was always near him, but I didn’t give in. With perfect strangers or when it’s a really young child, it’s a different story…

  3. Oh how I love this post. Let me count the ways..You are right on with this advice! Babies are meant to be loved and cuddled and close to you! Sing it sister! I wish I had read this earlier too!

  4. I think that if a child cries for as long as an hour that may point to another problem. Leaving your child to cry with relative strangers is different than letting them cry it out at home where they feel safe.

  5. This is wonderful. I listened to those same “advisors” with my first child and I wish I hadn’t. I’ve held my second much closer and couldn’t be more happy with my decision. She’s 14 months and still nursing and she loves her mama. I get all of the love I could ever want. This is very well written!

  6. Awwwwww poor babies!!! I was and I’m still bad about crying. I try to show tough love, but I always cave. Crying just breaks my heart! Thankfully the only time I really had to deal with this was when my daughter started her 2 yr old class and she easily adjusted after a few days.

    1. You have such a kind heart. So are you saying you couldn’t answer EVERY SINGLE cry with four under four? Haha. I think your views changing slightly means you were doing your best when you were blessed with twins!

  7. I absolutely love this post, and I totally agree with it. At 2 1/2 I feel confident that I know when my child truly needs me for comfort and support, or when she’s just trying to get my attention so to speak. Some people say I spoil her, maybe I do, but I like to think it’s what my grandfather always says which is that she is “loved, not spoiled.” I think it’s also important to remember that the needs for each child are different, so perhaps what might be considered spoiling one child but be exactly what another child requires. Great post! Gave me a lot to think about!

    1. Love this so much. She IS loved not spoiled. I’m with you. With my kids, I now when it’s genuine sadness and when it’s not reasonable. The thing is young babies aren’t trying to manipulate us with their cries. Love your comment! Thanks so much for reading <3

  8. I did cry it out for sleep training, but pretty much spoiled my kids and still do when they cry. I mean, when it’s over a piece of string, or an m&m, I have my days where I’m like, “get over it!” But I like the “base” idea. Great post!

  9. I agree with this concept. I had my first born at a very young age. I was told by numerous people what to do and what not to do with my child. I felt like I had to sort of live up to what other people modeled as being a good parent. Their helpful “advice” added more pressure to be a good mom/parent, when what I really needed to know most is that every mom is different and it is okay to feel like you are doing something wrong because that’s how you learn to be a mom. I love my child and I think if I could go back to change anything, I wouldn’t listen to any of those people and focused more on what a joy my baby was (through the yelling/crying) and held him more and been more loving because looking back I know there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with loving your child so much and it makes you sad when they’re hurt/sad/mad and pick them up and hug them when those moments happen.

    Anyways. Love your children and make sure you don’t end up feeling like you wish you had connected more with them. When they’re young is the time to show them what love is. That is a major emotion they’ll need when they’re older.

    1. Marlena, this is exactly how I felt. I felt so overwhelmed by people telling me what to do. Ultimately, listening to our instincts and giving our babies lots of love is all that matters. Thanks so much for reading and for your comment <3

  10. We keep the philosophy that we are always available to comfort our kids. That means we checked in with them each and every time they cried. We gave lots of snuggles and hugs. Some days I held them ALL DAY. My kids are now 8 and 11 and will stop pop over for a quick hug if they need an emotional boost, but they are completely confident children. As the old saying goes “The days are long, but the years are short.” I don’t regret a single snuggle or late night rocking chair session. I would do it all again in a heart beat.

    1. Wow! I couldn’t have said this better myself. I love your perspective being further down the parenting line. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective!

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