Parenting Vivian | 02 Feb 2011 07:26 pm

Give Yourself Permission to Mother – Exposing the Myth of Spoiling Babies

When Tom was born all I wanted to do was hold him, feed him, and love him. And that is exactly what I did. It was wonderful. I did not know it was possible to love someone so much and to be so infatuated with every little nuance of a tiny person. Tom lived in my arms for the first several weeks.

Of course I wanted my husband to have a chance to enjoy Tom as well, so I would hand Tom over to his father, Aaron. They would sit in the rocking chair, Aaron looking down at Tom’s beautiful face. And I would sit on the couch counting the seconds until I could hold him again.

I was so high on love that I was not tired, although we had very little sleep that first month. Life was perfect.

Then two of our visitors criticized me. My grandmother said that I was “spoiling” Tom by feeding him so often, and my great-grandmother said that I was “spoiling” Tom by letting him sleep with us. I was angry and truly sad that these people thought it was possible to spoil a tiny baby – by feeding and loving him no less!

I started to really wonder why I had such mean women in my family, who would insult me for not neglecting a tiny infant. Now I know.

In the mid 1900s mothers were regularly taught that feeding babies too much and responding to them when they cried would spoil the baby and cause personality defects. Out of this, or as an unfortunate concurrence, came the “cry it out” school of thought, the obsession with getting babies into their own beds as soon as possible, and various schemes to get babies onto feeding schedules. I do not believe it is a coincidence that in 1956, while these cruel methods were being taught, the breastfeeding rates in the US dropped close to 20% (La Leche League history).

These unfortunate women who tell us we “spoil” our babies were duped into giving up the most rewarding experiences with their infants, which I think is pitiable. Knowing that makes it just a little easier to keep my anger in check when I hear this insult, and to respond with a calm “this is our parenting choice.”

Not only were these women taught some methods based on incorrect assumptions about baby development, but those of us who believing in feeding, loving and holding our babies as much as the baby desires have good scientific and medical evidence behind our practices.

In the book Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, Nancy Mohrbacher tells us that babies tummies are only the size of a marble when they are born, and those tummies are not yet able to expand. They are actually unable to survive without eating often. In addition, because of differences in the amount of milk that women can hold, each mother-baby pair have unique eating frequency needs, and the baby is the expert in this matter. Finally, it is natural for babies to be able to nurse at will for the first several years. It is also natural for the mother to physically carry the baby with her 24 hours a day.

In my parent-baby class taught through our local hospital we learned that having a baby sleep on his mother or fathers chest actually helps to regulate the baby’s breathing and heart rate. Of course pillows, blankets and any alcohol for the parents are serious dangers, but parents (in discussion with their pediatrician) are in the best position to understand how safe their own bed is for their baby.

So go ahead and love your baby with immunity. It feels right, and it’s good for the baby. Maybe it feels right because it’s good for the baby.

Comments are closed.