Thursday, March 5, 2009

How to Spoil a Baby

When I was pregnant, I was prepared to take on board the advice of books and family - after all, they had experience of babies and I did not (I had hardly held a baby before the Cave Baby was born). Looking back on this advice, it was overwhelming concerned with not spoiling the baby: a baby must be put down at every opportunity; a baby must not be picked up just because it cries; a baby should not be comforted by the breast unless it is hungry. Oh my god. What is all that about? How did we veer so far away from meeting the needs of an actual human animal baby? A newborn baby is a machine for survival and it tells you exactly what it needs - all you have to do is listen, and act. Crying is a pretty distressing thing for parents and it doesn't look much fun for babies either so I think we can safely assume a baby cries because it needs something. Note the word needs.

I feel ashamed of the times I denied the breast to my crying baby because I thought she wasn't hungry. I feel angry about the time I was told the baby was "wrapping us around its little finger" because we picked her up out of the pram when she cried. What would a cavewoman do if her baby cried? She would instinctively try to meet its needs, to stop the crying. Did she worry about carrying it too much? I don't think so - she was probably more concerned with keeping it safe from danger (perhaps this is why babies expect to be carried so much). Did those babies grow up to be clingy and overly dependent? Well the human race did succeed in colonising almost the entire planet, so I guess some of them must have struck out on their own eventually.

Thank goodness I learnt to trust my own instincts.

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