“You’re spoiling him”
Since becoming a mother, it has surprised me how often I have been confronted with that statement. I recall being told that I was spoiling my son just weeks after he was born. When he was still a sleepy newborn nestled against my chest and smelling brand new. I remember letting the phrase wash over me, as I was too tired to care. Now when I look back the angry mumma bear in me wishes I had piped up and asked how on earth a newborn baby could ever be spoilt!
It’s quite socially acceptable to tell a new mother she is spoiling her baby, even if you aren’t entirely familiar with her. I am sure that more often than not, the comment is made as a thoughtless remark – One that rolls off the tongue without the person ever really giving a second thought to what it means or how it could be perceived.
I’ve been told my son is spoilt for a number of reasons. “Spoilt” because we lift him and hold him when he cries. “Spoilt” because he breastfeeds on demand. “Spoilt” because I feed him to sleep each night. “Spoilt” because sometimes he sleeps in my arms. “Spoilt” because we have chosen to co-sleep.”Spoilt” because I offer him food from my own plate. “Spoilt” because we definitely lean more towards an attachment parenting style.
I truly don’t believe it’s possible to spoil a baby. To spoil someone is to damage their character by way of giving in to them. To “give in” to someone, they’d need to be able to manipulate you, and a baby just isn’t capable of that.
I don’t like to see Tobias distressed, and therefore as his mother I try my best to ensure he feels secure and loved. I really don’t believe that makes him spoilt. Babies, are just that: BABIES. Small, defenceless little humans who NEED us. They cry out because they can’t communicate linguistically. They crave our love, and to be physically close to their parents. The familiarity of being held close creates a feeling of security, and therefore calms them. Surely restricting love and closeness, as opposed to giving love and closeness is the more likely thing to damage them?
We seem to be living in a time where parents are encouraged to disconnect from their babies to an extent. Ideas such as sleep training and controlled crying are all very well if that’s how YOU wish to parent your baby. What about the mums and dads who are perfectly happy to co-sleep? Why should they be told that it’s “not normal” for their baby to need to be close to them? What about the mum who breastfeeds on demand, and is faced with someone asking how their baby could possibly be hungry again, and that by “giving in” they’re spoiling them!? (This has ACTUALLY happened to me).
It saddens me that those parents who adopt an attachment style of parenting are made to feel that the simple act of co-sleeping or exclusively breastfeeding is spoiling their baby. It definitely feels like scaremongering. As though we’re being told we should be careful not to create a bond that’s TOO strong because God forbid we’re ever inconvenienced by the fact that they might need us.
I’m extremely strong minded, my partner is too, so it would take a hell of a lot more than a couple of “he’s spoilt” comments to make us adopt another approach. Actually, NOTHING could change how we choose to parent. We realised very quickly we had fallen into attachment style parenting without even meaning to. It suited us perfectly, and in turn we have a wonderful bond with our son and he’s honestly the happiest baby. So for me, when I’m told, “he needs to be on a bottle”, or “he needs to be in his own cot”, because we’re spoiling him, it feels like a real attack on our abilities and choices as his parents. Not one that’s going to affect my decisions, but one that makes me feel quite disheartened that society is promoting an “at arm’s length” approach to parenting during a child’s early years.
So please, the next time you find yourself on the cusp of telling a parent that their baby is spoilt, take a moment to reflect – think about how that may feel for the parents. It does feel very much like an accusatory statement, as if the way we choose to parent our child is somewhat damaging. You cannot LOVE your child enough in my opinion. So don’t let anyone make you second guess yourself, and don’t confuse loving your child with spoiling them.