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Know When to Hold 'Em

Know When to Hold'em

WebMD Feature

Ask my 15-year-old if she knows any spoiled kids, and she'll rattle off a slew of examples (with a hint of envy): one friend whose parents gave her a $2,000 shopping spree, another who got a new car at 16 ... you get the picture. But if you're the parent of a newborn, don't sweat it, at least not yet. You can't spoil a baby.

Contrary to popular myth, it's impossible for parents to hold or respond to a baby too much, child development experts say. Infants need constant attention to give them the foundation to grow emotionally, physically and intellectually.

"A challenge of the newborn is getting to know that the world is somehow reliable and trustworthy, that his or her basic needs will be met," says J. Kevin Nugent, director of the Brazelton Institute at Children's Hospital in Boston and a child psychologist.

Responding to baby's cues "isn't a matter of spoiling," he says. "It's a matter of meeting the child's needs."

Myth No. 1: Let Her Cry a Little

When your baby cries -- and the typical infant will cry about three hours a day in the first three months, more if she has colic -- it isn't because she's trying to manipulate you. She hasn't learned how to do that yet. She's crying because she's hungry, tired, lonely or plain uncomfortable, and that's her only way of letting you know.

"A spoiled child is one that's manipulative, but babies don't learn until they're about 9 months that they can cry to get you to do something for them," says Dr. Barbara Howard, assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on psychosocial aspects of child and family health.

Ten Tear-Taming Techniques

After checking to make sure your baby isn't hungry, in need of a new diaper or physically ill, try these calming strategies:

  • Rock him in a rocking chair or hold him and sway from side to side.
  • Gently stroke her head or pat her back or chest.
  • Swaddle him in a receiving blanket.
  • Sing or talk to her in a soothing voice.
  • Play soft music.
  • Walk him in your arms, a stroller or a carriage.
  • Take her -- and yourself -- for a nice, easy car ride.
  • Put him next to a rhythmic noise or vibration, like a washing machine or fan.
  • Burp her to relieve any trapped gas bubbles.
  • Give him a warm bath (not all babies like this).

By paying attention to a baby's cries, parents aren't just responding to the child's physical needs. "Babies learn a sense of security, comfort, nurturing and warmth," which in turn gives them the confidence to explore and learn, says Dr. Deborah Campbell, director of neonatology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

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