Written by Amber and updated by Sarena-Rae Santos in November of 2023.
A baby spends approximately 280 days in the womb (give or take) and is constantly connected with their mama. They depend solely on her for their nourishment and security. For their very life.
Suddenly, in an instant (it might not feel like an instant to some of us!), they’re out of the home they’ve known for so long, and their whole world changes. What is the first thing that you want to do with your baby? HOLD THEM! It’s the natural response. Give me my baby! I want them close. And it’s totally acceptable for the first few days of life. (In society’s eyes)
And then, as your baby grows, you begin to wonder, “If I hold my baby too much, will I ruin them? Will they be spoiled? Will I create a bad sleeper?” (Why do we moms worry so much?! – Kids are so resilient!)
Maybe you’ve also been the subject of unwanted parenting advice. Maybe others have told you that you can’t hold your baby so much, or you WILL spoil them!
In my early years of parenting – when I thought I knew less and others knew more – I let (well-intending) people tell me how to parent.
Since I was a young, new mom, I thought that the unsolicited advice was correct, and I parented accordingly. I followed a system recommended by veteran moms in which I felt guilty holding and rocking my baby. “He won’t sleep if you don’t put him down. He needs to learn how to sleep on his own. You’re nursing him again?”
Confusion set in, and I wondered why I couldn’t keep holding this baby who was attached to me not long ago. (And why did anyone care what I did with my baby, anyway??)
Thankfully, my wise husband stepped in and told me the best advice I could have ever received…” Just be a mommy! Hold him. Rock him. Snuggle him. He needs you, and you need him. He won’t always be little; you will never get these years back.”
Fast forward sixteen years and seven babies later — I couldn’t be happier!
And my now VERY well-adjusted kiddos are always stopping me throughout the day for a hug and/or a snuggle. My six-year-old’s favorite pastime is to snuggle with mommy!
I am thankful that I learned that holding a baby won’t spoil them. In fact, quite the opposite occurs. You will develop a bond between you and your baby that spans a lifetime.
Maybe you’re worried you’ll spoil your baby or create a bad sleeper. I’m here to tell you that eventually, your baby WILL let you put them down. And in the not-too-distant future, there will be a day when it will be hard to stop them so you can snuggle!
There are good reasons your baby wants to be held; if you know them, it can help set your mind at ease.
The Fourth Trimester
The Fourth Trimester is a relatively new concept. In fact, I hadn’t heard of it until I had my seventh baby 8 months ago. (If you haven’t looked into it, I’d encourage you to research further. It helped me understand so much about my baby and me.)
The Fourth Trimester encompasses the first three months of the baby’s life.
Think about all the changes happening to your baby now, once outside the womb.
It may help you understand why your baby needs a little extra reassurance and comfort. Holding your baby might make you feel more compassionate and less frustrated.
For almost a year, they sat nestled comfortably inside of you with not a care in the world. Then suddenly, they go from inside of you to a cold, noisy world. Now, they must wear clothes, which is an entirely new experience. They must also learn to eat since they previously relied on you for nourishment.
These changes can bring about uncertainty. Babies need comfort during this time. Holding them close and snuggling them tight is one of the best ways to help them feel secure, and in turn, will help them adapt to their new surroundings more quickly.
Babies Have Immature Neurological Systems
When a baby is born, his neurological system is not completely mature.
Therefore, babies can’t control many of their movements. Have you ever seen a baby get startled, and his arms go out wide? They don’t have any control over that. Various movements (which they can’t control) can cause them to be uncomfortable. Holding your baby will help them feel more safe and secure.
Remember, they just spent so much time being all squished up inside, and they will crave feeling close and being held. It will remind them of the womb.
(An added tip is to hold them over your heart if fussy to help soothe them. It reminds them of their former home!)
Holding Your Baby Develops Trust
Your baby will begin to trust you when you hold them.
You are meeting needs they cannot express, which creates trust. A baby is so tiny and cannot speak for itself, so when you hold your baby and keep it close, you are teaching it that you are a safe place. This trust will continue through the rest of their life.
The bond that you form starts now.
Holding your baby creates a wordless trust that develops over time spent in close proximity to them.
Babies Can’t Remember Rules
Babies don’t really have rules.
That is evident by the fact that they want what they want when they want it. They eat and sleep at times that are not usual for the rest of us. And they don’t eat and sleep at times that are usual for the rest of us :-).
Try not to get frustrated if your baby needs to be held constantly. They don’t know the rules. They aren’t concerned with whether or not supper is getting cooked or you have other things to do.
They just know that they want — to be held. Period. That’s the ONLY RULE they know how to follow!
Touch is Critical to Development
If you’ve had a baby lately, you know that skin-to-skin contact has been stressed.
Researchers are beginning to find that touch is critical to development.
Through physical touch and holding, your child learns basic life skills. Brain development is even enhanced through contact. (Just by holding your baby, you could make them smarter!)
Holding your baby can also reduce stress for both you and your baby.
Think about it. What happens when you pick up a crying baby? Usually, they quit crying (and you become less stressed).
While you don’t have to walk around doing skin-to-skin contact (although if you want to, the Moby Wrap is a great way to do it.)
Simply holding your baby will help soothe them; without even realizing it, you will be helping with their brain development.
Research Shows You Can’t Spoil Them
If you need something a little more authoritative to assure you that you can’t spoil your baby by holding them, then there is plenty of scientific proof.
Yes, that’s right! Science has proven that you cannot spoil your baby by holding them. And hopefully, you have seen that the exact opposite Is true. Holding your baby has proven to have many, many benefits. More than I think we even understand.
Go Ahead and Do It!
So if you are afraid that holding your baby might spoil them, or if you are hearing from other naysayers that you are spoiling your baby, hopefully now you can rest assured that you are doing the best thing for your baby. Actually, you are doing more good than not by holding your baby. You will not spoil them, so don’t worry! I promise!