For many mums, being told to hold your baby and attend to her cries is altogether unnecessary; the desire to do so comes naturally. But there’s always someone who will tut-tut your affection and responsiveness, labelling it “spoiling”.
Here’s a study to re-educate those judging in error (and allow the terribly indulgent mummies to continue to do just what they’ve been doing).
According to recent research children will grow into psychologically healthier and happier adults if they have parents who demonstrate affectionate behaviour, sensitivity and a playful attitude towards them as babies (and onwards).
“Sometimes, we have parents that say, you are going to spoil the baby if you pick them up when they are feeling distressed. No, you can’t spoil a baby,” Lead researcher and psychologist Professor Darcia Narvaez (Professor Darcia Narvaez does not endorse Infacol or any other medicine) explains.
The urge to pick up your crying child and ease her distress is the instinctual response to her inbuilt survival mechanism: get needs met quickly. It’s a perfect, evolutionary-sound symbiosis unrelated to theories on so-called ‘manipulative’ babies, and can only serve to strengthen the parent-child bond and preserve your little one’s wellbeing.
Professor Narvaez, along with her two colleagues, surveyed over 600 adults, collating information about their childhood experiences, particularly with regards to how much affectionate touch and general positive family time they had.
The data revealed the adults with less anxiety and overall good mental health were those who had physically attentive, loving and uplifting childhoods.
“These things independently, but also added up together, predicted the adults’ mental health, so they were less depressed, less anxious, and their social capacities — they were more able to take other people’s perspective,” says Professor Narvaez.
“They were better at getting along with others and being open-hearted.”
Professor Narvaez encourages mums and dads to disregard the ill-informed naysayers and soothe, rock, and cuddle your baby to your heart’s content. After all, parenting is about meeting your child’s needs, not teaching her that you won’t.
“What parents do in those early months and years are really affecting the way the brain is going to grow the rest of their lives.”