There's no doubt that becoming a mama means putting your child's needs before yours. But sometimes it raises questions: Can I spoil my baby? Can I hold them too much? Will they get used to me rocking them to sleep and never go to sleep on their own?
The short answer is, for the first few months, no!
My first daughter was a pretty easy baby (I know this now after having two more not-so-easy babies), but she still had little quirks that I needed to tend to. For instance, she had bad acid reflux and vomited whenever we laid her flat, so I had to hold or prop her up.
Then there was my second daughter, who spent two straight months in a sling pressed up against my body and wouldn't sleep in anything but a moving swing. And my son, who lived for nine months in a bouncy chair at the foot of my desk while I worked. I bounced it with my foot for several hours per day through naps.
Two of my kids had binkies, blankies or both. I remember asking our pediatrician if any of these rituals would become habits. She quickly reassured me that the first three months are all about survival—to just do whatever the baby needs in order to get them to sleep. After about three or four months, she said, that's when you start to implement the kind of structure your family desires. And it turned out, she was right. None of those things I was worried about lasted more than a few weeks, or a few months at most.
Don't just take it from me. Take it from Dr. David Mrazek, chairman of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic. He says, "During the first six months, it's really impossible to spoil a child. Meeting an infant's need to be comforted, held and fed in a predictable fashion helps him feel secure and builds a loving relationship between parent and child. It does not lead to spoiling." It's not until around six months of age that the possibility of spoiling even presents itself, he says. At that point, you can start to form the kind of life you want with your child.
Of course, there will always be a child who's harder to break from one thing or another, but most of those quirks that persist through newbornhood or toddlerhood live on forever. Sure, your toddler may climb into your bed every night for two years, but you know what? They will eventually stop. And the same goes for binkies. After all, does anyone know of a college student who needs to suck on a pacifier or be rocked to sleep at night?
The big-picture reminder is to chill out. As your child grows and changes, so will their needs. Now that I can look back at my own experience with three very different kids, I can tell you with confidence that even if you feel like rocking your little one to sleep for three or eight months seems like an eternity, it won't be forever. And later on, it will just be one of those anecdotes you tell about your kid. And maybe, just maybe, that "spoiling" moment you worry about is what will help them conquer the next big transition more easily.