When Does "Spoiling" Become Possible?

Updated on November 02, 2010
R.. asks from Cleveland, TN
14 answers

When is it time to start worrying about "spoiling" my DD when she cries for things she wants? She is almost 5 months old, and will sometimes throw a fit when I put her down for anything. She does know how to self-soothe, but it seems more like she is "angry" crying than "need" crying... if that makes sense. (She has very distinctive cries for her different needs) I always respond to her when she actually needs something, but there are times when she will cry, we pick her up and she stops and is perfectly happy, we put her back down and immediate angry baby. Rinse and repeat. I will give her time to try to self-soothe, but we live in an apartment complex so I don't like to let her cry too long. (plus... I just don't like to let her cry too long. lol) Any tips?

~BTW... this isn't just about bedtime... this is about trying to put her down for bed, naps, playtime, tummy time, etc.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the advice mommas! I am with most of you... she still needs all the lovin she can get. :) I just wanted to make sure I wasn't setting myself up for disaster later. She is sitting completely on her own, so she does get to look around her... She is also working on scooting and will chase down toys that she can't quite get on her own most of the time... Normally she will cry for a minute then settle herself down to play... but lately she has been getting more and more "clingy" and I was worried about ruining the independence she already had. I think I will just keep going the way I have, give her time to calm herself down, then soothing her when she can't. :)

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answers from Augusta on

you can't really spoil and infant.
My oldest was like you describe , she was VERY high needs, never slept was very active. She's now a very independent 8.5 yr old with ADHD and is gifted. The ADHD is hereditary.

I suggest you get a sling or a front carrier and wear her.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Seattle on

You can't spoil an infant. Period. All taking care of their every need does is to build a super solid foundation of trust.

The crying is her telling you she's unhappy/angry, but that's very different from throwing a tantrum. EMOTIONS are normal at every age, and as an infant the crying is her only way to express them. And as you've noticed, they have very distinct cries.

When to worry about spoiling is when they start throwing tantrums about things they WANT (like a toy, or not to go into a store, or not to take a turn but push ahead first, etc.), but not something that is connected to fear/trust/security. (AKA, you aren't spoiling a toddler who is having separation anxiety by not punishing them. Instead you're gentle with them. You still have to leave, but you don't get *angry* or *punish* for their natural fear.)

It's NATURAL for babies who are becoming more self aware and who have been raised by loving parents to start getting angry the way you're describing. The person the love and trust has <gasp> SET THEM DOWN. Don't they understand?!?!?! Noooooooooooo..... Hold me, I need you! Where'd you go? Will you come back? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy are you dooooooooing this to meeeeeeeee?

So the freak out. They're angry and afraid. (This is ALSO the time most babies start delighting in peek-a-boo... it's the developmental stage where they begin to realize that some things aren't permanent).

In my *personal* opinion it's a GOOD thing for babies to be ticked off from time to time over non-dangerous things (like being set down, or having to be in a hated car seat). For the simple reason that it adds another layer of trust. "Things will turn out okay." They get used to being comforted when sad/scared/angry, and that their needs are being met in this new way. (Plus it helps their lungs and vocal cords develop). I'm NOT saying just let her scream and scream. I'm saying: Pay close attention over the next month or two, and watch as she becomes more secure that you'll be "back". Meaning, it will start off as a second or two before she screams. Then it will bump to a minute. Then a couple of minutes. Then one day in the next few weeks to couple months that you'll turn around and she'll be perfectly content and trusting that you will ALWAYS be back. Until she's a toddler and has another cognitive growth spurt, and separation anxiety returns until she learns in a NEW way that you'll always be back.

Babies have needs
Children have wants
Adults have agendas

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

I had the same thing with my baby who is now 10 months old. She was the most unhappy baby. We met all her needs but still she never wanted to be put down. It was exhausting since I already had a 2 1/2 year old to take care of. The only way I found to make her happy when I had to have my hands free was to put her in a snuggly carrier. We concluded that she just wanted to be up and see things. When she turned 8 1/2 months old she learned to crawl and she's the happiest baby now. She was just bored and wanted to move around. Try the carrier it worked for me.

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answers from Seattle on

I agree that you can not spoil a child of any age by giving them too much love and attention...I think that spoiling comes more from the want for "things".

I know it is hard when they are that lil' and always want to be held...but I PROMISE you that it goes by in the blink of an eye...try to enjoy it, she won't need you like that for very much longer.

With that being said, do you have a wrap or carrier thing...those really are helpful and it's great that you can distinguish her cries...at least you don't have to feel too guilty when you need to put her down to do something important, like taking 2 min to go pee :)

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answers from Dallas on

Great advice already. "spoiling" occurs when a child is looking for financial/monetary/toy gains and pitches a fit because they want it and you say no. Usually around age 5 to 6 ish.
I don't think attention based "spoiling" could ever occur as long as it doesn't interfere with other relationships in your/child's life.
Good luck!

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answers from Honolulu on

You need to make the differentiation... between what is DEVELOPMENTALLY normal and usual... and what is not.
A baby, does this. It is normal.
They can't "talk" yet... so they act like this.
They NEED things.
Their 'emotions' are not even developed yet, nor fully developed yet. Not even a 3 year old has fully developed emotions yet nor do they know how to cope with it.

Your baby is normal.
She is a baby.
They are also still needing to "Bond" with Mommy... and this is also a KEY developmental aspect to it all... and it actually HELPS their development and their sense of self and self-reliance.
So, the more you comfort and bond with your baby, the better. Babies who receive comfort from their Mommy... grow up confident and well adjusted. For example.

Or, you just leave her be. And not go to her. Babies like that get frustrated and cry... or realize, they will not get help or comfort. Thus, they may stop or not expect, any longer, that their Mommy is there for them. And that is sad.

It is not 'spoiling' a baby.
It is a BASIC human need.
And... your baby is probably going through "separation anxiety" and "object permanence" which are NORMAL developmental aspects, of a baby.

Get the book "What To Expect The First Year."

Be careful of what you 'expect' from your baby... otherwise, she and you will be continually frustrated.

All that you expect of her or do... NEEDS to be AGE-appropriate. Developmentally.

all the best,

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answers from Portland on

Babies don't learn automatically to self-soothe until quite a bit older. They will "settle" sometimes if they become too discouraged or frustrated at not getting their needs met. In a baby under maybe a year old, that's rather sad, a sign of discouragement.

But you can help a child learn to entertain herself or self-soothe by giving her tools and transitional "rituals" that she can gradually learn to fall back on. As she gets older, the time periods she'll be able to do this will become longer and longer, especially as she learns to handle objects, roll over, motor around, and use language.

I'm guessing at 5 months she's probably not reliably able to even grab something attractive yet, so she's completely dependent on you to help her move around and interact with the world. No adult = really bored, really fast.

I began helping my daughter and my grandson to accept brief separations at first by making it into a game. I'd say "I'll be right back," and disappear behind a pillow or doorway for just a couple of seconds, then reappear with a funny noise. Fascinating! Rinse and repeat, with a new noise. Begin extending the absences. You can gradually build this up to long enough to go take a pee, or check on the soup.

It's also okay to allow a bit of fussing, as long as it doesn't become desperate, at which point the baby may experience your absence as a breach of trust. Babies really do need their parents for everything, physical and social, until they gain some ability to do things for themselves. But gradually learning to deal with a bit of boredom is reasonable, especially after the child is older than a year.

You might consider wearing her, so she can be up high, participating in all the interesting stuff you're doing. You can talk to her, too, explaining things in simple terms. This is amazingly good for language development, which will be the single best predictor of her eventual success in school.

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answers from Pocatello on

It's too young to worry about spoiling. She is very young and therefore needs the interaction. Remember all babies are different and some will always be more "needy" than others and that doesn't mean you are spoiling them. My first daughter was very very needy. Always wanted to be held, never could be left alone to play and cried if I ever left her with a sitter. She hated tummy time and was awful to sleep train. I was worried like you but she is 3 1/2 now and totally different. She is so smart and very independent. She is so friendly, has lots of friends and is just fine to be left with a sitter. She goes to bed no problem and is a great helper with her younger sister. So if I were you try not to stress too much. She will get better but like I said she is still really young and what you are talking about it pretty normal for most babies that age. Enjoy all that snuggle time now cause she won't want to do it forever :)

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answers from Pittsburgh on

You can't spoil an infant. They can't be held, played with, looked at or given too much love. That's just how babies are!

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answers from Dallas on

Crying is her only way to tell you she wants something different. At this age, babies love to sit up and look around. They don't want to stare at the floor or ceiling. Maybe you could try a bumbo chair and have her sit and watch you while you work around the house. She sounds like she wants more stimulation. My son was like this. He needed lots of attention. The good thing is that by giving her lots of attention, you are helping her brain grow and develop at a stronger rate. So keep up the good work!

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answers from San Antonio on

Child development research shows that you can't "spoil" a child by responding to its cries until six months. By six months, they begin learn how they can influence the people around them. I think it's a misnomer to call it "spoiling," but it is true that as babies develop, our response to them also will change.

If you've never heard of it, you might check out "attachment parenting," it's about learning how to respond to the emotional needs of your child, particularly when those emotional needs are expressed through behavior us parents may not like. How to address the underlying needs rather than the annoying behaviors.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from McAllen on

I totally agree with Denisse, besides, you can't tell us you don't enjoy holding her, regardless of how tired you are!! I just loved holding my baby, still do and always will. Besides its a bonding and trusting thing, so just go with it. =)



answers from Detroit on

Babies cry. It's just what they do. To answer your question about when is the time to worry...NOW.

I wouldn't use the word 'spoil'. I agree that you can't give your baby enough love and attention, but personally, I think the biggest mistake parents of babies make is underestimating their intelligence, and their ability to manipulate their parents! YES, they start as early as this! Your baby is VERY smart...she has learned that when she cries, mommy picks her up. Your baby will continue to see these patterns.

Instead of picking her up every time, try talking to her, and putting her in a bouncy or other seat where she can see you. entertain her a bit, but don't feel that you always have to pick her up. it is not good for you or your baby to become a slave to her. especially if you know she is not in NEED of anything. sometimes babies just get bored, or need you to help them get distracted by a toy or something.

So many of the problems parents have later with sleep, discipline, temperment, etc., come from not starting to teach good habits early enough. waiting til a baby is 1 or 2 years old is too late. they can learn so much as long as we help them. they will meet your expectations!


answers from Norfolk on

I was told a baby under the age of 6 to 8 months could not be spoiled. You are starting to get into the separation anxiety time. When my son was that age, at first he was fine with me putting him down for a few minutes or on his play mat for about 10 or 15 min while I sat next to him. Be then at around 6 1/2 months he got extremely clingy, and I couldn't put him down at all without him crying like his little heart was breaking. Just using the bathroom became a challenge. It's something they all go through sooner or later.

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