Something happened today that really got under my skin.
My daughter and I were at Target (as usual) and as we were wandering through the toddler clothes, we heard the unmistakable cry of a brand new baby. Sure enough, we rounded the corner to see a new mom lifting her newborn out of his car seat carrier, chatting to him, reminding him he just ate, asking him what was wrong, swaying, shushing, pulling out all the tools from her toolbox like every new mom does. My daughter struck up a conversation (as usual) and the new mother brought her baby over so my daughter could take a look. The mom and I started talking and she mentioned he was only two weeks old, and we started talking about how hard it is being stuck at home sometimes and how it’s nice to just get out of the house and wander the aisles at Target for a while (amen to that, sister.)
Then, her mom walked over and joined us. The new mother said to her mom, jokingly, “I’m surprised you didn’t hear him crying all the way across the store!” The grandma responded, “Well, what did you do to make him cry?” And the new mother said, “Nobody did anything to make him cry, he just wanted to be cuddled a little.”
To which the new mother’s mom replied, “You’re going to spoil him that way.”
Many of you who know me personally know that I often cannot control my facial expressions. I have RBF naturally, so it takes a lot of work just to maintain a neutral expression as a rule - today it was even harder to control my side-eye. I did my best to affect a lighthearted tone and told the new mother (to whom I had already mentioned that I’m a doula), “Aww, you can’t spoil a newborn!!” because I wanted to make sure she knew she was doing no harm to this baby. Grandma doubled down on her position and they started talking about something else, and we all parted ways.
One of the things that I hope stays stuck in my clients’ heads is that they know what’s best for their body. And once I’m done helping them give birth, I hope that they remember they know what’s best for their baby, too. I am not a practicing postpartum doula - pregnancy, labor, and birth is where my heart lies, although I will feel joy for you and your new family after the birth, and will gladly snuggle your newbie if you offer - so I will not harp on this topic for very long. Here is my point:
Do not believe anyone who says you are holding your baby too much.
It is simply not a thing. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof. This study shows that cuddling your baby increases their contentment and ability to feed frequently (which helps with weight gain and a number of other things). Did you know that the human brain isn’t fully developed immediately after birth? It’s true, and the first two months of life are a time of critical brain growth. What can we do to help our baby’s brains grow? Skin to skin. This study (you will have to create an account on Medscape to view this article) shows that skin-to-skin activates the amygdala, which is part of a brain system involved with emotional learning, memory, and the sympathetic nervous system. And this study shows that babies who are given skin-to-skin contact have better cardio-respiratory stability, higher breastfeeding rates, and less crying.
No amount of cuddling, snuggling, holding, or loving on that baby is going to be a detriment to their development. I’m not saying you can never put your baby down - quite the opposite, in fact. I believe it’s not only okay to put your baby down when you need to, but it’s also okay to put baby down when you want to. You deserve to be comfortable, to have space, and to have time to yourself. But people who tell you that you will spoil your baby if you hold them too much? They are wrong, plain and simple. Please don’t let anyone make you feel bad or guilty for holding your baby.
Has anyone ever said this to you? How did it make you feel? How did you respond? Tell us in the comments below, you never know who you might be helping!