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Could Your Baby be Spoiled?

QUESTION: I am a stay-at-home Mom. My seven-month-old daughter is very attached to me. She does not like for me to let her grandparents (or anyone else she doesn't see often) hold her. She frantically looks for me and cries until she is handed back to me or her dad. My in-laws have labeled her a spoiled baby, but I don't think she deserves that label. What do you think?

ANSWER: Your daughter's behavior is normal. She is close to eight months old, an age that is noted for the classic "stranger anxiety." This means she has developed an attachment to primary nurturing figures and clearly recognizes and expresses a strong preference to be held by them. Your daughter is not "spoiled." She is doing her job!

Your baby is discerning who to trust and showing healthy attachment. Her attunement to you is based on survival, not manipulation. There is no need to push your baby to be with others, unless this becomes necessary for employment or other reasons.

Eventually, when you feel that she is ready to be introduced to other people, do so. But as long as the two of you are enjoying your parent-child relationship, don't strain it to please your in-laws.

Instead, ask your husband to stand by your side and gently, but firmly, set guidelines about his parents' criticisms. Let them know that you are both raising your child in a way that works for the two of you. Assure them that they are important people in their granddaughter's life and will certainly play a significant role. Tell them that you expect your daughter will be very interested in her grandparents by the age of two. But right now, she is more interested in her parents. Ask them to be patient rather than judgmental.

This is your family. You and your husband are the decision-makers. Consider others' advice, but do not override your own instincts and feelings about your parenting. Develop your child rearing philosophy and be willing to politely express that you have different beliefs, if necessary. You and her father know your baby better than anyone else. Trust your instincts to guide your judgment, rather than allow others to override it.

It is from your arms that your baby is experiencing the world as delightful and adventurous, rather than scary. Answering her needs for security now will result in greater independence later, when she and you are ready.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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