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Can You Spoil Your Baby?

QUESTION: I have a beautiful, healthy four-month-old girl and I've gone to great lengths to cuddle and entertain her. Now I'm concerned that she may not be able to entertain herself at all. The moment I turn my attention away, she begins to fuss. And we've been so busy playing with her while she lies on her back, she shows no interest in rolling over!

ANSWER: Do not worry, babies have different personalities. Your daughter will show interest in turning over soon enough, and your cuddling and entertainment have not prevented her from rolling over.

Babies do require constant attention and are rarely able to entertain themselves for any significant amount of time. Your daughter is normal in this regard.

Try using a baby carrier, facing your daughter outwards, as you walk around the house and get some chores accomplished. This will give her cuddling and entertainment as you get some things done around the house that need doing! She will be near you, but interested in the things you are doing in front of her. Washing dishes, gardening, cleaning and cooking will be very interesting for her to watch and will facilitate her development. You will also get in your exercise as you carry her.

Eventually, you will enjoy a bit more freedom. As your daughter grows, she will become more interested in manipulating toys, for example, but this ability to "entertain herself" begins gradually and is best achieved if you have her very near to you and she has you in clear sight. This kind of behavior usually does not even begin to develop until a child can manipulate herself through sitting, crawling or even walking.

Remember that the need to be close to you is a baby's way of staying safe in a world that is out of her control. Her instincts tell her to remain in your focus of attention.

Your baby is doing her job to keep herself safe. Find ways to lessen your own frustration by doing things with her. Do not expect her to play "on her own" for any significant length of time, but do expect her to be interested in the chores you are doing around the home!


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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