It recently came to my attention that a young couple with a newborn baby were at odds about how to deal with the baby’s crying and fussing.
The father thought that the mother was “spoiling the baby”. The mother said that she believed that attending to the baby when it cried was not spoiling.
I appreciated the fact that the father was wanting to set boundaries with his child from the beginning. However, it is my belief that you cannot “spoil a baby” under the age of six months.
Babies cannot obviously let us know about their needs. Generally, when a baby cries they’re either hungry, uncomfortable e.g. dirty diaper, gas, too hot or too cold among other possibilities.
Attending to the baby’s cries is one way that a child begins to understand by experience that when they cry there is a response from the environment that is predictable. This comes in handy when the child is older.
If for example, your six-month-old baby is throwing their food off the high chair, setting boundaries by not retrieving it after you say “no” is a good place to start. Children are like little scientists. They are always exploring their environment to see what works and what doesn’t.
I am aware that most people think that babies don’t understand language, but in a study done in February 2012 in the journal of, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. it was found that even six-month-old babies could understand words and their associated meanings.
Doing what you said you would do (continuity) is an important first step in setting boundaries.