PREGNANCY

Can You Hold a Newborn too Much? Can you spoil them?

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Can you hold your baby too much? How much holding does a newborn need? Can you do it too much? Do new parents have to hold their baby if it cries?

newborn baby

Newborn babies can be TOUGH.

First off, hello! I’m Hilary — many people know me as The Pregnancy Nurse 👩‍⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind this website Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺​ I must admit that most of the thought behind this article comes from raising babies on my own, and talking to thousands of new moms about their own experience (and watching kids with lots of different kinds of moms grow up).

If you haven’t had your baby, I would 100% recommend taking a couples prenatal class with your partner to get on the same page on topics like this today! This one has couples questions to start answering things like this together before baby is even born.

Ok, let’s get to the question at hand:

Is it OK to hold a newborn all the time?

Yes, but essentially, no (it’s complicated). You need to shower, use the bathroom, eat, etc. All those things are a good idea, will help you feel better and human!

Plus, new babies need a chance to use their muscles to raise their head and stretch out. If you watch baby physical therapists on Tiktok it’s amazing how many muscles a baby can actually be learning to use.

Dad also needs time to interact how he would prefer with the baby!

You really shouldn’t hold the baby 24/7.

I actually loved this podcast on how to play with your newborn.

But, let’s read on to learn more about this topic….

Can you hold a newborn too much?

First off, I want to state categorically that mothers are born with instincts.

One of the saddest things about hospital birth is that I think we remove a lot of the instinct, by us following research and having safe patterns of practice.

When I hear home birth stories I get chills.  Your body knows what to do, for the most part (however, as an L&D nurse I still believe strongly that hospital births are the safest).

BUT, you — as a mom — you have this baby.  You don’t have your friend’s baby and your particular baby has his/her own unique needs and wants.  You were given them for a reason, and you have your own parental instincts.

So, I think the question you need to ask yourself:

Am I enjoying holding my baby this much?

If the answer is yes — then hold away.  Love and snuggle them.

You’re that baby’s mom and clearly, it’s working for the both of you.

I can’t even imagine what it’s like coming out of the womb into a loud, bright, cold place.  I’m sure it’s comforting having your mamma and her heartbeat nearby.  It is natural to want to hold and protect them from the changes.

BUT, if the answer is no — then that’s OK too.  I didn’t have particularly snuggly babies and I felt fine putting them in the bouncer or on a blanket.  I was adamant about tummy time (even though they cried the whole time for the first few days). FYI, that’s where you put baby down on their stomach to learn to use those neck muscles too (but you always put them on their back to sleep to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome).

Often my fussy baby wasn’t calmed by me holding them, so I’d put them down for a few minutes and use the restroom, take some deep breaths, and try again. You need to meet both your and your baby’s emotional needs.

I didn’t feel the need or desire to hold young babies all the time.  So, I didn’t.  That’s fine too. There are lots of different ways to parent a new baby.

**I will say that if you have zero desire to be around your newborn, to hold them at all or deal with them — that’s another problem and you will want to talk to your doctor.  It’s not unusual, but you may need some help.

We actually talk about some of these best newborn tips in my newborn secrets podcast.

I also had an episode on being an introverted parent with an extroverted child that tackled similar topics.

What is a “Newborn”?

First, I think we need to specify what the “newborn” phase is.  I think it is about from birth to 2-3 months of life.  After that, you have a baby — not so much a newborn.  They’re getting the hang of living in the air-breathing world.  They’re more aware, interactive, and happy to live here.

I liked what I read in this Web MD article that said your child won’t understand manipulation until 9 months.

Keep in mind average newborn babies cry about 3 hours/day in the first few months of life. It is their only way to communicate their needs. It isn’t manipulating you — it is just getting their needs met. If you find that your baby has excessive crying I’d definitely talk with your pediatrician.

Remember that a baby cry is their only form of communication. The good news is that you’re just needing to meet their basic needs — and once those are met you can take care of your own basic needs too.

Also remember that your lactation consultant will often say to keep the baby close so you can watch for feeding clues in your newborn, to feed them breast milk before they’re starving. It will likely make nursing easier.

Can you spoil a baby research

Is it OK to Hold My Newborn to Sleep?

By that, I mean holding them while they sleep.  Some babies, will only sleep while they are held.  I would say that nothing is wrong with that if you are OK with it.

But, if you’re the mom that says I can’t even shower, and I’m dying.  Then, put them down.  Lay a blanket on the floor, put them in their crib, or use the bouncer (make sure it’s a safe space for an un-attended newborn), close to your shower and just pop your head out every few minutes and peek at them.

Even if they’re crying, they will be OK — because you are crying inside for a shower.  You are a human, you deserve that. Remember that a crying baby is an alive baby — so take it as good news while you get your needs met too!

Benefits of holding your baby

Benefits of holding your baby are:

  • Promote bonding
  • Newborns feel safe and secure when they’re being held, but you can mimic that feeling with a swaddle as well.
  • Helps with breastfeeding — it’s easier to see hunger cues when they’re just a few inches away from you.

**I actually LOVE skin-to-skin contact in the labor room as a nurse, it has huge benefits for both baby and mom! And we’re finding that skin to skin can have benefits well into those first few months, especially for premature babies!

How to hold a baby with other children

One of the hardest things is when you have a baby that you feel needs you close, but you have other kids.  You can’t exactly always meet the baby’s needs and not meet their needs as well as feed them.

I LOVED babywearing (or using a baby carrier), especially on my 3rd who just seemed to need me closer. Some people call this kangaroo care as you’re able to keep the baby in a “pouch” but also still get stuff done.

Because my babies were really active I never felt safe with them in a sling (could easily have been user error).  I also never got the hang of Mobi wraps where I had to do straps over all my body.

In the early days, I used a Bjorn.  You can often find these cheaper (because they aren’t comfortable as long) in kid’s second-hand stores (a great place for a young mom to shop).

And, once they were over 2 months I switched to the Ergo.  My daughter was in that thing a LOT til’ about age 2 (and beyond).  I loved it and I think they make a quality product (which is why so many baby carriers have copied them).

That’s just what worked best for me — I’d ask around, maybe try a few friend’s to see what you think will work for you.

But, studies are finding that babies need OUT of these carriers too (because some moms literally “wear” them all day). They need to grow and stretch muscles laying on the ground and tummy time too!

Can you spoil a baby research

The research all seems to point to no.  You can’t spoil them.  However, this post is about new moms spoiling a newborn.

I didn’t actually find many studies that took the amount of time in mom’s arms for the first 2 months and coping/life skills later on.  So, take that for what it is worth.

Many people believe that holding the baby more will provide a secure attachment, but as long as you’re responding to baby’s needs fairly timely I think most babies handle some alone time fine.

Holding baby while sleeping

In this, I mean you being asleep and holding the baby.

And I am 100% against this. The best way for baby to sleep is Alone, on their Back, in a Crib (called the ABC’s of safe sleep).

I am against co-sleeping in general, but actually holding your baby while you sleep is a big no-no.  You can so easily drop them (this happens frequently at hospitals, even though we consistently remind moms to put the baby in the bassinette if they need to sleep), or roll over onto them.

You can’t imagine the torment of a mom who’s smothered their baby.  That’s it.  That’s all.  I’ve seen it, it’s horrible.

Put the new baby in a bassinet or a co-sleeper.  The end. This is one of my favorites. We talk about it in this podcast epsiode.

Can you spoil a newborn?

So, nope — I don’t think you can spoil a newborn.

Did I hold my newborns all the time.  Heck no.

Honestly, that’s just not me. It’s not my instinct!

I followed an adjusted Babywise schedule that was basically, eat, play, sleep.  It worked for me.  It worked for my babies. They were happy and healthy.  I wasn’t losing my mind.  I was grateful for it.

My daughter enjoyed being held more than my boys did, I used baby wearing a lot with her.  I adjusted to a spot where we could both be happy. Often in those early weeks you’re just getting to know each other and figure it out. Don’t feel a lot of pressure to have a plan right away!

woman holding baby

Can You Hold a Newborn Too Much FAQ’s

How many hours should you hold your newborn?

That will really vary on you, your needs and your baby’s needs, but studies show that babies DO need to put down at some point during the day for both tummy and back time so they can grow and develop those muscles too.

When should I stop holding my baby all the time?

When it’s not working for you anymore. For every mom/family that choice is going to be different.

What to do when a newborn wants to be held all the time?

Just remember it is them saying hello. If you’ve met their basic needs (food, clean diaper, warm and burped) then you’ve done the basics. Now it’s time to do YOUR basics. If baby cries more than you think is normal I would call your pediatrician .

Is it bad to hold baby all day?

Yes, research shows that babies DO need to be down on a solid surface on their back and their bellies during the day to grow those muscles.

How to hold a baby

Newborns need extra support under their heads, so most people put their heads in the crook of their arm, and lay their body across their arm. I have a class on newborns if you want more info on baby care! It also has a bonus episode on baby sleep as well!

Can you spoil a newborn by holding them while they sleep

They may get used to that feeling, yes. but every now and then no. Please remember that you should NOT be holding the baby while YOU are asleep as it is easy for baby to fall or asphyxiate.

What to say if a family member criticizes you for holding baby too much?

Tell then you’re really enjoying this time, and when it gets to be an issue you’ll deal with that. Your child will get into lots of bad habits as they grow up, and you’ll get to fix those too (and so did they).

I don’t hold my second as much as I did my first baby — is that bad?

First time parents often have nothing to do but hold that baby (which is good because you’re new at this). When you have older children you can use a baby carrier or put baby down in a safe spot when necessary, and that’s fine.

Do I have to hold them to bond?

No, there are lots of ways to bond with baby. Interacting, feeding, clothing, reading, and gentle touch are all ways that baby knows you respond to their needs.

My baby won’t sleep alone now that I’ve held them a lot. What to do now?

Many people love The Happiest Baby on the Block for ideas on this, and you could also try a white noise machine because it may be the noise they’re around, not so much you holding them too.

Can you hold a baby too much?

Can you spoil a baby (baby, being after 2-3 months of age)?  Honestly, after watching moms in the last 21 years that I’ve been a mom.  I think you can.  But, I also think they can pretty easily be “un-spoiled”. And also think you should ignore most of what family members say to you.

It is easy, in all facets of parenting, to get your child into a routine that you don’t want to continue.

Things like: Kids not doing their jobs, kids staying up late.  All of those are problems that you’ll have to fix at some point, if you don’t want them to continue.

Again, is what is going on working for you?  If it’s not, make a change.

Babies do need lots of hugs and attention.  They need lots of YOU.  But, you also need to live your life.  If something you’re doing or they seem to “demand” isn’t working for you.  Make a change.

Babies can be put down and they may cry.  That is OK.  I had one baby who had to cry for 3 minutes every night before he went to bed.  As a teenager, he needed to argue with me for a few minutes before bed 2 or 3 times every week.  It’s just the way he was wired, just wants to get it out.

He’s now a functioning adult with a great job and a college degree.

Babies mostly need a happy mom who is enjoying raising them and their journey together.

If you haven’t had your baby yet, come join me in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples and we tackle questions like this early on, OR if you’re already a parent…. consider signing up for my practical parenting series ):

practical parenting class is waiting for you FREE -- click here to sign up

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