She’s only 40 days old….always cries for wanting to be picked up ….I do and everyone around me thinks that I am spoiling her. I thought that once assured she won’t need it and will spend some time alone playing…but that’s not happening…am I really spoiling her by picking her up when she cries???
– New mom from Mumbai.
Ah, a story we hear all too often. Baby asks to be picked up, others say don’t do it.
Answer: Listen to baby. Baby knows what she needs. You are right. Once assured, she will discover other pastimes. As the saying goes, “nine-in, nine-out”, or “niño*” for short. This means that it takes the baby 9 months to adjust to being outside the womb. To make the transition smooth and positive, it should be unrushed and she should feel confident that her wishes are respected. In order to develop more nuanced means of communication she must be able to get her needs met without having to cry. Being held is a need for babies and therefore if this need can be met without the baby having to cry, then she can focus her attention on other things – like what is going on around her, how others communicate, how the trees look as the clouds go by, etc.
Being held allows the baby to be in motion along with the person holding, to have the warmth, smells, heartbeat, etc that have become familiar all those months inside the womb. A sling makes carrying easier and in fact adds benefits for baby because in the arms of an active person there are more interesting things to observe, places to go, people to meet, plus she does not have to cry to get attention. Soon the parents and family members also get attuned to the baby’s subtler forms of communication and can more easily recognize when she needs what.
Of course, as with any stage of childhood, once one thing gets easier, something else changes!
Once you stop worrying that holding your baby will “spoil” her, then you too can relax and go about your life with baby in your arms, on your back, wherever. Learn to do things while baby is with you, and baby will learn on the go. The only problem you have left is – how to answer the elders who advise you against holding. A simple “oh, we’re fine,” with a contented smile should do. Or simply a smile.
(Believe me, I’ve had to answer my share of people, including people I’d met just five minutes before, tsk-tsking me for carrying my daughter. While many (many!) tart responses used to come to mind, I settled for the unruffled smile which said it all.)