With all the loving attention and pampering of our babies, isn’t there a danger of spoiling them by “loving them too much”, and of creating creatures that will be forever demanding of everything under the sun? The answer to this question is an emphatic “No"!
School-aged children, for example, are already reasoning, social beings who must learn the humbling reality that they share their environment with other human beings with whom they must associate in a respectful, civilized manner. Infants, by contrast, are completely helpless organisms whose very survival depends on their being fed, sheltered, and loved by their caregivers. Ironically, it is the infant who does not get his basic needs met who is more likely to be demanding and difficult later in life!
When babies cry, it is because they really do need something. Sometimes it is because of their basic need to be fed, bathed, and kept warm; at other times it is because of a simple need for attention—and a lot of it. For what is “attention” but the closeness and stimulation and love to which every baby is entitled! The very young infant, especially, needs the reassurance of active contact with the human environment to forestall the panic of isolation.
Such contact convinces him of the solidity and reliability of this environment. Once this conviction has been formed, he will not have to ask constant reassurance, i.e., to seek attention. He will ask for it from time to time, but his need will not stem from panic. As he develops he will be able to enjoy his parents’ company on a more mature basis, that is, in a spirit of social interchange. This social interchange he will always find especially pleasurable because he knows his parents care about him!
In the later stages of infancy, the infant will increasingly be able to do without attention for brief periods. When he is ill or tired or otherwise out of sorts, or when strangers come to visit, he may briefly need more attention than usual to be reassured that he is still attended to and loved. But if his need for attention is met at the right times, it becomes satiated, liberating both parent and child. If it is not satisfied, then it increases instead of decreasing, becoming essentially insatiable. Thus may premature and misguided efforts to develop the child’s “powers of self-reliance” have exactly the opposite effect.
It can be taken for a given that if a baby gets his essential needs met for love, security, and nurturing attention, he will have developed a basic trust in the people around him, and he will be able to tolerate denials. In this way the groundwork will be set for the development of a loving, contented, civilized and productive human being.