Can you spoil your baby?

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!

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Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

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!

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