My Baby is Manipulating Me
by Alexandra Spitz
It’s 4pm and I cannot put my baby down. The moment I set him down he whines and cries until I pick him up. This happens until bedtime. It’s 2am and the only way my baby won’t cry is if I hold him…again. It’s 8 am and my baby just wants to snuggle instead of play. My baby is manipulating me.
Or so I’m told.
Although it may feel that way, babies and young children are the purest form of truth possible. They don’t lie. Their brains do not know how to. If they can’t be put down and need to be held, there is a reason. The reason might just be that they need to feel love, like we all do. If they need snuggles at 2am, they might just need to be reminded that you haven’t disappeared. It must be scary for them to be alone. When babies are born they aren’t capable of doing anything by themselves. They need us for everything. They rely on us to teach them how to trust the world. And this is done by us responding to their needs every single time, over and over and over again. While the days are so long and feel like they will never end and you can’t imagine responding to one more “request” by your baby, do it anyway.
They need you.
We put so many expectations on our babies that we don’t even put on ourselves. Most of us do not sleep alone. Most of us get up at night and need a snack or a drink of water. When we’re upset, we need someone to listen and comfort us, not ignore us or tell us we’re overreacting and to get over it. We need to be better about parenting with empathy. We need to step into our baby’s shoes and imagine how we would feel in their scenario. We need to do better. We need to do better so our children can be better!
When you look at the big picture and the amount of years of their life that they won’t need you anymore, remind yourself in that moment that this is a very small period in your lives. It won’t be something you have to do every day anymore. What it WILL do, is help your baby learn that their needs will be met and they are safe to explore the world. It will encourage independence, self-confidence, positive self-esteem, social skills, emotional competence, self-regulation and every other factor we want for our children as they grow up.
The most important thing we need to do for our babies is to secure a healthy attachment.
The less you let your baby cry, the less they will cry. The more they feel their needs are met, the more independent they will be.
So today, when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and your baby won’t let you put her down, hold her close and give in. Let the dishes pile up, the laundry remain unfolded, the bills unpaid, the groceries unshopped and just sit on the floor in your baby’s room holding her. For as long as she needs. Engrain that image in your mind so you can go back to it when your baby doesn’t want to snuggle anymore. They won’t remember how clean our house was, they will remember they were loved…and love is what it’s all about.