Can you give a baby too much attention?

Q: Can you spend too much time with your baby or give them too much attention?

A: I suppose that an extreme situation could be imagined in which some parent somewhere devoted every waking moment to trying to talk with and actively engage with a baby, such that the baby did not have a single second to stare into space and daydream or wonder about the Venetian blinds or play with his own toes.

But aside from an absurd imaginary situation such as this, it is not really possible to spend too much time with your baby. Babies are social creatures from the beginning! Most babies all around the world spend their days close to other human beings--being carried or in laps or playing underfoot while older children and adults go about their business. This is natural and enjoyable for everyone; only in America do we seem to make a big deal of forcing solitude on babies.

The most important learning situation for any infant or small child is an intimate human relationship with someone who loves them. Falling in love with your own baby is one of the greatest joys that life has to offer, and the mother (and father's!) pleasure in following their own heart here is sometimes so intense that it gives them the suspicion that there must be something wrong with it. But enjoying your baby as much as possible is enriching for everyone.

Sometimes parents worry that giving a baby "too much attention" will prevent the baby from experiencing frustration and "learning" to solve problems on his own.  Fortunately, life is sufficiently difficult for all of us that there is plenty of frustration to go around, even if the parent is alert to the child's frustration and seeks to soothe it. There will be problems that the parent cannot soothe soon enough, and probably every day.

Elizabeth Berger MD

Child Psychiatrist


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