I hold my 18 month old son a lot. And I mean a lot. He loves to sit on my lap when reading a book, likes me to hold him, carry him around, pick him up from time to time, I still breastfeed him and we sleep together in the same bed. I really enjoy all those moments.
But sometimes I wonder, am I holding my baby too much? Should he become more independent? Can you hold a baby too much? Well of course, all around I see kids of his age at daycare, with sitters, sleeping in their own beds or being trained to do so. And I constantly hear comments from family and friends like “put him down”, “he is big enough to play on his own”, “you are spoiling him” (ouch!). Sometimes I feel protective and at other times frustrated but… never feel like I am doing something wrong.
If my little guy pulls up his legs the moment I try to put him down and tries to hold on to me – why should I insist and put him on the floor? He obviously needs to be close. If he wants to sit on my lap at the Early Years Center watching all the other children playing, running or wandering around – why should I think there is something wrong with this and try to detach him from me? Notice how I phrased the question “why should I?” I first wrote “how can I?” But then I rewrote them. Of course there are ways to “make him” be on his own in those examples. But I really do not feel this is the right way.
And this is probably what intuitive parenting is all about. I really enjoy reading parenting books, magazines, forums, you name it. And there is so much information, often helpful, often confusing, often completely opposite. But having read so much I still try to parent based on the needs of my son, even if it means going against some very logic advices given by professionals.
I believe that if my son wants me to hold him, hug him or to carry him around, there is a need in him, and he is not just making my life more difficult. And if we are at friends’ house and he would not stand beside me while I take my coat and boots off, I would rather hold him and look awkward undressing with him in my hands (and hear the comments about spoiling him) than make him cry while I look all elegant.
Well, think about this. He was obviously scared to be separated from me if he pulled his legs up and tried to hold on to me during my attempt to put him down. What message would I give him by putting him down and letting him cry? That I do not really care about his fears or insecurity or whatever this may be? That he should deal with those feelings on his own? That there is something more important to me at that moment? That I do not want to be there for him during this new and scary situation?
On the contrary, I would like my child to know that I love him, that I am there for him and that the world is a wonderful place. So, I will enjoy the hugs, cuddling and all the time with my toddler before he grows up.